Tag Archives: Organization

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Saying, “Yes, and…?” to Leadership Opportunities

Category:Leadchange,Leadership,STC,STC Rochester Tags : 

What If?

“Yes, and…?” is the hallmark of improv comedy. It’s also key to our growth as leaders. What if we said, “Yes, and…?” when approached about taking a leadership role in an organization?

For many of us, our first reaction to leadership requests are, “No, because…,” or perhaps, “There’s no way I can do that!” We live in an increasingly fast-paced culture with many opportunities on which to spend our time. Many of us can be quite guarded when considering external commitments. Sometimes being guarded is warranted because of our current level of obligations; sometimes we just have an automatic “No” response. We know what saying “no” provides us: security, peacefulness, free time, and a comfort zone.

Let’s look at what saying, “Yes, and…?” has done for me and what it may do for you.

My “Yes, and…?” Journey

My “Yes, and…?” journey started about 10 years ago when I agreed to be Program Manager for the Rochester Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. My role was to obtain speakers for educational events and to help set up venues. It was a reasonably small role, and I believed I could do a good job at it.

The following spring the chapter looked for volunteers to fill their election slate. When they asked me what role I was willing to take, I said anything besides Vice President. (The Vice President role includes co-chairing our regional conference and speaking in front of a large group of people. I was not interested. As an introvert, I absolutely did not feel comfortable in that role.)

When the chapter announced the election slate, I was on the ballot–as a VP candidate! Although I didn’t believe I was suited for nor competent to take that role, I didn’t want the embarrassment of withdrawing from the role or admitting I believed it was beyond me. Providentially, the chapter nominations committee saw leadership skills in me that I did not yet see within myself. I did OK in that role. I was partnered with someone who had filled the role the previous year and I was able to act as an “understudy” and not feel as though the weight of the role was too much.

The following year, the dues structure changed in the organization and most all of the current leadership left the organization. (There were other factors–retirements, moves, etc., that also impacted. their decisions.) There was no one more senior than me. I would be the next president. I became the next chapter president. It was a good year, although we had struggles without former leaders to mentor us. I attended my first Leadership Program at the STC Summit Conference in Dallas, met and engaged with other chapter leaders, and began establishing a peer network that has been invaluable to this day.

The Next Step

After my successful year as STC Rochester president, I decided I wanted to help other chapter leaders who might face the same challenge of having no leadership mentors. I joined the Community Affairs Committee and built an outreach program and team to mentor and assist other chapter and SIG (Special Interest Group) leaders. That team made a positive impact. My “Yes, and…?” was agreeing to serve and bringing my vision for a leadership outreach team to fruition.

Today

Fast forward to today. Next week I’ll be installed as the Vice President of the Society for Technical Communication. The following year I will become President. Unlike local chapter elections where 90% of the time candidates run unopposed, this time I had an opponent (who was also a friend). I campaigned actively for the role. I ran for office because that peer network I had become part of through the Summit Leadership Program and the leaders I had helped support, told me they needed me to run because they believed in me. They believed that I would help lead positive and potentially deep changes to the organization that would address our changing demographics and ensure we’d be a viable and influential organization in the future.

“Yes, and…?” and Me

My leadership journey has stretched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m now comfortable speaking to large groups of people. I’m able to articulate a vision of where I believe the organization needs to go. I’ve learned to build consensus and enroll others in meaningful initiatives.

I love being able to make a difference! Although I was initially tentative and doubted my ability to be a leader, I was willing. I’ve been stretched. It’s not always been comfortable.

I wouldn’t trade the journey for anything.

“Yes, and…?” and You

Please say, “Yes, and…?” when someone (perhaps me) offers you an opportunity to serve!

Will it take you out of your comfort zone? I certainly hope so. We grow through being stretched. We grow through service to others and I believe there’s no higher calling.

Serve where you’re passionate. Make a difference!

