Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of six articles written by business and community leaders who participated in the Denver Metro Leadership Chamber Foundation’s “Colorado Experience” excursion to Colorado Springs in late April.
For some time, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation has looked to bring its national Leadership Exchange (LEX) trip to the state level and give Denver business professionals a broader view of Colorado.
In April, the Leadership Foundation launched the pilot Colorado Experience program, which brought 140 Denver-area leaders to Colorado Springs for a two-day trip. Kyle Hybl, a Colorado Experience committee member and vice president and general counsel of the El Pomar Foundation, described the visit as an important effort to “make Monument Hill a little bit shorter” in connecting Denver with the Colorado Springs community.
The opportunity to chair a program, especially one that involves a trip to another city, is both exciting and intimidating, but chairing an inaugural program adds a level of uncertainty about the goals, expectations and measurements of success. The Colorado Experience committee and Leadership Foundation staff envisioned a program that would provide Colorado content and context to a delegation of seasoned Leadership Foundation program alumni and newcomers, and we began by considering issues of importance in our state and exploring the Colorado Springs community to identify the important features, people and economic drivers that would tell the Pikes Peak region’s story.
We hoped to attract a delegation of experienced travelers from the LEX trips, along with other seasoned and emerging leaders. While we expected a majority of Denver-based attendees, we recruited throughout the state at the insightful urging of the committee and were happy to have the addition and insight of delegates from our host city of Colorado Springs, as well as Vail, Yuma and others.
By addressing topics of economic impact through the lens of a different city, we hoped attendees would gain a greater appreciation of state issues and a better understanding of how different cities address their challenges. During the trip, we were happy with the exposure attendees received and the insights they took away regarding the challenges and successes of a community only an hour south of Denver that could have just as easily been across the country for many of the attendees. While some of our delegation travels to Colorado Springs with weekly frequency, another contingent had never been within the city limits.
As with any trip, there is an exchange of ideas that flow in both directions. We were pleasantly surprised by how eager our Colorado Springs presenters were to share their stories and look for insights from their neighbors to the north. Their participation was invaluable and their ideas and comments made an impact with many of our attendees.
While the attendees left with a greater appreciation for our state and our Colorado Springs neighbors and a good dose of content and context, we also saw relationships developing and strengthening as a result of the trip. Delegates reflected on the sessions’ topics in facilitated groups, creating a small group dynamic dialog that substantively added to the program and the development of those relationships.
In addition, participating in a trip like the Colorado Experience as a program chair gave us an even greater appreciation for what organizations like the Leadership Foundation do behind the scenes to create valuable experiences for its members and participants. The two-day program was preceded by multiple site visits, committee meetings, budget evaluations and sponsor and participant recruitment.
Our greatest hope now is that this program has legs – delegates remember what they experienced and encourage others to participate as the Leadership Foundation hosts future trips to other destinations in Colorado. There are amazing insights and new friendships to be experienced and gained within a short driving distance inside our state borders. We don’t always have to look across the country to learn how to improve, especially when many of our neighbors have talents and ideas that they are more than happy to share.