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NCRA President addresses the future

Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC

I have read that the number one challenge of CEOs and leaders is to get others to care as much about the organization as they do. In my experience, this is not the case with our wonderful NCRA! I am completely overwhelmed by your outpouring of love and support, and I thank you for allowing me the privilege to serve as your President.   

For the 32 years I have been a member of this association, we have always been a special group of engaged and involved people. I have taken our NCRA family a little for granted and this past year has proven to me something that I did not properly appreciate prior to … that our NCRA family matters!  During this conference, it is my goal to make sure you all know how important you are to me, to the NCRA Board of Directors, and as I have watched social media leading up to this week, to each other. Dave has clearly covered the importance of our NCRA family so I will simply add that when you depart after this great week of reconnection, I hope you head home with no doubt how important we are to one another. We all need to know that we belong here! This past year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of unprecedented uncertainty, I have seen member after member step up their game, get more involved, get a new certification, and show greater support than ever before! This is clearly the reason we have not only weathered this storm, but we have thrived, and it is why we all need to get even more involved as ambassadors, to attract everyone to join us in this wonderful profession!

Navy SEALs have a saying: When under pressure, you don’t rise to the level of your expectations, you fall to the level of your training. Training has always been a major focus of NCRA, providing personal development to our members to strengthen their integrity and to instill a devotion to service above self and a commitment to excellence in all we do!

My CRR realtime certification and Legislative Boot Camp Training came in handy shortly after I was installed as the president of the Utah Court Reporters Association. We received word that a noncertified videographer had gotten legislative support to abolish the Court Reporting Act. We rallied our members and showed up en masse at the Committee Hearing. The Board felt strongly that we needed to show our realtime skills, so Vice President Vicki Larsen, RMR, and I showed up early and placed realtime iPads before the committee members. After all had spoken, both pro and con, the Chairman stood up and held an iPad high. He said, we have heard argument today that court reporters are antiquated and no longer viable with today’s technological advances. As I am speaking, every word I am saying is scrolling, word for word, across this screen. As a matter of fact, I just said … and he started to read from my realtime feed … and my heart stopped beating. He said: “This is the new technology. This is the future!” That is as true today as it was then: Stenographic court reporters are state of the art.

To say this past year has been a tough is such an understatement that it is almost disrespectful!  While there were many incredibly painful moments of loss and sacrifice and sadness, perhaps there were also elements of the past 12 months that were greatly needed. The world has been in an out-of-control spiral for decades, the demands on our time growing exponentially, being “on the clock” 24-7, leaving many of us exhausted and hanging by a thread.

As we now start to awaken from our cocoons of solitude, we should reflect on lessons learned. With so many anxious to rush back to ‘normal’ – my question is this: Which parts of ‘normal’ are worth saving?

I’ve learned four timeless truths from this pandemic that have helped me become a better human being, that I pray will transfer over to making me a better leader as I serve each of you in this coming year:

Truth Number 1: What we call things matters! In this profession, we know that words matter, and those words influence our attitude and our energy, which in turn impacts our behavior.

While COVID-19 may have been dubbed a crisis, a crisis does not make or break the man or woman, it just reveals the true character within. If we call something a “problem,” it sounds insurmountable! But if we refer to it as a “challenge,” it gives us hope and a confident attitude that says, “Bring it on! This is an opportunity for growth and improvement!” Our members turned quicksand into solid ground by making work from home possible, not just for our members but for our clients who looked to us to make it happen. NCRA members did that using a “you got this” mentality to teach and encourage each other. Over the past years, we have often discussed the “shortage,” but instead we should view this as an opportunity to redouble our efforts and find every person searching for their career path and show them how they, too, can join the greatest profession on earth!

As a result of the lockdown, I now better understand the adage: “Adversity introduces us to ourselves!” We shouldn’t be so quick to own our limitations when perhaps we’ve never truly tested them. You will never know how strong you are until strong is your only choice. The years I have served on this Board have been very rewarding for me. Not only have I grown personally, but I have become a stronger advocate for our profession. The NCRA Board of Directors is made up of some amazing people who have a passion for both our profession and our members, and I am honored to have served with them as we have grown stronger together.

Truth Number 2: While watching frontline workers and first responders this past year, I realized that light is never affected by the darkness. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. If a group of people gather in a dark room and one person lights their candle, the room becomes brighter. But as each person then lights the candle of the person next to them, within minutes the entire room is illuminated! In much the same way, our wonderful NCRA volunteers spread their knowledge and service throughout the association by sharing their light with their colleagues.

At times it has seemed dark this past year but with this upcoming leadership responsibility constantly on my mind, I have been overwhelmed as I have watched the bright glowing stars — indeed shining stars — that you are. For this reason, you became the inspiration for this year’s theme: Together We Shine Brighter — and with that vision I challenge each of you to shine and share your light today and every day — as caring human beings and advocates of our noble profession!

Truth Number 3: This pandemic has brought me to this point – today – as your newly installed 2021-2022 president of NCRA, ready to lead. But what does it mean to lead?