 


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Recruiting Volunteers

Category:Leadchange,Leadership,Lessons Learned,STC,STC Rochester Tags : 

Recruiting Volunteers

Volunteers are the life blood of non-profit organizations. However, recruiting volunteers may be challenging. I had the privilege of presenting with Alice Brzovic, President of the San Diego Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication on a leadership webinar on July 22, 2016. Alice had a number of great ideas around volunteer recruitment, especially in advertising for volunteers. It may seem obvious, but it’s really important that prospects know about the opportunities and that their help is needed. Alice suggested placing a Help Wanted sign on community websites, creating a company page on LinkedIn and posting volunteer opportunities there, and participating in volunteermatch.org. These are great ideas!

Make the Appeal Personal

Many people will ignore a general call for volunteers, assuming that someone else will step up. A personal appeal may be more successful. (Knowing what the prospect is passionate about and making the right volunteer match is ideal.)

Cast a Clear Vision

I believe it is critical for an organization and its leadership to have and cast a clear vision of why the organization exists and what its trying to accomplish. Prospective volunteers want to know what they’re contributing to. An effective leader will share his or her vision and passion and can inspire volunteers.

Phone Script

During the webinar, one of the attendees asked about phone scripts for recruiting volunteers. I’ve created the script below. Please adapt it for your own use, for calls or emails. (Please substitute specific information for the capitalized words.)

Hi PROSPECT NAME,
My name is NAME and I’m the OFFICER OR POSITION for ORGANIZATION. I’d like to talk with you briefly about an opportunity for you to gain leadership skills that can advance your career by helping with OPPORTUNITY.

Here’s what we need your help with!
DESCRIBE OPPORTUNITY. We’re asking for a commitment that won’t exceed NUMBER of hours per TIME PERIOD.

MENTOR NAME will work with you to make sure your questions are answered and to help you be successful. (IF YOU KNOW THE PROSPECT, ADD We believe this opportunity is a good fit for you because REASONS.)

Here’s what you’ll get in return:
1. The opportunity to gain leadership skills
2. An opportunity to build your professional network
3. An opportunity to positively impact fellow practitioners
4. Helping COMMUNITY serve local practitioners
5. Fun
6. Recognition for your participation
7. ADD SPECIFIC BENEFITS

The COMMUNITY serves the PROFESSION community in the greater GEOGRAPHIC OR PRACTICE area. We’re excited about ORGANIZATION and PROFESSION and we’re working on these SPECIFIC FOCUS AREAS this year.

Won’t you come alongside us and help with OPPORTUNITY?

PROVIDE NEXT STEPS

Thank you for your time and willingness to serve.

NAME

Let me know if you find this script helpful.

Alice Brzovic, Tips for Recruiting New Volunteers (pdf) (Slideshare.net)
Ben Woelk, Get On Board: Entraining Volunteers (pdf) (Slideshare.net)


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What Value Does STC Provide to Its Communities?

Category:Infosec Communicator,Leadchange,Leadership,STC,STC Rochester,techcomm Tags : 

This post is a continuation of the ongoing discussion about the Society for Technical Communication to which I’ve been contributing on Larry Kunz’s excellent Leading Technical Communication blog (https://larrykunz.wordpress.com). Larry recently posted An Agile STC? Much of the discussion has been around what value STC provides to its communities. As I took part in the conversation, I’ve realized that this is a subject I should be writing about as well. Here’s more of the discussion. (Note that I’m actively involved in STC and a former Director.)

I don’t have up-to-date numbers, but roughly 50% of STC members are currently in geographic communities/chapters. The other 50% are not involved locally. That means there are two different membership experiences. When I stepped into the presidency of STC Rochester in 2010, we were very insular and had no information about what was happening at the society level. One of my goals was to reestablish that connection. I blogged extensively about determining our local value proposition at that time (benwoelk.com), primarily about the local level, and we’ve worked hard (and successfully) to provide value to the community. I also wrote about the value of volunteering. (https://benwoelk.com/why-i-value-stc-rochester/). However, I didn’t gain a full picture of what STC itself provides until I had the opportunity to serve at the Society level.

In terms of tangible benefits, STC provides a value calculator (https://www.stc.org/membership/join-or-renew-now/1408-value-calculator).

