As you may have read in our first blog, Olivia Hill and I are participating in Leadership Niagara and Leadership Buffalo, respectively.
We each had our first full day session with different tours and speakers. Below are some of our takeaways from the day.
Our session of Leadership Niagara was a jam-packed day filled with kayaks and chocolate. We spent the morning visiting two family-owned mainstays in Niagara County: Confer Plastics and Platter’s Chocolate. I was enthralled with the tour of Confer Plastics as were my classmates, as we watched mega-machines make kayaks in minutes in an array of vibrant colors. We split into groups for tours of the facility and every tour guide was excited and energized, proud to show off their workplace. Bob Confer, third generation owner of the company, spent time talking with us about how he leads his company. My biggest takeaway from his talk was leading with empathy. Bob focuses on second chances for those previously incarcerated and giving refugees a shot at the American Dream.
Platter’s was a totally different type of manufacturing, but equally awesome. Any tour that comes with free samples of some of the best chocolate around is a winner to me. As we walked the beautiful facility in the newly rejuvenated Wurlitzer building, we heard how this family business is learning to work “on” the business, not just in it. And Joe Urban, one of the owners, emphasized the importance of the family environment for all the employees as the company strives to make every worker feel like part of the family.
We spent the afternoon discussing leadership styles and working on our leadership development plan. One of my goals for the next year is to become a better active listener, to shut out all the distractions and focus on hearing those around me. I think this will make me a better colleague but also a better advocate for our region.
Our first day session topic was Hunger and Poverty. Throughout the day we heard from the Rural Outreach Center and the Matt Urban Center. We then broke into groups and volunteered at different places throughout Buffalo, spending time with the community and getting a first-hand glimpse at some of the issues facing our community.
The most impactful part of our day was a poverty simulation at the United Way. The simulation put us in real-life situations in which a family is impoverished and attempting to survive. Those in poverty often tunnel their vision and can only focus on what is directly in front of them, which is often as simple as putting food on the table for their family. While there are resources available for those in poverty, folks often can’t take advantage because they’re so hyper focused on survival or resources are siloed.
The day was truly eye opening. I’m very excited to be a part of such an important program and can’t wait for more sessions to come.