The data and research that’s been done in the name of better understanding and promoting parks & recreation as a public necessity is actually incredibly interesting and valuable. And in Illinois, the fact that hundreds of communities across the state have voted to form separate park & recreation districts goes to show that the public does value these services on some level. But when push comes to shove, as an industry, we still seem to feel a bit inferior to other government services like police, fire, health, education, sanitation, etc. So despite our best efforts, it continues to be a hot topic and even ended up as part of the conversation at the keynote of the 2014 National Park & Recreation Association conference. In fact, the question (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Why can’t we seem to influence the public on the value of parks and recreation?” was posed.
- Executing: People with talents in this area are those who you turn to to implement a solution. They work tirelessly to get something done with speed and precision.
- Influencing: People with talents in this area are innately good at influencing are always selling big ideas inside and outside of the organization. When you need someone to take charge, speak up, and make sure your group is heard, look to someone with strengths in this area.
- Relationship-Building: People with talents in this area have an innate ability to take the human component into the equation. They look at how individuals fit into the big picture, make strong connections, and are the glue that holds groups together.
- Strategic: People with talents in this area are constantly thinking about the future and help keep people focused on what “could be.” They absorb and analyze information to help make better decisions.
After compiling the results of professionals across the country, including park & recreation staff, special recreation staff, and board members, a pretty significant trend has surfaced. Although not scientific in any stretch of the imagination, no matter where I go or who I work with, the overall results are the same – the talents of park & recreation professionals fall pretty consistently in the folowing order:
- Relationship-Building: 35% of our talents are in this area
- Executing: 31% of our talents are in this area
- Strategic: 21% of our talents are in this area
- Influencing: only 13% of our talents fall in this area
If we were perfectly balanced overall, our talents would all fall squarely at 25% in each area. However, it’s pretty clear that people who have chosen parks & recreation as their career are not as balanced as you might assume they’d be. If you think about it, it actually makes total sense. I think we’d all agree that to be drawn to work in parks & recreation, most professionals probably are concerned with relationships and care about the connections to their community and to the environment and nature. And I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t say park & recreation professionals aren’t hard workers. Our entire field literally revolves around working while everyone else in playing. So does that mean when it comes to influencing the public about our value that we’re completely hopeless? Is the only way to accomplish this goal to completely change the make-up of those working in our field?