The tangible benefits are measurable. For me, the primary value is in the intangibles–the things not displayed by the calculator. I’ve always argued that what you gain from an organization can often be directly correlated with what you put into it. I have had so many leadership growth opportunities because I chose to be involved and step forward (and even create new initiatives such as the CAC Outreach Team to directly support community leaders) that the value to me personally has been enormous. Coupled with the professional network and friendships I’ve established, the cost to me has been minimal compared to what I’ve gained.

My experience, both at the local level and the international level, has absolutely transformed me professionally, in skill sets and in developing leadership skills. I attribute much of my growth in leadership skills to “iron sharpening iron”–working with other leaders towards shared goals, mentoring new and emerging leaders, developing a peer network of very smart practitioners who I can go to when I have questions or whom I can assist with answers from time to time.

My question has often been, what do people who are not actively involved as volunteers, at the local or international level, get from their membership?

Some may just want to support a professional organization that represents their profession.

Don’t forget that the STC works at the national and international levels to better the perception and value of techcomm. It was through efforts by STC that the Bureau of Labor Statistics now lists Technical Writer separately from other writers. At face value, that may not appear to have a direct impact on an individual member, but when HR departments benchmark salaries, that new category of Technical Writer makes a difference. STC has also supported Plain Language initiatives. (A good way to get a look at Society-level initiatives is by reviewing https://www.stc.org/images/stories/pdf/stc2015yearinreview3.pdf)

Others may value the access to continuing education opportunities.

When I was on the Board, we revised the strategy and mission of STC (https://www.stc.org/about-stc/the-society/mission-vision). We refocused on proving economic value (BLS info above, for example), but also on providing continuing education opportunities that equip our members to be successful in many fields. A techcomm mindset and the skills we develop around audience analysis and contextualization, much less actual technical skills, serves us well in multiple job roles.

  1. Here are a few of the things STC offers to support its communities:
    1. Through the Community Affairs Committee, direct support to chapters, including mentoring of chapter leaders,
    2. Specific webinars that are free to chapter/SIG members.
    3. Umbrella liability insurance for chapter events when a certificate of insurance is needed.
    4. Access to other community leaders.
    5. A number of webinars, both live and recorded, that address leadership-related subjects.
    6. A shared hosting platform that saves chapters the cost of having their own hosting.

For those of you who find value in STC, what have I missed? For those who don’t find value, what else would you like to see STC offer?


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Continued Thoughts on an Agile STC

Category:Infosec Communicator,Leadchange,STC,STC Rochester Tags : 

I’ve been contributing to an ongoing conversation about the Society for Technical Communication on Larry Kunz’s excellent Leading Technical Communication blog (https://larrykunz.wordpress.com) where he’s recently posted An Agile STC? As I’ve taken part in the conversation, I’ve realized that this is a subject I should be writing about as well. I’ll start by sharing some of the discussion here. (Note that I’m actively involved in STC and a former Director.)

Background

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) was established in the late 1950s and currently has about 6000 members worldwide. Like other professional organizations, it has seen decreases in membership as the baby boomers age and the technical communication profession has become increasingly specialized. The Society has somewhat autonomous self-governed geographic chapters around the world that range in membership from around 10 members up to 150 or so. Geographic chapter membership is not mandatory, and about 50% of STC members are members in local chapters. I’m a member of the STC Rochester Chapter, which has been recognized as Community of the Year twice in the last four years.

Discussion of Agile Methodology

Larry referenced a recent post by Australian technical writer, Swapnil Ogale, The ASTC is failing us in which Sawpnill discusses the need for new structures and focus on gaining new members. Building on Sawpnil’s discussion, Larry wrote about the application of Agile principles by STC communities and the need to, as I would describe it, discard old wineskins and use new wineskins that may be more appropriate to our culture. (The wineskins terminology comes from a Bible passage, Mark 2:22, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (NIV translation). I believe that terminology is apropos for structural discussions concerning chapters as well.

