Discovering the Virtues of Volunteering

The reasons for volunteering are mostly personal, but generally the time, treasures and talent contributions can yield benefits in the following areas:

  1. Helping an organization or cause one believes in and/or has been affected by in their lives or within their families.
  2. Expanding one’s professional and/or personal social network in a community.
  3. Fulfilling a requirement for a leadership development program.

Just as the motivations can vary for allocating one’s time for pro bono efforts, the types of volunteering are more than we might realize at times. Similar to the spectrum of nonprofit organizations, volunteering activities and roles can take on many shapes while constituting a valued portion of an organization’s fundraising, event management, educational programs or health issues awareness initiatives.

  • Personal activities – Volunteering at a church, school, environmental association or arts organization.
  • Professional activities – Mentoring students in a career field, serving as a judge for award panels for local professional associations or rating candidates for continuing education certifications.
  • Social activities – Expanding one’s network by serving as a greeter, usher or gate monitor at a fundraiser, race, grand opening or social extravaganza.

If you find yourself in a volunteer duty that isn’t particularly prominent or exciting, you can still absorb a lot of interesting practical knowledge on logistics and efficiencies from people working security, delivering ice and staffing an entrance. When assigned a role such as checking people’s tickets or VIP passes and it sounds like a tedious assignment, embrace the opportunity that you will be speaking and seeing everyone who enters that area. This could lead to meeting business leaders, mentors or just some new contacts in different industries of your community.

After these experiences, some of which were boring and solitary at times depending on the time and location, I felt some personal satisfaction having turned out,  met some new people and offered my assistance as a “utility fielder” wherever needed.

At some events that I signed up for and showed up on time, they haven’t always been ready or fully organized in delegating the assignments. While these instances happen and can be frustrating for someone who keeps a punctual schedule, I always offer this up to the organizer, “Look, you have me for the next four hours, so please just let me know what you need and I’ll get it done.”

Whether you want to congregate at the front of a festival beer tent as a social butterfly or you don’t mind grabbing a clipboard, hammer or two-way radio, consider the merits that different volunteering situations may present for yourself. You don’t have to just stand there to get that free T-shirt or earn those points for a project or certification, be gregarious and get your hands dirty if necessary.

Suburban Foodie Spots to Savor

A fellow Cornell alum who is moving to Clarence soon asked me to give him some of my favorite places to eat in and near Clarence. I am merely an amateur foodie, but who doesn’t enjoy eating out on the weekends and maybe once during the week? I gladly obliged, and here is my list. [Truth be told, this list actually covers 75% of the options around, but who is counting?].

  1. Clarence Bistro (Main and Ransom at bottom of “Clarence Hollow” hill): Amazing risotto, soups, pasta and desserts. In two years, this place has become very popular!
  2. Asa Ransom House (Main St. at bottom of hill in Clarence Hollow): Historic hotel with a B&B atmosphere, tea room and restaurant.
  3. Goodrich Coffee (Main and Goodrich): Excellent smoothies and sandwiches.
  4. McDuffie’s Bakery (Main and Krause): Great breakfast sandwiches, bakery, chili, frozen quiche, etc). Open Saturdays! (But not Sundays).
  5. The Irishman (in the heart of Village of Williamsville next to library): What else can I say? It’s an Irish Pub. Nothing but love. Parking is tight, but there is plenty more behind the library by the park.
  6. Creekview (the heart of the Village again, right by the bridge): Owned by a Cornell Hotel School alum, so there is a Big Red hockey pennant above the bar. That’s all I need, but a great place for brunch, happy hour and dinner. Bar is narrow, so grab your real estate early.
  7. Clarence Grill (Main and Strickler): Good fish fry and neighborly bar to watch the Sabres.
  8. Falletta’s (Clarence Center before Transit): The best WNY fish fry, pasta, steak, etc; cozy little bar in front.
  9. Gertie’s (Four corners of Clarence Center and Goodrich): Relatively new place with great lunch and dinner bistro-type. Bonus: near the bike path!
  10. Buffalo Joe’s (Main & Harris Hill plaza): Greater diner spot for breakfast or brunch on the weekends. Eggs Benedict and potatoes are the best!
  11. Campobello’s (Transit and Casey, just past Pautler’s): Basic decor, but the best pasta (especially lasagna) in WNY.
  12. Café Espresso (next to Brennan’s): Narrow little restaurant, but great Italian at a higher price point.
  13. Pizza Plant (Sheridan & Transit): The best meatball and chicken pesto whole wheat pods in the world. The cookie sundae dessert is for two or three for sure!
  14. Amaretto’s (near SW corner of Main and Transit): Cozy little Italian place in a nondescript building. Great salads and lasagna.
  15. Carmine’s (in front of Eastern Hills Mall): Quality family Italian restaurant at a lower price point.
  16. Brennan’s (everyone knows right? Main and Transit): Great Irish bar to gather for fish fry, Sabres games and a warm stool in the winter.
  17. Buffalo Brew Pub: Same as above, except it’s not Irish-themed, is across the street and you can leave your peanut shells on the floor.

