It’s important that us HR professionals maintain our knowledge when we are fulfilling our volunteer roles.
In my 10 years of volunteering with groups related to my professional day job I have seen a lot of issues that could have been avoided if we applied our strategic HR thinking to our volunteer problems.
It baffles me that we get in a group with a bunch of HR professionals and then forget that we have critical skills to defuse communication problems and apply strategic business thinking to road blocks.
The most baffling is when we slip up and say things out of line that would get our organizations in trouble if someone at work tried to do the same. For instance, thinking that someone has to be a certain age to do a job:
My faithful readers know that I’ve been involved in my local SHRM chapter since about 2008 and that I’ve held a lot of different volunteer roles through those years (holy cow that’s ten years, which I think makes me a chapter historian by default). Side note, if you’re still a faithful reader of my inconsistent blogging, you deserve an award and all of my appreciation! Focus Kristina.
My favorite role was Legislative Director (or Governmental Affairs) and I did that one for a few years! I’ve also been on the Community Relations Committee that later evolved to the Community Relations and Education Committee (and yeah I was on that too). I was Chapter Administrator and a workshop magician with Michelle (good story, you should keep one or two of these in your chapter). I rolled out the chapters social media (that we are STILL working on-cmon HR pros use the social media powers for good already and stop fighting it)! I’ve supported Programs and Membership via subcommittees and helped anyone who ever had more than they could handle on their plate execute their volunteer commitment in a way that ensured our members wouldn’t miss a beat. I’ve helped coordinate membership events, vendor appreciation events, updated chapter info, suffered through HOURS LONG board meetings where we all had to share 1 large pizza (It’s worth mentioning here that I can literally eat an entire large pizza by myself), supported SHRM Foundation through calling companies begging for donations, marketed everywhere I could think of, changed our sponsor strategy, partnered with many a local initiative, raised money, recruited volunteers, balanced a budget or two, stressed over menu options and I actually wore a t-shirt that said “HR for hoo-hahs” in public to support an event that a board member signed our chapter up for. She thought “hoo-hahs” were your boobs… no one calls their boobs “hoo-hahs.” I’ve been president-elect, I’ve been president, I’ve been many a presidents “get stuff done” person, I’ve asked people to stop soliciting to members, I’ve been accused of not providing enough tech support to members who were trying to figure out their gmail (turns out it wasn’t me she was looking for, Ben helped her set up her gmail-how did she even confuse me with him?). I’ve even endured an awkward conversation with a member that suggested I should be submitted to a psychiatric study, but by far the most awkward position I’ve ever held for our chapter has been immediate Past President.
That’s the actual title, immediate Past President. I get the purpose of this role and I’m thrilled to still be on the board (and back in a support role), but this one is weird! I sort of feel like I’m in the way and that maybe a good ol clean cut changing of the guard was in order. I love our members and I enjoy serving them, but I feel like I’m in the boards way now. I knew it was time to roll off the board and make way for new members and fresh ideas on the board, believe me I’m all for me getting out of the way. We have a board filled with excitement and great ideas for the chapter, but I find myself having an internal conversation of “be seen and not heard, they will let you know when they need you.” I get the idea of a Past President, its great to have the continuation and someone to pass along a bit of history for the newer board members, but sometimes I just feel like the person in the room getting in the way of creativity. Really all I need to do is pass on what I know doesn’t work (and why it didn’t work for us) and what I know works (and why) and then get out of the way.
This is a serious leadership learning opportunity for me because I’m sure I can find a way to add value and not be in the way, I just haven’t figured it out yet. Fading out would be the easy way to deal with this, but I had other members make it a point to ask me to my face if I was going to “disappear like all of the other past presidents” on multiple occasions so I came into this role with the drive to be present, be supportive, and be a set of hands when needed but sometimes its hard. I’ve been around long enough to see almost every other president disappear (one or two actually moved away and didn’t disappear in the sense of not showing up to our events anymore) and I always wondered how to get those past presidents involved again. In my efforts to get them re-engaged through the years I did find out that some just needed to feel included, some just needed a break, but now I know at least one of us needs a safe place to say “I’m sorry for being so freaking awkward.” If you’re reading this and you’re a super awesome leader and you didn’t have this problem, good for you! I am apparently still learning leadership lessons and figuring out how to best lead from where I am without getting in the way of the actual leadership.
As a reward for your faithfulness and sticking it out to the end of this post, here’s the t-shirt proof. I tore my closet apart looking for the shirt so I could just take a picture of it for you all, but I couldn’t find it so I dug through Facebook to find the actual proof that I wore this in public… to support my fellow board member of course. Being immediate Past President is more awkward than showing you all the proof that I wore this shirt… in public.