In reference to Larry’s assertion that Agile principles are needed at the chapter level, smaller focused activities might provide a viable path forward for many communities, especially given the challenge in recruiting volunteers for long term roles. (There’s a free CAC webinar on recruiting volunteers on July 22nd, 2016. Alice Brzovic and I are speaking. The webinar will be recorded. Register on Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/recruiting-new-volunteers-tickets-26552383895)

Rochester Chapter

When I look at the Rochester Chapter’s ability to continue to provide service to our community, sprints play a key role. Along with ongoing programming, there are a large number of shorter sprints associated with our annual Spectrum conference. These sprints provide a relatively short high-impact volunteer engagement period that I believe has really helped hold the chapter together (along with some outstanding leadership.)

Next week we are engaging our Buffalo-area members and their colleagues in a networking dinner–our first engagement with them in well over a decade. This wasn’t part of our planned programming, but connections were made, an idea floated through LinkedIn messaging, and several people have put an event together very quickly.

Innovation

Given STC’s changing demographics, it’s important that we examine new models and embrace those that are effective. STC’s Community Affairs Committee is well positioned to play a mentoring role here.

We absolutely have to innovate and attract members who become active volunteers. STC at the society level and chapters are structured very differently. There’s ample opportunity for innovation at the chapter level. Some structural changes at the higher level may be beneficial.

Alienating long term members who are used to that structure is somewhat of a concern. However, the baby boomers who built professional organizations are retiring in droves, and the structure and programming has to work for succeeding generations. Although I don’t agree with all of her points, Sladek, The End of Membership as We Know It, has good discussions around the need for organizations to transform. Post-baby boomers generations are looking for meaningful engagement for shorter periods and not necessarily a lifelong commitment.

I’ll continue this discussion in an upcoming blog post.

 

 

 


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Keeping the Magic of Summit Alive

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Leadership,STC,Summit Tags : 

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Keeping the Magic of Summit Alive

STC Summit Anaheim was my ninth Summit! For the last several years, I’ve almost always returned from Summit energized, excited to have made new connections, sad about saying goodbye to friends that I see only once a year, and full of new ideas that I want to try.

Invariably, the magic fades

The tedium/rhythm of everyday life returns, and the excitement is over. Summer is traditionally a slow period for many chapters as well, so there’s not always an opportunity to put Leadership Day recommendations in place while they’re fresh.

This year, I decided that I did not want to lose the magic so quickly.

Here’s what I’m doing to keep the magic alive

I presented An Introvert’s Journey to Leadership at this year’s conference. The presentation was about my journey to leadership and included strategies and resources for introverted leaders. Like many of the sessions, it was standing room only. I had numerous conversations with attendees, realized the impact of the presentation, and decided I wanted to continue the discussion.

  1. I’m in the process of connecting on LinkedIn and other social media with my session attendees (Names gleaned from SCHED, the social networking tool STC provided for Summit attendees.) I’m also inviting them to #2 below.
  2. I have created a Slack channel to discuss introverted leadership, personality types, and the books I recommended as resources. (The channel is open to anyone interested. Contact me and I’ll invite you.)
  3. Using that Slack channel, I’m forming a study group for the Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC) exam, STC’s revamped certification program. (Initially, I was unsure what to think of certification. However, we’re living in an age when industry-specific certifications are becoming ubiquitous.) I received my Certified Information Systems Security Professionals (CISSP) designation last year, so why not add a CPTC? I’ve also been talking to security professionals about techcomm basics, so it makes sense for me to have the certification I’m recommending.
  4. I’m doing selected follow-up conversations with connections, aka peeps, made at Summit. Individual followup provides an opportunity to strengthen these new connections and to determine how I, as a seasoned leader, can best support them. (I have a passion for mentoring and coaching new leaders.)
  5. The Rochester Chapter is holding an end of year celebration of our Community Achievement Award recognition as Community of the Year, Platinum Community, and Pacesetter Community. We’re going to share our best takeaways from Summit.

 

It’s less than one week after Summit. I’m writing this now because I need to get my thoughts together before they fade.

What are you doing to keep the magic alive?

Here’s another blog post from STC Director, Alisa Bonsignore!

After STC Summit

 


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