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Opinion: One idea can change one’s trajectory

Eyes & Ears

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I just finished editing the 90 ideas in business and leadership that our handpicked executives will share Dec. 4 before a live audience. If you’ve never attended the event, Springfield Business Journal converts the IMAX theater into a stage and classroom setting to exchange knowledge to better the professionals and businesses in our community. It’s called 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes. Nine businesspeople share their 10 ideas – about a minute each.

My work was in preparing the program that will be handed out at the event. I don’t want to steal the executives’ thunder. But I do want to highlight the content I found personally relevant.

As a teaser to the event, here are the top ideas from our upcoming 90 Ideas speakers. (See for more.)

• “Change your routine” —Rita Baron, principal at Baron Design & Associates LLC

I easily succumb to this, the daily ruts. Baron’s right; over time, they kill creativity and suck energy. SBJ’s recent office move to Chesterfield Village revealed this to me. I had no idea how welcome new scenery would be in my professional life. I also now enjoy a lunchbreak at home and highly recommend it where possible. Come back to the office with new energy for the second half of each day. I’ve also heard it advised to do work off-site from time to time. “Changing your routine invigorates your mind,” Baron says.

• “Stuck in a really bad rut? Try a long bike ride.” —Toby Teeter, president of Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce

Following Baron’s advice on routine and building upon the column headline, Teeter can attest how one idea can change everything. He says long bike rides provide the mental space for creative vision. Cruising on the pavement has birthed new products and a new company for him. For you, that might be running, hiking or yoga that gets you to that next, unexpected step.

• “Encourage dissent.” —Brett Curry, CEO of OMG Commerce

This sounds good but is hard to do. I find it a huge test of character. And pretty unnatural. I appreciate Curry’s wisdom that we don’t always have to go along with the dissenting view, but listening and learning from it is key. He says, “Surround yourself with people who believe in your mission but who also are willing to tell you when you are wrong.” That said, watch out for those who disagree for disagreement sake.

• “To be kind, but demanding.” —Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth

The combination of these two characteristics is a rare thing. That’s why it’s effective. I’ve perceived them to be contradictory, but as Edwards points out, the high demands we place on each other proves we believe in one another – and that’s a kind and caring thing. “There is no reason we shouldn’t expect much and always strive to be kind,” he says.

• “Be willing to fail.” —Cynthia Black, attorney at Cynthia R. Black, Attorney at Law LLC

A lot has been written in business books on this topic. But more can be said. Until you’ve gone through a tough season and experienced professional or personal suffering, this truth is difficult to see. But as Black says, “Failures are part of being successful.” They make the taste of success sweeter. And it proves the worth of whatever you were failing but fighting for.

• “Get a therapist.” —Brandy Harris, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield

We’re not always OK. That’s in business and at home. Harris encourages us to be OK with that. But don’t stay there. I’ve never talked to a professional counselor, but I’m now at a place where I’m willing. It’s a little scary but also freeing. Harris says leaders greatly need such a third party.

• “Progressive change agent.” —Stephen Kleinsmith, co-deputy superintendent at Springfield Public Schools

The more I age, the more I realize change is hard. And the more meaningful the change, the more difficult it comes. Kleinsmith uses the word pain. If you’ve experienced a painful change, you know what he means. To leaders, he says, “See change as a constant, ongoing process – not an event.” Might help to manage the pain.

• “Proactive vs. reactive.” —Zach Troutman, founder of Follow the Leader

I’m much more reactionary than I’d like to be. Yet, I appreciate when leaders in my life are proactive. It’s a trait I’ll have to learn and a muscle to exercise. Because Troutman’s right, reactionary leadership “sends the message we are ill-prepared, which can leave your team feeling unsettled and anxious.”

• “Disconnect to reconnect.” —Mark McNay, senior vice president of Southern Missouri Containers Inc.

Ask McNay about his cycling trip to Alaska. No technology, social media, spreadsheets, etc. We can intentionally disconnect right at home or in the office. Sometimes it takes turning off all the stuff to see the world and people around us in a clearer way.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for the leadership of these nine executives Their ideas remind me we’re in this together.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson can be reached at


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