Chamber Executive Article Archive

Drop the Dread. Engage the Excitement!

Mick Fleming

“Mick, I loved your Horizon 2025 presentation, but for most of us, the issues you’re describing are daunting.”

That comment from long-time ACCE leader Eddie McBride of Lubbock came at the conclusion of the recent Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives conference. To which, I responded: “I know.”

When I gave a similar speech to a crowd in Minnesota, the speaker who followed me said that he had learned a lot from my talk about why he should be scared to death about the future. That reaction was somewhat tempered by my closing reminder that almost everybody working in other sectors of the economy will have at least as many challenges over the next 10 years. “So,” he asked, “should I be happy because everyone else will suffer too?”

I’m clearly intimidating and frightening everybody unintentionally when I talk about the factors that will shape the future for chambers. I’ll work on that. During every presentation from now on, I’ll add a quote from a seldom-referenced past American leader, General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Things that are urgent are seldom important and things that are important are seldom urgent.”

Chamber leaders would be wise to remember this adage in most of their endeavors. When a hundred underlings are bothering you about camouflage patterns or General Patton’s latest wild quote, it’s easy to see why Eisenhower couldn’t dwell on the day’s urgent issue. He had to keep his eye on the all-important goal of burying Hitler. The vast majority of the topics covered in the Horizon Initiative also fall into the “important” category, which means that deliberate pace and intentional goal-setting are essential, but you don’t have to address these issues this weekend.

The most important thing audiences (or readers) should take away from the Horizon Initiative is confidence in the infinite promise and limitless possibilities the future holds for chambers. Rather than dread, there should be excitement.

Here’s the thing: I know it’s hard to be excited when you’re tired. Most of you have been churning through recessions, political battles and community crises for the last eight years. Or you’re new and your plate is full just getting up to speed. With 14 percent turnover in chamber CEO positions last year, there are plenty of folks still climbing a steep learning curve. Either way, trepidation about tackling an array of new stuff between now and 2025 is understandable.

Ah, but the new stuff will be grand! The globe will come to the front door of every community. Cause-focused millennials will move into leadership positions all over town. Dynamic communications technology will increase capacity to share information and wisdom. Greater inclusiveness will open economic doors to those who must succeed in order for your community to thrive. Creative new resource pools, from foundation grants to crowd-funding, will help you monetize key elements of your work. And, most of all, strong leaders will emerge . . . they always do.

To my friend and leadership mentor, Eddie, whose energy seems boundless, and whose drive to innovate has made Lubbock a two-time Chamber of the Year winner, my suggestion is to keep doing what you’re doing—think beyond the next election cycle and current work plan. And, most of all, make time for the important, not only the urgent. You don’t need everything in place at your chamber right now for the entire decade—you need to have it all working within 10 years.


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