FAIRBANKS - Vitality: (noun) “The capacities to live, grow or develop. Physical or intellectual vigor. Energy. The characteristic, principle or force that distinguishes living things from non-living things. The power to survive.”

If, as business leaders in Fairbanks, we agree that organizational vitality is important, (and if you don’t, then turn to the TV guide), then it might be worth a few moments of reflection on what we as the leaders of our respective businesses are doing to increase our individual and corporate vitality. Tom Peters once said that the vitality of any organization is equal to the sum of the audacity quotients of each employee’s individual self renewal project. 

Huh?

Several weeks ago I was privileged to write in this space about the real value of education to teenagers. Today I’d like to reflect for a few sentences the importance of audacious renewal projects for you and me as senior managers.

Audacious: (adjective) “Extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive: as in an audacious vision of the city’s bright future.”

Like you, I subscribe to the principle that an organization’s people are its most important assets. The unfortunate implication of describing people as assets (which they really are) is that assets rapidly depreciate when not maintained and upgraded. This begs the question — are we actively pursuing audacious, self-renewal programs to stay ahead of the change curve in order to effectively lead our organizations?

I am not talking about taking vacations to Maui. I am referring to continuously upgrading personal insight, inspiration, knowledge and skills. This is one of the most important questions senior managers can answer. What are we doing to make ourselves more valuable to our organization today than we did yesterday?

If the best leaders are the best teachers and the best teachers are the best students, then for me the answer is to develop the attitude of a curious student. That attitude includes becoming an avid reader again, de-prioritizing television, and taking advantage of training opportunities offered by community colleges, universities and other learning organizations. I have again started to dig into John Maxwell leadership books and Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” — and I’m learning a lot that I thought I already knew. There is an ancient quote that “leaders are readers.” Besides this column, what are you reading?

Senior managers need to focus on the word “audacious” in self-renewal plans with “audacious” meaning — in addition to the definition above — “spirited, original and innovative.” If we are not getting better faster, then our competition is getting better and we’re getting worse. Just as with computers and delicate instruments, human resources require constant maintenance and upgrade. Would you hire a lawyer who hasn’t stayed current with the law, an accountant unfamiliar with the latest tax codes or a physician who knows nothing about 21st century medicine?

On Thursday, I was invited to attend and participate in a writing class at Doyon LTD. Attendees included four managers (including Doyon President and CEO Aaron Schutt) and six staff members. I discovered that every two weeks they meet over a lunch hour to hone their writing skills and have done so since last October. This is an example of a wonderfully audacious corporate renewal and skill building project, made even better because no one is getting paid to attend.

Who needs audacious self-renewal plans more than the leader at the top? Your organization’s vitality depends upon your answer. It’s worth thinking about. More importantly, it’s worth acting upon.

Just ask Doyon LTD’s CEO whether corporate and individual employee renewal and skill-building projects are worth the effort.

Charle Dexter is a professor of applied business emeritus. He may be reached by email at cndexter@alaska. edu. This column is provided as a public service by the UAF Community and Technical Colleges.