Hi! My name is Kelly Renard, and I am president of the School Nutrition Association of Pennsylvania (SNAPA). I am a director who loves what the association—and its national Annual National Conference (ANC)—provides for me personally: the education, networking and recognition. For years, I have come home from wonderful ANC locations around the country invigorated with a renewed energy and enthusiasm and my “backpack” overflowing with new product ideas, menu swaps, teaching tools and tricks of the trade. I’ve brought home great plans for how to conduct my next in-service and ideas to kick off a new promotion. It’s why I go back, year after year.
Sometimes, when I come home with new ideas, my 10 managers look at me like I’m off my rocker. But I can usually get at least a few to embrace something new that I’ve learned at the conference. For example, I recall conducting an exercise where I asked each team member to use crayons to draw a picture of a fish. I then explained that we all did exactly what was asked: We drew pictures of fish. But I noted how each of our drawings looked extremely different! This led to a discussion of how each of us is different in how we behave, our perceptions and how we respond to directives, personnel and life in general. I explained how we need to learn to appreciate our differences and use our strengths to make our team run like a well oiled machine and that this is how we create synergy in our business to make it thrive, etc., etc., etc…
Lesson learned, training over, ANC idea passed along. It was a success…sort of. Somehow, though, I felt like I missed the mark, just slightly. This was a common post-ANC result, though. Why did I feel dissatisfied? Was it the perfectionist in me needing everything to be just right and have the message fully received, embraced and, more importantly, acted upon? (Yeah, like THAT happens every time...)
Finally, after years of this “self-training” of my staff, where I alone carried the torch of cheerleader, rule enforcer, policy maker and therapist, it dawned on me that was missing for my staff was the experience of learning the material first hand. The experience of seeing the General Session speakers on the stage with the lights and music; all the crowds of other people “just like me”; the applause; the laughing; the after-conference parties and dinners; the leadership of our national association; the visit to another world far beyond home.
Even though I tried to bring ANC home to my staff, I couldn’t really recreate the experience for them. I couldn’t give them the rejuvenation you feel after a few days away, totally submerged in a learning experience! I couldn’t become the professional speaker who made you feel as if you are just unstoppable. I couldn’t capture that incredible education session where ideas are flying fast and furious. They couldn’t experience the size and scope of the Exhibit Hall or the actual thrill of seeing a new product and realizing it’s going to be BIG with your kids. I couldn’t convey just how it feels when you realize that your mind is running much faster than your feet can carry you. It morphs into an excitement that you can’t wait to take home and share with someone, anyone—an unsuspecting spouse, the cat, the kids, your staff—anyone who will listen!
All of THAT is what was missing when I tried to bring ANC to my staff—what I needed to do was bring THEM to the conference. This epiphany was something of a “perfect storm” for me, because it came in the early stages of planning SNAPA’s role in last year’s ANC in Philadelphia. I realized that taking my staff with me to ANC—and letting them experience it for themselves—WAS possible.
Visit this blog later this week, and I’ll share more about how I went about bringing my staff to ANC—and why it was such a great success!
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