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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