An organization whose goal is to connect leaders and ideas took that step in Hays on Wednesday.
Thomas Stanley, director of business initiatives for the Kansas Leadership Center, stopped in Hays at Breathe Coffee House, 703 B Main Street, as part of a statewide tour.
“Our mission to create a culture of leadership in Kansas. We’re trying to engage thousands of people a year so problems get solved in our state, but ultimately we can’t do it all once. It takes a lot of small engagements with all sorts of people over time,” he told a crowd of more than two dozen in the coffee shop’s basement.
Many of those present were alumni of the KLC’s education programs or Leadership Hays, an annual program of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce affiliated with KLC. Individuals represented organizations and businesses such as area churches, local and state government, LINK, Sunflower Electric, Hays USD 489, Fort Hays State University, the FHSU Foundation and DSNWK.
Stanley outlined the four ingredients of change developed by KLC in working with Kansans since the the non-profit was founded in Wichita in 2007:
• Complete focus on a small set of ideas. “If you’re trying to create a culture of change, the essential ingredient is an agreement on a core set of ideas,” Stanley said.
• Teaching strategies or communicating ideas in ways that stick. “At the Kansas Leadership Center, we’re really big on helping walk alongside people to help them learn ideas,” he said.
• Scale. “You actually have to have enough people learning these ideas in ways that stick that you begin to see a tipping point or a shift in how things get done,” he said.
• A small group of people of committed to working tirelessly, that provides the “backbone” for organizations, such as United Way does, Stanley said.
He looked to Celeste Lasich, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, as an example of the backbone.
“You oversee multiple churches within a whole region and you are tirelessly pushing people to connect and apply these ideas What’s that look like for you?” he said.
“We’re changing our culture,” Lasich said. “Our organizational leadership is having to think about what is it to be a church in this time, not a 100 years ago,” she said.
That includes evaluating the structure the organization needs, where to put resources and also sometimes how to say “no” to what people want to do, she said.
Regarding scale, Stanley said about 192 people from Hays — just under 1 percent of the population — have been through KLC training. He asked the group to imaging what would happen if that number were 5 percent — about 1,000 people.
“It would awaken a sleeping giant,” said Sarah Wasinger, clerk of the USD 489 school board and assistant to the superintendent.
She explained that thought after the KLC session.
“There are so many things going on in Hays, but I feel if we all work together instead of being separate factions, we’d have an understanding of what everyone is doing,” she said.
Wasinger is also a member of the Hays Homeless Coalition and Hays Area Young Professionals, and is an alumnus of Leadership Hays.
“The sky’s the limit for what we have available for families, for business people in Hays. We’re so great at so many things,” she said.
Others picked up on that theme as well. Olga Detrixhe, a 2014 Leadership Hays alumnus and sales supervisor with Nex-Tech, said she was not aware of the number of people in Hays who had KLC training.
“We already have a common language. How amazing would it be to get us together?” she said.
Before wrapping up the hour-long session, Stanley had a challenge for the group.
“We only have 192 alumni from this area,” he said. “I don’t think that’s enough yet. We have a long way to go. I want us to double that by next year. I think we could do it. I think we could get 400. I think the people in this room are the ones that can make it happen,” he said.