IABC Heritage Chapter Regional Conference

Two weeks ago I attended the IABC Heritage Chapter’s Regional Conference in Indianapolis. This is my sixth year as an IABC member, but there is no chapter in Buffalo, so I applied for a scholarship to attend and share some key learnings through my blog. It was a session-packed two-day conference with about 150 attendees, mostly from the Midwest and New England chapters. It was great to see IABC student chapters from Ithaca College and Indiana State. I joined the Heritage Region, which covers 11 states, as an at-large member. I attended the 2009 IABC International Conference in San Francisco and the 2012 IABC Leadership Institute for chapter board members in Miami, but this was my first regional conference.

The organizers did a great job planning the agenda, which featured an excellent opening reception and Butler University social media presentation at the NCAA’s headquarters in downtown Indy. It was also a great convenience that all of the conference presentation decks were distributed via a Google docs link in the days leading up to the conference. This is especially helpful when you can’t attend all concurrent sessions, of course, but would like to peruse the materials of the ones you missed at some point.

Generally, when I attend workshops, panels, presentations and conferences, I will compile what I call a “synthesized summary” of highlights. In this spirit, I have digested several of the presentations into the list of takeaways.

1.The new IABC career continuum categories are “Foundational,” “Specialist,” “Strategic Advisor” and “Business Leader.”

2. Tim McCleary from The Involvement Practice provided an interactive opening keynote session called “What’s Your It?” that covered ways to involve employees better, outlining the methodology of “Understand It” (What is the change or opportunity?), “Own It” (Why is the change occurring?) and “Activate It” (“How will you make the change happen?).

3. Management change initiatives follow two avenues – The Escalator Effect – Employees can’t keep up with the constant management changes just as an escalator rail is always slightly ahead of the tread’s pace; and the Pancake Effect, where change programs keeping stacking on top of each other like flap jacks.

4. Where there is dialogue, employees will remember 50 percent of management communications; where there is immersion, there is 75 percent retention; and where there is true involvement, engagement rises to 90 percent.

5. Linda Dulye provided survey results that indicated employee engagement remains the top workplace challenge for communications with customer satisfaction the second greatest factor. She also noted that strategic planning and personal development are the top priorities of communications leaders.

6. Dulye’s 4R model for effective communication entails “Relay” (channel choice), “Relate” (customize information), “Receive” (active listening) and “Respond” (verify and follow up).

7. The 3V leader model – Seeing, influence and believing: 50% of communication is visual, 50 percent is vocal and 10 percent is verbal.

8. The SOCIAL acronym stands for Strategy, Objective/Obstacle, Content/Channels, Integration, Action Plan and Learnings.

9. 360-degree reviews and assessments can identify the “Say/Do” gaps in leadership communication. Leader behaviors and communications audits should include these questions: How they use their time? What are they leading? What questions do they ask employees?

10. Change awareness comes from formal communication (15%), processes/experience (30%) and leadership (55%).

The Escalation of Public Speaking Titles

So many people are fearful or nervous about public speaking, and yet so many others have experience and an ease in various speaking arrangements. It occurred to me that the progression of public speaking status titles might proceed as follows:

1. Public Address Announcer

2. Panel Moderator

3. Association Panelist

4. Subject Matter Expert Presenter

5. Event Emcee

6. Workshop or Retreat Facilitator

7. Lecturer / Adjunct Professor

8. Conference Keynote Speaker

9. Nationally and Internationally Renowned Orator

Making the Mentorpreneurship Matter

Do you serve as a mentor in some capacity in your busy life? Do you try to give back to students and younger professionals when your schedule can accommodate such knowledge-sharing sessions? Over the last few years, I made a more proactive effort to be a mentor and contribute whenever I am available.

Over the last couple of years I have enjoyed having mentees and job shadows from local college students.

There are a couple of things I have done to prepare for a mentee or shadow appointment is approaching:

1. I outreach to colleagues in other departments to see if they will be available for a 10-minute visit with the students during the “shadow tour”. This has worked well for me on several occasions, as we have been able to show students different work environments, including a television production studio, city hall, recreation centers and economic development and tourism offices.

2. I make a “media packet” or information folder to share with the students to show them the kinds of publications and stakeholder or customer collateral that are published by different agencies, departments or divisions.

3. I gather up back issues of marketing, public relations or advertising periodicals and bundle them up in a little “career development care package”. I figure since I have skimmed them already and they start to pile up, I might as well route them over to someone else who might make good use of them.

For the most part, all of my mentee tours have been productive, positive experiences. There has been one or two times where someone wasn’t able to make it, but all those who confirmed made the effort to come out to my office and were genuinely interested in learning about the various careers I was able to show them.

I always try to sign up when local professional associations put out the call for mentors. It’s usually just a couple of hours each semester and it can really help the students benefit from being exposed to a sector they might not have really ever considered from their academic track or personal interests at the time.

We can all be mentorpreneurs every now and then. It can feel good to help broaden someone’s mindset or perspective on a particular field. I encourage you to try and do it once in a while if you haven’t yet or just didn’t think about it as a part of your career development; after all learning and sharing is a 360-degree journey.