A friend shared with me this concept: “The purpose of a leader is to grow more leaders who believe what you believe – not to generate more followers.” This not only means a leader is someone who inspires others to be better and to stand up to every challenge, but it also means we can all be leaders – with and without a title! Leadership is not a noun – it’s an action verb! (Okay, it really is a noun, but work with me here.) All we need is passion, a sincere heart, and a willingness to serve. You are one of those great people and together we can do great things!

As the world rebuilds and resets, our focus is on inclusivity and the power of community. NCRA has one and only one mission: To promote stenographic reporting, captioning, and our certified videographers. All who are actively engaged in this mission need to be on the front lines as we continue to wage battle on behalf of our membership. Sowing division amongst our ranks or fighting the same battle on different fronts is wasting precious energy. We need to be focused on the future together.

Court reporters, captioners, and certified videographers show up every day at any hour to create an accurate record of the proceedings that are depended upon by those defending their rights involving their children, families, homes, livelihoods, and even their freedom. We provide services to those in need, to those that rely on our skills to participate fully, so they can shine just as brightly in their worlds.  All the light from your individual stars adds up to the glorious galaxy which becomes our national association, NCRA.

We often hear the words or say the words: What does NCRA do for me? Every year, 13 members of the NCRA Board pour their energy into finding ways to create member value, to protect our profession by sponsoring and supporting legislation, and to find and create opportunities that will enhance our future.

Our amazing NCRA staff work tirelessly, day after day, weekdays and weekends, holidays, while on vacation, from the crack of dawn until long after the sun goes down, making it all become reality. This year, despite beginning with debilitating obstacles created by a worldwide pandemic, we have launched two major initiatives that illuminate our changing world:

The first is PROLink — our career-enhancing interactive membership portal that streamlines the process of connecting NCRA certified stenographic reporters, captioners, and videographers with professional opportunities and that creates unprecedented value for NCRA credential holders.

The second is Career Launcher — a cutting-edge, innovative virtual externship program that will jumpstart the careers of our new professionals. This will give them on-the-job training like many never had and will help to fill the pipeline more quickly with capable, competent professionals. Let me take a moment to introduce you to the Career Launcher cast of characters: Kevin Hunt; Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC; Mike Miller, FAPR, RDR, CRR; and myself, and our ex officio guest actors and lifesavers, Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and his wife, Lisa; as well as our indispensable videographer/producer/director Johnny Reidt, and his wife and video assistant Tia Reidt, RPR; Kim Dore Hackbarth, RPR; and Lisa Buell, RPR, CRR, and her staff. These brave souls forged their way to Seattle, the epicenter of the COVID virus in March of last year, on the very weekend that the world spun out of control. If that sacrifice had not been made, Career Launcher would have died on the spot. It has taken two years of blood, sweat, and tears from selfless volunteers to bring this invaluable program to our professionals of tomorrow.  Many made incredible sacrifices to save the day as this team gathered in Seattle, Wash., as it became the epicenter of the coronavirus, to save this program, and I must acknowledge our videographer, Johnny Reidt, who became our director, producer, manager, through his selfless contribution and incredible skill, created a broadcast quality program well beyond our means!

My fourth pandemic truth is that the sky is a brighter blue than it may have ever been. 

I live on a mountain above a beautiful river valley that tends to flood every 100 years, washing the valley clean. Perhaps the pandemic world has given us a chance to wash away our comfortable “yesterday” routines and set us on a path of a brighter tomorrow.

As we begin this new year, WE get to decide how we rebuild!  This is a time for us to implement the changes that we always wanted, wished for, or dreamed about but perhaps never put in the effort nor took the time to even consider. We are at a defining moment in our history. You are at a defining moment for your future. The NCRA Board of Directors, led by our Executive Director Dave Wenhold, engaged stakeholders from across our industry to participate in developing our three-year Strategic Plan to chart the future of NCRA that is being unveiled during this Conference. The plan will empower this Association to focus its energies, resources, and assets on accomplishing its critical mission like never before.  Our committees have been streamlined to engage all their energy and talents as they begin their great work with laser focus right out of the gate.

There is a wonderful burst of adrenaline called “activation energy” that represents the explosion right off the starting block — the energy of fresh starts, new goals, big changes.  We’ve started our professional new year with a big bang, the flash of a bright start!  But we have 364 days to go and many years after that to carry the light forward each day, together.  We are running a marathon together, not a 100-yard dash. 

Though COVID changed everything for everyone, widespread immunity won’t magically reset the past, nor should it. We must resist the temptation to slide back into what we’ve done before just because it may seem easier to repeat yesterday than to invent tomorrow.   

We are the future! It’s time to get engaged! Let’s create that new normal. Let’s be that new normal. Show up! Get involved today. Together, let’s light our NCRA candles knowing we shine brighter together!

Thank you!

The above is the speech given by NCRA President Debra A Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, during the Premiere Session of the NCRA 2021 Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.