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Traffic? Yes. But an opportunity, too

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The high school sports March madness has begun in Des Moines. Downtown skywalks are crowded with fans and players, most of the motels and hotels are filled to capacity, local restaurants have long waits, and traffic on I-235 resembles rush hour in Chicago or Kansas City. When all these teams come to town, it can be inconvenient for those of us who live here.

But before you complain about the inconvenience, think about the benefits. Participating – whether as player or fan – in the basketball tournaments is a special event in the life of a young person. And participation actually has benefits that go beyond winning games.

These young people, particularly the players, are learning lessons that will serve them well later, and what they learn will serve you well, too, as they become adults in the workplace. As business people in Iowa, we should all be concerned about the development of the workforce of the future.

It seems that so often the current news tells of sports or corporate figures who have broken rules as well as the law. These are the models our young people are looking up to. Fortunately, the lessons young athletes and fans are learning by participating in our high school athletic tournaments are positive – things like doing your personal best for the good of all, working with others as a team, and developing respect for officials and other teams.

Those principles carry over into life and into the corporate world. Successful employees also strive to do their personal best, work with others to get the job done, and deal honestly and ethically with each other, as well as with customers and vendors.

The players and teams demonstrating good sportsmanship – the ones who take home the Good Sportsmanship Awards – are not always the championship teams. And, though I’d be the first to say it’s sure more fun to win than to lose, it’s important to remember that in the game of life, good character, respect for others and integrity are more important than the points scored in any game. These are the same characteristics that define sportsmanship in athletic competition.

Good sportsmanship takes effort, but in the long run, it pays. Similarly, in business, integrity and compliance with the law extract a cost in terms of dollars and time. In today’s world, for every business, but especially for publicly held companies, compliance throughout the organization is critical. Specifically, compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, federal and state governments and the New York Stock Exchange all extract a price from businesses.

But there is a payback. The payback is the high level of confidence that the business is doing the right thing.

When the championship teams take home their trophies, the young players, whether winners or losers of the games, will do well to remember the lessons they learned as athletes: Do your personal best, work as a team, respect the officials and the rules of the game, and always, whether you win or lose, be a good sport. If the players learn these lessons, they will develop integrity and do well as adult workers. In a few years, we will be happy to welcome them into the Iowa workforce.

So during the tournament weeks, if you’re stuck in traffic, waiting for a table in a crowded restaurant or walking in a packed skywalk, try to remember that these young people are our workforce of tomorrow. What they are learning while they’re here will last much longer than the tournament play. They’re learning to be ethical adults who will some day be doing what you are doing, and you sure wouldn’t want them to miss these important lessons.

Jim Noyce is chief financial and administrative officer at Farm Bureau Financial Services.  

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