Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Valhalla: The Afterlife for Parks and Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Valhalla: The Afterlife for Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

In the September issue of Parks & Recreation, Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority in Fairfax Station, Virginia, asked, "Are you a Viking or a farmer?"

The Viking, he wrote, seeks the adventures and risks that come with meeting challenges head on. The farmer is happy and content to manage his or her crops and maintain the land. The farmer sits back and lets change happen--or, in our field, allows budgets to get slashed and services reduced. It's this Viking mentality that creates change and opportunity. It's what allows people around us to see parks and recreation as an important service, not because we are a threat, but because we accomplish our goals and mission.

How can our profession be linked to these two cultures? Compare these two professions and cultures and see. As agencies begin to determine their make-up, I anticipate many will answer that we're farmers with little chance or desire to be Vikings.

The concept of linking the modern organization--whether it's a parks and recreation organization or corporation--to a Viking or farmer culture has been explored many times, most recently in an article in the March issue of the Harvard Business Review entitled, "Managers must make sure their teams are not avoiding critical conversations." The article asks a similar question to the one posed by Mr. Gilbert. The response links 21st century organizations to the culture of Vikings and farmers. Both articles should have us thinking and acting on many fronts, preparing for battle--less for simple survival than for a future Viking-like culture. The articles prompt many questions:

* Who are the Vikings and farmers in our agencies?

* Am I a Viking or a farmer?

* Do we need Vikings and farmers and if so, what should we do with the Vikings and farmers?

* How do you find and keep Vikings?

* What strategies can we focus on to be a Viking culture?


While many other questions and discussions could be raised from such an interesting topic, let's concentrate on one area: identifying strategies to create a Viking culture in a parks and recreation setting.

The world of the Viking was a hostile and ever-changing place--just the climate to motivate him to be entrepreneurial and seek out better lives and land. They attacked many places controlled by nobles whose followers were fearful of change and interested only in survival. In most cases, it made for easy conquest. The followers had no incentive to fight, nor would they benefit greatly from the nobles. The Viking, on the other hand, shared in a common goal for which all would benefit equally in conquest.

Mr. Gilbert refers to the farmer as a manager. Today, many of our parks and recreation agencies are full of managers--or farmers--fearful of change. Fear of change can extend to such situations as adding new responsibilities to current workloads; taking another position in another agency and thus relocating families; or simply trying something new that may fail. The warrior culture of the Viking had vision, collective goals, and a team committed to these goals. They were rewarded with land and riches for achieving their goals. This doesn't sound much different from what we all want in our agencies, although instead of land and riches, it's resources, salary increases, and recognition we seek.

We need Viking leaders in our organizations seeking out new opportunities to achieve goals and realize visions. …

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