In my “extra-curricular” professional career I’ve taken on a few new roles on several board of directors of non-profits over the past year, or so. This type of service and volunteering is new to me and wanting to take these responsibilities seriously and live out a motto that speaks true to me – “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all of your heart.” – I have been seeking out experiences, references, and other sources to serve in these roles of leadership on, and within, the different board responsibilities.
One of these sources, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading, has been a book entitled The Great Chair by Brian Hayward. Without providing spoilers for anyone as interested in this niche as I’ve found myself over the past few months, Brian does a wonderful job intermingling in real-world anonymous stories with his own opinions and experience on effective board leadership through influence and collecting a group vision versus individual preferences and dictator like tendencies.
I mention this piece because of its relevance to much of what I experienced during the most recent VALOR session in Richmond earlier this year in January. Much of what was discussed with our group, and experiences that we were able to be a part of or observant to, related back to influence individuals and groups express in discussions versus position based responsibilities and presumed or expressed power shown. The difference in whose power and influence was utilized to its greatest ability and in specific instances was extremely interested to observe in my opinion.
Influence in Action
Much of the work in Richmond is centered around influence, from seniority in a legislative body to lobby groups and concerned local citizens visiting with their delegates to influence bills working their way into law. Many of these individuals and groups not having any power than their will, voice and passion for particular issues. Some of the key areas our VALOR fellowship participated in while in Richmond included a great portion of a day spent at Virginia Farm Bureau learning about media management, and gaining a better understanding of how our industry jargon can be perceived by the general public. One of my favorite moments was discussions around our individual strengths, through the StregthsQuest Assessment – which helped me better identify which portions of my professional strengths I should lean into to accomplish what I work towards and areas to bring additional influence into my world to supplement and complement my strengths.
Influence Through Connection
While the lobbyists and politicians come and go from Richmond throughout the year there are many people that we interacted with that serve the commonwealth every single day to keep the work of the state government operating smoothly. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offices were especially of interest to me due to the wide array of services and jurisdictions that they affect on a daily basis. My cooperative deals with their services of weights and measures for certification of our scale houses at our mills, and they also handle the organization and support of a multitude of boards from the Aquaculture Advisory Board to the Virginia Charitable Gaming Board. Deputy Commissioner of VDACS, Charles Green, was absolutely correct when visiting with our group and sharing that this organization is quite the catch-all and does a phenomenal job coordinating and supporting these wide variety of roles to the best of their staff’s abilities, which is quite impressive.
The same can be said for Virginia Farm Bureau’s efforts on a state-wide scale and the level of support they give for farmers and agriculturalists on a daily basis.
Our VALOR Fellowship even found a bit of agriculture while we were in Richmond and the surrounding areas. The visit with Belmont Butchery, owned by Tanya Cauthen, was completely eye-opening with her ability to find her niche in the marketplace and accomplish so much of what she has while building out her brand in her community and the surrounding areas. To put a exclamation point on our session we got to visit a VALOR graduates’ farm and farm store, thanks to CJ Isbell’s open arms. Keenbell Farm was intriguing for it’s completely independent nature. CJ’s confidence in saying that I’m growing food the way I want to be able to feed my family from and the attraction that has to his customer base is very refreshing. Tanya and CJ definitely showed their ability to maximize their influence that is admirable and impressive.
It is my hope that my take aways from our VALOR sessions continue to mold my mindset and opinions as each visit continues to blow me away with the wide variety of passions and niches that we come in contact with. It’s inspiring to me as someone presently having internal deliberations around my niche for an agricultural enterprise in the years to come.