Volunteer…because change is possible

Volunteer…because change is possible
Jill Troha, Class of 2014
The United Way of Central Indiana

“Volunteer…because change is possible.” This magnet was a fixture on my grandmother’s refrigerator for as long as I can remember, and it now hangs on mine as well. Grandma was always volunteering at the church, organizing and serving church meals, and even helping to serve meals at the Senior Citizen Center until she was 91 years old. At the time, I believed this was just what everyone did, but as I grew into adulthood and began my career path, I realized my grandmother was my hero. Her actions and belief in volunteering shaped my leadership style, which I now know is called “servant leadership”.

Coined by Robert Greenleaf, this style means:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.”

Early in my Information Technology career, I realized that teamwork was critical to achieving our goals and still enjoying the job. Everyone pitching in seemed natural to me and we all did whatever was needed. As a team leader, my job was to not only complete our assigned work but also to develop everyone on the team and give credit where it was due. Everyone likes to know that their hard work is appreciated, and we found lots of fun ways to celebrate individuals as well as team successes.

As I moved along in my career, I was simultaneously working while volunteering and leading volunteer groups. Ultimately, this led me to United Way of Central Indiana when I decided to move into an area that was a real passion: building strong communities and encouraging others to take part. Volunteers are critical to the success of non-profits, and through my work in the last ten years I now know volunteering is a win-win for all.

So how does this all come together? As a leadership style, servant leadership works not only for the company but also for the employees, making all feel part of a team that is doing great work for the organization and community alike. Priorities of this style are developing people, building a trusting team, and achieving results. How? Serve first, use gentle persuasion, and empower employees to succeed. All of this combines to develop a corporate culture of caring and respect. In my mind, volunteering is a natural extension of this philosophy since it allows employees to demonstrate their corporate culture to the community.

Daily, I work with volunteers who come from organizations that value serving the community and encourage their employees to take part. Groups volunteer and build strong teams while completing projects important to social service success and keeping neighborhoods healthy. Volunteering is known to be a factor in long, healthy life and employee satisfaction on the job with the added bonus of making positive change in the community. I commend all businesses who include volunteerism as part of their corporate culture and for putting servant leadership principles into action that benefit all.

Volunteer…because change is possible. It’s true now more than ever!

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