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Monday, 09 January 2012 14:27

Ron Kitchens' Business First - Taking time to say thank you

Written by  Ron Kitchens
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Business First

Ron Kitchens

By Ron Kitchens
CEO, Southwest Michigan First
Group of Companies
[email protected]

One of the most gratifying things I do this time of year is to say “thank you.”

I don’t mean just saying thank you to the kind person who just held the door open for me as the snow whipped in my face or to the person who drove 20 miles out of their way to return my iPad that I accidentally left on my seat on a recent plane trip. Those are regular, everyday “thank-yous” that we all should be making without hesitation.

But come the start of every year, I make a concerted effort to thank those who have made my life better through their thoughts and/or actions during the past 12 months. In reality, writing “thank you” notes is more accurate of my process. I actually go a little bit further than that: I try to spend some time looking back over the past year at the successes, both personal and professional, and thinking about who were the people who helped me along the way to achieve those successes.

This year’s list of people for whose impact I am grateful is long and transcends more than 40 years. My list includes Mrs. Names, my second grade teacher who spent time after school and at recess teaching me to read, and Katie Perry, who I work with and who tirelessly has supervised the remodeling of Southwest Michigan First’s new expansion space.

As I think about each of the 30-plus people on my list, I am struck by the idea that each of the people are men and women who have made choices to lead, choices to do things that would impact others, sometimes in the short run, a lot of times just in the belief that their work would someday create value in another person. For that, I am very grateful.

I find myself asking the question, “Are we building leaders today that will impact the lives of people tomorrow? Are they people who will be thanked by others someday for their contributions?”

I believe the answer is yes, but I am not sure we are doing it with the intention that will be truly impactful on a long-term basis. That is why my organization, Southwest Michigan First, has developed two leadership programs which we believe will prepare leaders for tomorrow.

The first program, Catalyst University, is a series of courses designed to build leaders across disciplines. We believe we must transcend just being about business because, if we just focus on just business, our community may be financially successful but will never be great. We must focus our efforts on building leaders in business, government, social service, faith and education. By focusing on emerging leaders (please note that I did not say young), we will lift up the people who will impact individuals in a broad spectrum of ways. Yes, indeed, emerging leaders can be of any age and who benefit from diverse interest and backgrounds.

Catalyst University 2012 kicks off the year with a day and half of some of the most impactful leaders in the nation, from Doc Hendley, the founder of Wine to Water, whose life’s passion has provided clean drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people and who was named by CNN as a World Hero; to Battle Creek native and alumni of Undercover Boss Joel Manby, who has helped family-oriented theme parks bring people and their loved ones closer together; to Oprah’s favorite guest of all time, Dr. Tererai Trent, who will discuss the power education has had in changing her life and her commitment to using it to change the lives of impoverished women in Africa.

Beyond the two-day event, additional Catalyst University events continue throughout the year as we look to create a culture of leadership that will ensure the future of the region.

One of the other leadership opportunities that I am very proud of is First 50. This program brings 50 leaders, 25 emerging and 25 existing, together in a mentor-mentee relationship that goes beyond just learning the history of leadership. First 50 goes to the core of what skills are required to lead a thriving organization in today’s environment.

Again, the participants represent a broad spectrum of sectors, age, ethnicity and experience, but each brings a strong desire to grow as a leader and impact the community.

I and my entire team at Southwest Michigan First anticipate that these programs will have a long-lasting positive effect on the community. We expect participants will aspire to do great things for others and, one day, help someone achieve success who may not have thought previously possible. Who knows, they may even break the cycle of illiteracy like Mrs. Names did and teach a child to read.

What I truly hope — as I am finishing writing this year’s batch of thank yous — is that, next year, I will have to buy one more box of thank you notes than I bought this year because I will write more than this year’s 30. In a couple of years, I hope that I’ll have to buy a case of them.

Read 2517 times Last modified on Monday, 13 August 2012 15:16

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