CEO to CEO: Working With Career Coaches, Volunteer Engagement

Your colleagues share valuable lessons learned from career coaches and their thoughts on encouraging volunteer engagement.

What was the most valuable takeaway you received from working with a career coach?

The best takeaway I have received from my coach, in one word, is balance. As a busy CEO, everything is important, everything is mandatory, and everything is emergent (to someone). We could work 20 hours per day and still have more email, more meetings, more phone calls, and more requests. To achieve this balance, it is necessary to set boundaries with board members and other volunteers. While we recognize much of what they do is volunteer, they also have to recognize that this is our "day job" (no matter how committed to the mission we are), and that at the end of the day, we spend our time in other fulfilling ways. Last, but never least, we must remember to show appreciation to those who understand our need for balance.

—Robin Wootten, executive director, Society for Simulation in Healthcare, Tipton, Missouri. Email: [email protected]

The most valuable takeaway I have ever received from a career coach can be stated easily in the phrase that "things happen in context of relationship." Building and maintaining strong relationships is critical to the success of any individual or company. The stronger and better the relationship with customers, clients, employees, board members, members, suppliers, providers, and whomever else, the more productive it is for both (or all) parties.

Business is far more than simply transactions. Trust, confidence, respect, support, appreciation, and much more help make relationships what they need to be in order for everyone to benefit. And it has to be more than simply platitudes or pats on the back. Honest relationship development is, by far, the most important and valuable takeaway ever provided to me.

—Don Klein, CEO, Greater Nashville Association of Realtors, Nashville, Tennessee. Email: [email protected]

She taught me how important it is to make sure that your career goals are aligned with your values, passions, and skills. While completing several exercises she assigned to me, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I believe in the power of community and teaching people to be better self-advocates. In hindsight, I can see that the positions that allowed me to live these two things have been the most rewarding and coincidentally the ones where I have experienced the most professional success. The diversity within the association sector affords many options for obtaining alignment between your values, passions, and skills. If one takes the time to explore these things, I think it makes it easier to craft a career path that is rewarding and fulfilling.

—Stephanie McGencey, executive director, Grantmakers for Children, Youth, and Families, Silver Spring, Maryland. Email: [email protected]

Just like real estate has the mantra, "location, location, location," a career coach's mantra could be "perspective, perspective, perspective." Having that independent assessment and outside perspective has been extremely worthwhile to me. A good coach can cut through the fluff surrounding an issue—that fluff we sometimes get caught up in—and really look at an issue or opportunity with a fresh set of eyes. Almost as valuable is knowing that my coach is going to be checking in with me on a regular basis to ensure that I am not procrastinating in my personal-development and career-development goals. And a really good coach will also do this subtly.

—Samuel W. Albrecht, CAE, assistant vice president and manager of the executive management services department, Association Headquarters, Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Email: [email protected]

What does your association do to encourage volunteer engagement?

With only 300 council and committee positions, it's a challenge to involve the 3,000-plus members who respond to our annual call for volunteers. We strive to find innovative ways for these folks to make a meaningful contribution. In one case we asked collegiate members to test an online program that calculates appropriate medical coverage for university athletic programs. For another task, volunteers were asked to provide the first level of electronic review for convention session proposals. Also, we plan to send each new continuing-education resource (we project 200 this year) to five volunteer reviewers to determine the correct number of CEUs. Our practice is to contact in advance those who have specified an interest area related to the assignment, explaining the task and the timeframe. We call upon those who say they would like to take it on.

—Eve Becker-Doyle, CAE, Executive Director, National Athletic Trainers' Association, Dallas. Email: [email protected]

Part of our new board orientation program we've done for years that works for us is that we really stress having the board go out to the membership to recruit new committee members every year.

Being visible and involved in the association's projects allows the new committee members to see how things operate. We can then encourage them to run for office in the future. It also shows the membership that their organization is always looking for new leaders in the future. In addition, it eliminates the "good old boys club" stigma that always seems to exist in our profession.

—Timothy J. DeWitt, CAE, executive director, Michigan Manufactured Housing, RV & Campground Association Self-Storage Association of Michigan, Okemos, Michigan. Email: [email protected]

Not long ago, SLA's committee positions were filled by the association's presidents, who made selections from their professional networks. However, the president's list of colleagues frequently was the same age, came from the same professional background, or attended the same graduate school. All were qualified and ready to serve, but the challenge was to find volunteers who were younger or from a different field or work environment. So headquarters set up a database where any SLA member could fill out a brief application, submit a resume, and express interest in a volunteer assignment. SLA presidents have used this system since then, and we have been successful in identifying a number of rising stars who have provided diversity of thought and experience, as well as energy, to our governance structure.

—Janice R. Lachance, CEO, Special Libraries Association, Alexandria, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

We are an organization of volunteers. Therefore, we must "walk the talk" when it comes to volunteers. The board of directors, with input from the executive director, must develop outcome-based goals to be accomplished before establishing any position at the international level. Activities of a committee, task force, or ad hoc group must be related directly to the strategic plan. This policy reflects a belief that the following will earn engagement from volunteers:

  • Working on things that matter to them;
  • Demonstrating that the work is making a positive difference;
  • Providing an enjoyable opportunity for involvement.

—Leigh Wintz, CAE, CEO/executive director, Soroptimist International of the Americas, Philadelphia. Email: [email protected]

CEO to CEO Video: Volunteer Expectations

Michael Fraser, CAE, chief executive officer of Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs in Washington, DC, shares how he manages volunteers' roles and expectations.