90 Ideas in 90 Minutes: Vincent Lyles

President and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee


The following are the ideas presented by Vincent Lyles, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, at the BizTimes Media 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event:

Vincent Lyles

1. Make a plan and go forward
“Many people are hesitant or stumble when it comes to moving their lives forward. It is because they don’t plan for their own success. Once you have a plan, go forward and work your plan. You have to find your passion. Make your plans both short-and long-term because it’s a living document. You get to design the roadmap, you are in control, not of everything, but in control of you. Set goals at multiple levels meaning some goals will happen more easily than others. Do your research and find opportunities and people who can expose you to what you want to achieve. Visualize your success and surround yourself with people and objects that help you execute your vision.”

2. Leadership is courageous and contagious
“Leadership means you stand up for what you believe in. As someone once said to me, ‘Even if you are wrong, be gloriously wrong.’ Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to have all of the answers. It means you are willing to share your beliefs. It means you are seeking an answer to a problem or issue that may have been plaguing others. Finally, leadership really centers on doing the small things well and not the big things halfheartedly because the small things always seem to lead to the big things.”

3. How to overcome fear at work?
“Understand your role in the organization. Seek opportunities to showcase your talents individually and as an ensemble. Communicate your intentions to your co-workers including your boss. ‘No surprises’ is a good rule of thumb. Do the hardest things on your to-do list first thing in the morning. Tough decisions don’t get any easier as the day lingers on.”

4. Raise the driving age to be commensurate with the drinking age
“I simply don’t understand why we think it is appropriate to give 16-year-olds a driver’s license. We don’t trust them enough to vote, go to war or to legally drink alcohol. But we do think it’s appropriate to put them behind the wheel of a 2,000 pound machine. When I first authorized my daughter to drive, to some extent I lost control over my daughters’ social behavior thereby increasing the opportunities for them to take more risks. As a matter of fact, the crash-involvement rate for 16-year-olds is four times that of drivers in their 20s. Obviously not all 16-year-olds are the same. Some young drivers are composed, experienced and more than ready. But many are not and it’s difficult to determine which 16-year-olds are ready to take on such big responsibilities. Parental engagement certainly plays a major role as do other significant acts of responsibility shown by the teens such as holding a job and/or performing volunteer hours. I think one solution may be to extend the learning period. For example, mandatory driver’s education classes followed by a probationary period of at least two years, which allows the drivers to gain more experience and for the parents to exert more control. Increasing the driving age from 16-years-old to 18-years-old doesn’t completely solve the problem for me, but I think a longer transition period is a good start.”

5. Schools should not close for 90 consecutive days in the summer
“The United States is in an education crisis. Many of our large population centers run school districts that are failing the world’s students. Our prior schedule for both public and private schools is based on an agrarian system, when children were needed to work during the harvesting of crops. Rescheduling our school calendar could help us climb back up the global list of high school graduation success.”

6. Americans need to travel more outside of the United States
“Studies show that many Americans have so little understanding of the rest of the world. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans surveyed think it is absolutely necessary to know where countries in the news are located. Only 14 percent believe that speaking another language fluently is a necessary skill. And 74 percent of us believe that English is the most commonly spoken native language in the world (it’s not, it’s Mandarin Chinese). Many of us feel that improving the geographical and sociopolitical literacy of our citizens is crucial. There are positive signs, geography class enrollments are increasing within our universities. Technology is also playing a significant role in helping people understand more about the world they live in and where others who inhabit the planet also reside. But going from 30 percent to 100 percent on a geography test will take some effort.

7. Co-workers need to have more dinners than lunches together
“While lunch between colleagues and co-workers is a great way to build trust and to support one another, the general timeframe of lunch is usually one hour or less. This means there isn’t a lot of time to get to know one another. Moreover, if it is a public setting, people are less comfortable sharing their thoughts or true feelings about a situation affecting their work or home life. I would suggest co-workers get together for dinner on a regular basis. Dinner is usually done off site and the parties may have more time to get to know each other and to discuss in greater detail how they can support one another and their work environment.”

8. Music should be a part of every speech made by politicians
“A good song can set the right emotional tone for the room and help the speaker prepare the audience for the overall message. The following is a sampling of good introductory songs: ‘I Feel Good’ by James Brown; ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey; ‘At Last’ by Etta James; ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams; ‘I Gotta Feeling’ by the Black Eyed Peas; ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole; and ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2. I think in today’s political landscape we need to hear politicians who are relatable and real. Their opening song could be a pathway for us to be able to understand them more clearly.”

9. Our political systems need a reboot
“We are in a rut no matter what side of the political aisle you stand in. The system isn’t working the way it should. For example, we celebrate when 40 percent of the eligible voters vote in an election. Forty percent is dramatically underwhelming in a country with free elections. Another political concept that is in need of a major change is the gerrymandering that goes on after the census and a major election. Both the state and national incumbents have a vested interest in keeping their jobs. The process, however, eliminates the losing party from having a seat at the political table for an extended period of time. The lack of objectivity and diverse thought ensures that we become less dynamic as a nation and are certainly more reactive than proactive as a result.”

10. The tax burden needs to shift from people to products
“In Wisconsin, there is an aversion to implementing more sales tax measures. While none of us want to pay more taxes unnecessarily, the utilization of more sales taxes and/or use fees helps to spread the costs out over a broader base of people. It also prevents those of us who pay significant income tax to not actively seek ways to avoid paying taxes, such as moving to Florida or Nevada. While the weather in those states is very attractive to Wisconsinites between December and March, many people will tell you the Wisconsin tax system plays a significant role in their plans. Moreover, sales taxes can be so much more creative like capturing the thousands of cars that travel to Wisconsin from neighboring states. Finally, taxpayers including those who currently pay none or little in the form of income tax are all consumers of goods and services; their consumption can fuel additional growth within our state.”

Click here to see a video of Lyles’ remarks at the 90 Ideas in 90 Minutes event.

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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