Guest post by Elisa Kosarin. This post originally appeared on Twenty Hats.
Don’t think you have what it takes to be the boss? Here is one great place to build your leadership skills.
In the Get Your Projects Done webinar earlier this year: we spent a lot of time talking about limiting beliefs.
That’s because most of the time, it’s our point of view and not our level of busyness – or any other circumstance – that keep us from achieving the success, satisfaction, and rewards that we hope to experience in our work.
If you are not familiar with the concept, a limiting belief is a statement that you tell yourself is true, but upon reflection you realize is holding you back.
Take this example, which may rank as the all-time most common limiter out there. It’s a belief that stops us in our tracks because it affects the way we feel about ourselves and our abilities. But in light of last week’s post, which encouraged volunteer managers to think bigger, it’s the one we most need to overcome:
“I’m not cut out for leadership.”
Liz Salter used to subscribe to this belief.
Liz is the Volunteer and Events Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia. She also happens to be the President of our local volunteer manager’s association here in Northern Virginia, NVAVA.
But when Liz was first approached about taking on NVAVA’s top position, she hesitated.
“Even though I had served on the board for a few years, my first thought was why would you want me?” Liz recalled. “I didn’t think I was ready to lead a board. I thought I was too young, too inexperienced.”
Liz agreed to serve anyway – and for two reasons. First, the former board president was remaining on as Treasurer. Liz knew she had someone to turn to when she had questions or needed support.
“Second, I started to get excited – I started to ask myself how I could help by taking on this role.”
That was two years ago, and what Liz discovered was that she was more than up to the challenge. In fact, she accomplished plenty to be proud of on behalf of the organization:
Technology upgrades. NVAVA used to rely on multiple software platforms and spreadsheets to track all of the member, financial, and contact data. That was a cumbersome system for a volunteer-led organization. Under Liz’s watch, NVAVA has transitioned to a comprehensive membership solution, Wild Apricot, which houses all of their needs in one location.
“We’re a professional society. We need to make sure that we are meeting standards and taking good care of member records,” Liz observes.
Growing participation from members. Liz has brought new members onto the board and committees and sought out ways to engage members who cannot make the commitment to board service and bi-monthly meetings.
“We have engaged members who have been with the organization for many years, but not in leadership roles,” adds Liz. “They bring lots of new ideas and excitement to the group. Plus, they’re willing to execute whatever they suggest.”
A new, more engaged model for annual meetings. Under Liz’s tenure, the annual membership meeting is shifting away from speakers and reports to a format that encourages even more member participation and fresh ideas.
Liz explains: “We’re using the annual meeting to hear from our members and brainstorm about what we might offer to enhance their professional development. We want our members to be part of the decision-making process and ensure that we meet their needs.”
When asked how she sees herself now, Liz reflects, “Becoming President has forced me to see that I have a lot of skills. I feel a lot more confident in making decisions. I’ve become more comfortable doing things that I might have avoided in the past, like having difficult conversations.”
“I’ve also had to stretch. One of the challenges as been maintaining expectations of board members while respecting that they are busy people with other responsibilities. And I’ve had to learn to step back sometimes. Even though I see myself as a worker bee who likes to roll up her sleeves and get things done, I’ve had to ask myself: how to I let people do things that I could jump in and do?”
Perhaps the biggest shift for Liz is her approach to taking on challenges. “Instead of asking, ‘Am I cut out for this?’, now I ask ‘Where else could I grow?’ I’m thinking of becoming board Treasurer when I rotate out of the President position. That’s a completely new skill set for me.”
Liz’s growth as a leader took place within a community of her peers. Our volunteer manager associations are ideal incubators for future leaders. They are generally volunteer-run, entirely committed to professional development, and they rely on the member participation to sustain themselves. They are safe environments to test the waters. Your local association may be the place where you, too, discover that you are indeed cut out for a larger role.
Are you volunteering with a board? My Six Principles of Buy-In will help you build your leadership skills.Email me to receive a handout about the principles and a next steps worksheet – and I’ll add you to the Twenty Hats mailing list.
Elisa Kosarin, CVA coaches, trains, and consults on volunteer management. She believes volunteers are a powerful force for change in our communities — if they are managed by volunteer engagement pros with the skills to cultivate this resource.