Ignite Summit 2019 Experience

As entrepreneurs, sometimes we get so fixated on our businesses, that we lose sight of what REALLY matters:

  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Contribution 

It’s interesting.   We choose to work for ourselves because we want freedom (personally, I may have a bit of trouble with authority too). But once we get entrenched in this universe of the self-employed, our sense of responsibility actually sky rockets and often times, we lose touch of our “why”.

One of the things that I do to ground myself and maintain some sort of humility is to volunteer.  

Up until recently, I thought that volunteering was about giving back.  Investing time to the betterment of a greater cause.  I saw volunteering as an exercise in practicing selflessness.  

I wasn’t completely right…

In my most recent role, I was mandated to assemble a team of volunteers that would function as an agency over four months to design, manage and broadcast the marketing and communications for Ignite Summit 2019, which was hosted in Calgary.

Off the line, it seemed fairly linear.  I would treat Ignite like any other client, write some copy, blast some newsletters, post some ads and conduct a bit of research.  Fundamentally, that’s what we did.  However, a linear journey, it was not.

Very early in the process,  I learned a very important lesson:

  • When you are leading a team of employees, your responsibility is to provide direction and ensure that the best interest of your clients are met, on time and on budget. 
  • When you are leading a team of volunteers, your responsibility is not just to your project, but equally to the people on your team.  These are people who are taking time out of their lives and from their families to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others and their community.  As a team lead, you are REQUIRED to ensure that not only do you show the utmost respect for their time, but you patiently coach and mentor each member to ensure that the value they get from the volunteering experience EXCEEDS the time they invested. 

When you are volunteering, you cannot use the coercion of termination or exertion of authority (not that this works anyway) to get things done. You have to come from a place of patience, service, kindness and friendship.  Remember, as a leader-volunteer, they don't work for you.  You work for them. 

Although I burned out TWICE during the four months (once because of "difference of opinion" and once because of work) I have to say that this was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had in a long time. 

Here were some of my takeaways:

  1. Always take the time to thank your team members.  Take them out.  Send nice text messages.  
  2. Meet frequently.  Socialize 30% of the time, Brainstorm 30% of the time and delegate/plan 40% of the time. 
  3. Connect with the leaders.  Find out what's important to them and craft your strategies to reflect their wishes. 
  4. Don't be a robot or a yes person.  You are volunteering for a role where you are required to provide feedback, insight and intelligence.  Whether you are sweeping the floor or building AI, everything requires innovation.  Innovation comes from discussion and engagement without fear.
  5. Don't let beauracracy impact you.  There are people that volunteer for all sorts of reasons including ego and recognition.  Remember, you can't change others, you can only change yourself.  Don't engage.  Don't fight.  Focus on what's important and be an example to your team (I need to work on this one :P )
  6. Treat it like a client or a job.  Produce quality of equal or better professionalism.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, everybody should be volunteering.  Everyone should be finding opportunities to serve, mentor and contribute whenever and as often as possible.  And, here's the secret...

The value you will get from volunteering (skills, leadership traits, patience, humility, satisfaction, etc.) will far exceed the value you will deliver.  Every, single, time.

Here is what I got out of this experience:

  1. I learned patience.  Although when you don't like someone it may feel easy to walk away, there are people that are looking up to you and following your lead.  I learned that doing what's difficult is necessary because sometimes it's the right thing to do.
  2. I recruited an awesome employee for StyleLabs.
  3. I built life-long friendships with some highly talented, big hearted, motivated people.  
  4. I learned humility (sort of)
  5. I learned to work with a team
  6. I learned that I don't have to do everything myself.  There are people out there that are capable of supercharging the result if you just show trust and care.

Why should every entrepreneur volunteer?  Because it's our responsibility.  We are blessed to control our own destiny.  Re-investing in our communities and causes is the price we must pay for the lives/opportunties we have been given. Entrepreneurs have a GOD complex.  Volunteering teaches us that there are things bigger than ourselves.  And finally, volunteering makes us better leaders.  It's hard motivating people who you pay to do their jobs sometimes.  Imagine motivating people who aren't getting paid.  These type of experiences teach us to compensate with mentoriship, respect, friendship, experience and opportunities.  It then teaches us to transpose this into our work/business lives. 

Service always needs to be part of our why.  Every opportunity should be embraced with optimism and gratitude and not negativity. 

Interested in working on a cause together?  Let me know! Let's find a way to collaborate :)


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