This is me - part two - my volunteer roles - why I do them...
Posted on 26th February 2023 at 13:22
Funny thing is, depending on where you know me from people assume these roles are my full time job...
So hopefully that means I do them well...
Each of the volunteer roles have added to my personal and professional development, expanded my network and connections plus my knowledge of the region.
The roles are important to me and aligned to my values and ethos however I have a rule that if for any reason, our values are no longer aligned or I no longer enjoy the role then it’s time to stop. It has to work for both of us.
None of us are 100% altruistic there’s always a what’s in it for me (WIIFM); my WIIFM has varied from role to role but there’s always been an element of giving back and the personal development aspect.
From conversations over the years, many of you think of me as Yvette, Federation of Small Businesses or Yvette, Central Arc Angels, or Yvette, Buckinghamshire Business First.
In the recent past, it's been Yvette, SEMLEP and Growth Hub, Yvette, Consortium MK and Yvette, Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals - a role that led me to win two lifetime achievement awards something I'm still humbled by.
In truth when attending events I may be wearing one of my hats which perhaps adds to the confusion so now I'm learning to say "Yvette, executive coach and mentor and today I'm also here as ..." (fill in the blanks). A lesson for me and perhaps you too if you have more than one role.
As the Council was putting in a new computer system I had the chance to work on the testing and parallel runs which fascinated me - little did I know how useful it would be in the future!
Some people automatically associate me with a particular role or organisation and are surprised that I’m not an employee; these are all volunteering roles, none has been as an employee or freelancer/contractor.
My way is to treat each role as it the organisation is a client; sometimes all too often prioritising it over my own business - a lesson I've taken a long time to learn, but I’ve never prioritised the roles over my own clients.
To coin a much used but truthful phrase, it's been an honour to have had the roles; each gives/has given me an opportunity to contribute in a different way.
The connections I've made through the years and the information I've learned has proved useful to clients and the other volunteering roles. It's just one big Venn diagram (and if you know me, you know I love Venn diagrams - we are all connected, there's no longer 6 degrees of separation, especially in the business world and even more so here in Milton Keynes).
For many organisations, especially those in the third sector, volunteers from business are invaluable; we each bring different skills, knowledge and connections with us and can add real value. However, as volunteers, we tend to downplay our contribution as we are 'only volunteering' and forget what we’re bringing to the organisation.
That's both a disservice to the organisation and the people we’re working with and to ourselves. These roles don't define who we are but they have helped shape our development and in turn the development of the organisations.
My advice to anyone taking on a volunteering role whether it’s a trustee, non - NED or board director, advisor etc. is to check in and ask yourself the following questions:
How much time can I commit and how will I make sure that I stick to that?
Will I have to forego time with my family or my personal downtime and how do I feel about that?
What is it going to do for me?
What skills will I gain?
Will it help my personal development?
Is the organisation aligned with my values?
Are the people that I'm working with values driven and do they share my values?
Will I enjoy it?
Will it be fun?
If you like its a sense check of 'is it a right fit for you' in the same way that they’ll have a process to make sure you are a right fit for them.
Only when you know the answers to these questions are you ready to say ‘yes’ and if, at any time, your answers change please re-evaluate the situation. There's no shame in saying it's no longer a good fit for me nor should you feel guilty that you can't commit to the time anymore. In fact I'd suggest that we should re-evaluate these roles at least twice a year.
Remember you are a volunteer and not an employee! And that a non-exec director is not an operational exec director.
I've stepped away from roles as I've changed and grown and it's no longer serving either of us. Now I check in with myself regularly for each role and finally learned to set boundaries around my time and my commitment and to keep to them ... well perhaps still some work to do on the last part! And I seek feedback from the organisation that they feel I’m contributing/adding value and still a good fit - not because I want my ego fluffed up but because I don't want to 'overstay my welcome'.
One of my biggest learnings that took me years to remember and recognise
If you’ve read my first blog you’ll know that originally my profession had been payroll, expenses & benefits, plus employment tax. Often underrated but vital to every organisation and one that I'm proud to have been part of.
I've been a member of the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals in all its iterations for nigh on 40 years. And it's where I first started to volunteer - with the magazine, consultation groups with HMRC, on committees, and then as a non exec director including chair of the board.
The Institute worked with another company that ran training and delivered our qualifications. An opportunity arose to buy the training company and merge it with the Institute. However, there was a conflict of interest with some board members as they owned the training company. So it was agreed that from the Institute's side, I would lead the contract negotiations; I found this fascinating. I had some knowledge of contracts from my day job but this was a whole new ball game and of course, affected people too.
There were many hours spent in lawyers' offices in discussions and we finally came to an agreement acceptable to all and then had to implement it.
So the board roles ramped up even more; we were now tracking the purchase and the repayment, the training and qualifications course numbers, the strategy for the new integrated business as well as how we were taking the profession forward.
Our roles had become true non-executive directors.
I can remember sitting in the board meetings questioning whether the SMT team had evaluated what capacity people had, what the work streams were, and the timing so that we could understood the new business cycles. Often getting a very old-fashioned look of 'why would we need to think about that'? For me how could we discuss strategy without understanding the capacity for delivery, the team was already stretched and had a lot to take on, and in, with merging the two businesses.
This is where my interest in the 'business of running a business' took off... wanting to know about how the people would be supported in their roles, what strategies we had, what were our backup plans and much more.
We decided to hire a chief executive and for me the first time, I worked with a head hunter to find our new person and all that entailed - again a great learning opportunity.
During the period of interregnum, I spent 1/2 a day a week in the office checking in with the managers and giving as much support as I could. Fortunately, I had an employer who supported me in this role and allowed me to work flexibly.
I thoroughly enjoyed that time, I learned a lot, and I gained a lot of insights into 'the business of running a business'. But when I told my story or talked about my experience I didn't reference this at all - in fact, I rarely talked about it..
So if you're gaining these valuable skills please don't make the same mistake - these roles are as much about your development as the organisation's.
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