Volunteer Leadership – What’s In It For You?

In professional associations, many Puzzle on white background. Isolated 3D imageleadership opportunities exist for volunteers. It is this powerful relationship between the association and its volunteer members that help organizations deliver their mission.

Throughout my career, I’ve had numerous leadership opportunities including my current role as IMA’s director of market advocacy. I have the pleasure to serve as a staff liaison to IMA’s three technical committees to ensure that these groups represent the interests of accounting and finance professionals everywhere.

Aside from the intangible benefits that volunteerism brings, such as a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and giving back, I see three tangible benefits that our volunteer leaders gain through their roles.

Making Connections

As I’ve observed from the volunteers I work with, participating on a committee can expose you to a variety of people with a common interest. volunterer_leadership-QuoteProfessional associations offer access to boards, committees, subcommittees, and ad-hoc groups—a plethora of opportunities for volunteers to broaden their networks and commit to a shared common goal. In my role, I get to strengthen my existing relationships with members, as well as meet people in my field with a multitude of perspectives from around the globe. Networking is important to everyone, regardless of your career level. Business contacts and even personal friendships can stem from volunteer positions.

Advancing Your Skill Set and Your Career

Volunteer roles help you gain experience in a particular area of interest, practice relevant skills in a safe environment, and learn what it takes to be an effective leader to aid in the progression of your career path. Going outside of your normal day-to-day job is a differentiator that also adds skills to your résumé. Volunteer roles can help you gain experience you may not otherwise be able to get.

Yet, as important as it is to step up and be a leader, it’s also important to step back, share your knowledge with others, and allow them to step up. The most valuable experience I’ve gained as a leader is learning to facilitate successful outcomes without controlling the process. True leaders assist in the process of grooming someone else to lead a task. Being a strategic thinker and creating opportunities for others is also a rewarding experience, as you watch others grow from your guidance.

Impacting a Cause

At IMA, our volunteers serve as a voice, not only within a group, but on behalf of the profession as a whole. Advocating for a cause enhances technical knowledge while helping the greater good. At IMA, our volunteers are passionate about serving the interests of small businesses, promoting sound financial reporting standards, and educating the business community about important issues that impact them in some way.

If you have an opportunity to take on a leadership role, go for it. These valuable experiences will help you expand your knowledge, create lasting personal and professional relationships, and make a powerful difference in the community.

Have you had an interesting volunteer experience? Did it exceed your expectations?

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA

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Earning Value through Trust

Following my initial year as IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) president and CEO, I intended to move the organization to the next level by creating more sustainable value outside of what’s defined as “economic” or “monetary” value. I recognized that we focused on what we do on a daily basis; that’s the easy part. It was time to place more focus on how we do it.

Here at IMA, we promote ethical behavior through daily actions—not hollow words—and thus the mantra of “creating value through values” was formed. I recently contributed a chapter on this subject to the book Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. In this post, I’ll summarize the key takeaway: creating a value statement is only the beginning. Leaders must have an internal strategy for ethical leadership and accountability in order to increase business value and overall performance.

Making Values Your Anchor

As the world’s leading management accounting association, IMA raises the bar with how anchorwe serve our members, volunteers, staff, as well as regulators and other external stakeholders. Our organization was going global after my first year as president and CEO. This meant that IMA’s values and culture would go far beyond our U.S. headquarters, reaching our growing markets in China, the Middle East, and Europe. Our values would attempt to cross various cultural norms and, while nothing is ever perfect, it’s critical to make the substantial effort in initiating foundational principles of how we do business.

Ethical Leadership Starts from the Top

It’s disheartening to reflect upon the many public scandals that have negatively impacted the reputation and perception of corporate leaders and the accounting and finance profession. This particular issue was the reason I decided not to outsource the process but draft IMA’s initial Core Values statement myself. If exemplary behavior and ethical leadership is required and expected to start from the top, then the genuineness and authenticity of the values become evident through the whole organization.

But in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni advises that people have to weigh-in before they buy-in. So I took my initial draft and invited input from different levels of the organization for two months. This process involved personal feedback from my leadership team, then from a confidential comment period with the entire global staff.

IMA’s Global Core Values

The final draft of IMA’s Global Core Values reflects the ideal values of the organization as a whole and the inner strength of trust, ensuring its survivability beyond the current management. The following five Global Core Values can be read separately but are mutually dependent, reminiscent of the relationship between the IMA organization and its members.

  1. Respect for the Individual
  2. Passion for Serving Members
  3. Highest Standards of Integrity and Trust
  4. Innovation and Continuous Improvement
  5. Teaming to Achieve

These five Core Values and their in-depth descriptions are framed, distributed, adopted, and hung all over our headquarters and in volunteer leaders’ hallways and offices. It serves as a symbol of unity and trust. While it may be easy to talk about Core Values, enforcing these behaviors in action is the next step in generating value for the organization.

Individual Accountability

Organizations must create ways to recognize and hold individuals accountable for their behavior. For example, IMA has incorporated the Global Core Values in our staff performance reviews and volunteer selection and recognition processes. They also serve as a guide as we evaluate and pursue strategic partnerships with other organizations.

The Good Guys Can Win

The results of enacting Global Core Values show our dedication to the qualitative investment in our human capital and growth. In time, we’ve seen high employee and volunteer retention, promotions of exemplary leaders, an increase in continued education and certification, new partnerships with like-minded organizations, and a visible self-regulating culture. These successful signs reveal that Global Core Values have transitioned from symbolic to being “real.” It’s our proactive approach to promote the old saying, “the good guys can win” in the end.

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

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