July 5, 2016
A Good Team
My mom and dad are a good team, and they have been for 60ish years. My mom is book smart brilliant. My dad is brilliant in the practical sense of the skilled tradesperson he is. My mom is quick witted and funny and relies on both often. My dad is more reserved with a dry humor delivery, when and if he uses humor. My mom talks – a lot. My dad has always been more of a listener. My mom is an idea person. My dad is a doer. Mom can come up with improvement ideas to enhance their lives. My dad can make those improvements come to life. For most of their years together, extra money came into the family by making wedding cakes, and they complemented each other in this endeavor, too. My mom, excellently skilled in the kitchen, was the baker. My dad, with the steady hand and eyes for detail of a skilled tradesperson, was the decorator.
Even today, in their 84th year, they complement each other. Mom cannot see well. Dad is her eyes. Although ever the listener, Dad cannot hear well anymore. Mom is his ears. Mom cannot drive. Dad is her willing chauffeur. Mom’s physical strength is declining. Dad is still strong. Dad’s memory is slipping. Mom remembers for him. Putting them both together, they can function and be independent – together.
As many of you know, my family had a shock recently. My dad passed out while working outside. On the way down, he hit his head resulting in a traumatic brain injury. There is every indication that he will be able to get the vast majority of his faculties back, but, early on, there were a lot of concerns about the delicate balance of the team that is Gaylard and Lee. Dad’s eyes suddenly became sensitive to light. Would he be able to serve as their eyes? His legs and hands would impulsively twitch. Would he still be able to put her ideas to life? He became easily distracted. Would he be able to listen? Would he be able to drive? Would he even be able to come home to be a regular contributor to their team? His capabilities would be missed.
What has this got to do with us and K-State Research and Extension? Our K-State Research and Extension family has experienced the shock of significant budget reductions for several years now. We know that further shocks without offsetting revenue of some sort will likely result in position reductions. I have heard of some colleagues, in corner discussions at events, discussing where cuts would likely occur, where there should be cuts, and/or whose job wasn’t really that important.
Here is the truth. There isn’t a single unit or department that can claim to have excess human capacity. Our team and our effectiveness, like those of my Mom and Dad, hang in a delicate balance. If budgets force someone to leave, the presence, service and the capabilities of that person will be greatly missed. There is not enough slack in our system for someone else to pick up her or his effort. We will become less of a team. We will become less effective for the people we serve.
What can we do about it? First, stop the corner discussions about whose position is expendable. Start promoting that all Extension positions are important. Next, take steps to make sure that revenues lost from one source are offset by other types of revenues. Perhaps that means looking at a different type of local unit. Maybe the extra revenue comes from charging a little more for our programs. Perhaps it means seeking out more sponsors or pursuing grants. The fact is, we are going to need to be increasingly strategic and entrepreneurial to keep our team intact if our budgets decline in the future. Let’s make sure we give ourselves the opportunity to keep the team together by pursuing or at least investigating those revenue enhancing opportunities. If we lose just one person due to budget shortfalls in the future, it is one person too many. We will never be able to replicate their contributions to our organization and the people we serve.