As I was applying to ILTA volunteer positions, I watched the “Residual Effects of Volunteering,” a timely webinar. It amped me up even further, seeing the potential to engage in building a community with other smart, excited individuals. Panelists on the webinar were:
Melanie Prevost – Director of Infrastructure and Technical Support Services, Vinson & Elkins
Tony Capecci – Associate Director of Business Core Applications, Kirkland & Ellis
Sandy Mikita – Information Technology Project Management, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott
Moderated by Samantha Surillo – Director of Member & Volunteer Operations
Volunteering presents a myriad of benefits: of course, giving back to and building a strong community are top of mind, but volunteering can also allow for other ‘residual effects’. Networking, meeting intelligent, like-minded people, getting exposed to new technologies, as well as becoming effective leaders and communicators, and learning to better listen and collaborate with others are all ways that ILTA can help progress a career.
In the above-mentioned informative webinar, Melanie Prevost, Tony Capecci, and Sandy Mikita shared how their volunteer experiences allowed them to do just that – become better leaders, collaborators, and communicators.
Each of our volunteers has had extensive volunteer experience with ILTA. During this webinar, they shared a wealth of knowledge on the lessons they’ve learned and how they’ve applied those to be better volunteers and employees.
Evolution of Skills
Volunteering is a ‘no judgment’ zone, each of our panelists stressed during the panel. In volunteer positions, you’re on a “level playing field.” You work and engage with your fellow volunteers as peers, allowing for extensive professional development opportunities. You collaborate on projects, share ideas, ask questions, and seek feedback without any of the stresses of a day job. Volunteering also provides you the chance to seek out and find informal mentorship, especially if this isn’t offered to you at work.
Volunteering allows you to enhance your leadership skills – the values, assumptions, and behaviors that can be learned from a mutual learning leadership style would be beneficial in managing and communicating with others. Instead of leaders taking full control, withholding information, and not asking for team member insights, the mutual learning leadership style empowers individuals within teams to take turns leading and to take responsibility for their contributions. This allows for greater professional development and helps in increasing team member motivation and satisfaction.
In discussing the mutual learning leadership style, our presenters shared common themes they learned through their own personal experiences. The biggest takeaway was the importance of active listening. Each of the volunteers confirmed that to have productive volunteering sessions, listening is an incredibly important skill. We must stress that listening, not just listening to respond, but rather compassionate listening to understand alternative ideas and viewpoints is critical.
This allows team members to build trust, allowed for more active engagement, and led to the incorporation of a greater number of viewpoints. Active listening allows all to be heard and may allow those with greater expertise and knowledge in certain areas to come forward and have the opportunity to speak and share their insights.
In addition, it’s important to remember that different viewpoints are not the wrong ones. One useful way to engage when someone might have a different opinion or viewpoint is to ask questions instead of criticizing or attacking. This allows all parties to gain additional clarity.
Another key takeaway was the importance of mutual respect in sharing ideas. With the mutual learning leadership style, team members are to operate with the assumption that differences are opportunities to learn, and people may disagree and still have pure motives. With these ideals in mind, it’s easier to come together to find a resolution rather than to create unnecessary friction.
And come together they did! Each of our panelists has been a part of several successful volunteering initiatives through ILTA. Each of the panelists had incredible insights from their time volunteering.
I’ll leave you with their final takeaways: step out of your comfort zone, find your passions, work towards a compromise. Don’t be afraid of rejection or failure: take that leap into the next volunteer opportunity!
Editor's note: The session Shefali refers to is from the 2021 Leadership Summit. If you would like to watch sessions about volunteerism and leadership, the session recordings are available for purchase. Learn more here.