Does your employee volunteer and giving program deliberately design opportunities for participants to become better leaders? If you’re not sure, there’s probably room to improve. Your program can and should be the program that managers offer to employees who are ready to level-up, learn more, and lead better. Your program can and should be the program that produces the greatest leaders at your company. So, what makes the best leaders? And how does employee volunteering fit?
The best leaders rally their teams around a shared vision.
According to a recent Gallup analysis, only four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important. This means that most employees are at least a little unsure about how their work fits into the “big picture.” The best leaders connect the action of their team to the purpose of the company – and they do it over and over again.
Think about your company’s volunteer leaders – your Champions or Ambassadors. Do they understand the vision of the program? Do they know how it aligns with the purpose of the business? If not, they’re starting at a deficit. Provide a clear and aligned rally cry and bring in leaders, speakers, and teachers to demonstrate what it looks like to cast the vision.
A 2016 engagement survey by Gallup highlighted that 82% of workers felt their managers and leaders were “fundamentally uninspiring” – your volunteers can become the managers and leaders who change all that.
The best leaders develop other leaders.
Studies show that successful companies develop leaders through the initiative of other leaders. Studies also show that leaders often operate from a scarcity mindset, keeping them from focusing on others while they focus on their own career goals.
How do successful leaders learn to develop other leaders? While the argument can be made that great leaders are born, not made, even Barack Obama says great leaders did not start out that way. Volunteer leadership is a fertile ground to practice developing others.
Do your volunteer leaders understand that not all volunteers are the same? Do they know what to do when some people say they’ll show up and never do, when others act overly enthusiastic, and others participate on a regular basis but never stop complaining? Teach your volunteer leaders the stages of the volunteer journey, how to recognize where people are, and how to meet each participant at their highest level of contribution. Provide tools and templates that will allow them to practice and integrate this skill into their leadership style. And most importantly – show your leaders what it looks like to practice these skills during volunteer activities. As employees participate in volunteering and giving programs, volunteer leaders practice their skills by observing participants and guiding their growth.
A “2019 Employee Engagement Report: The End of Loyalty” found that people who don’t feel supported in their professional development are three times more likely to be job hunting. Your volunteers can become the managers and leaders who change all that.
The best leaders grow, change, and improve.
Decades of research have found that leaders with a growth mindset take on challenges, take advantage of feedback, and adopt the most effective problem-solving strategies. Leaders who are fixed, unwilling to take feedback, and resistant to change are those whose stories are told as warnings. So how did the best leaders learn to adopt a mindset that seeks growth, change, and improvement?
The Transformative Approach centers the most profound benefit of volunteering: perspective transformation. If your employee volunteering and giving program is not designed to invite perspective transformation, it is not achieving its potential. Do your volunteer leaders know how to prepare participants for the volunteer activity with an introduction that gently challenges their assumptions? Do they know how to surprise volunteers with a new way to think about volunteering? The best way to become people who grow and change is by inviting growth and change through intentional practice. Volunteering is a well-positioned arena for this practice.
Give your volunteer leaders the skills to create an environment where transformation can occur at every volunteer event. As they learn to create this environment, they will internalize the practice into their own day-to-day management skills.
How will it help?
- Retention. Volunteer leaders who understand the connection between the program and the company’s purpose, who are empowered to develop others, and who become better leaders in the process are more likely to develop affective commitment, which, in contrast to normative commitment and continuance commitment, is an emotional attachment to the company that motivates productivity and long-term retention.
- Volunteer Recruitment. Volunteer leaders who can speak to their colleagues and cast a vision for the purpose of the program, guide their colleagues, and inspire their thinking are more successful at recruiting colleagues to volunteer
- Recognition. Volunteer leaders who are given learning opportunities that mirror the skills of prototypical business leaders interpret this as a form of recognition that is more meaningful than swag or notes from managers.