Leading volunteers

On your first job, whenever you can, try to volunteer for something outside of work, such as an officer in a local IISE chapter, or to lead a community help drive (like a school supplies drive, or a volunteer clean-up day). The leadership skills you develop off-hours will carry over to your work and career.
There are some special circumstances to consider, when leading a group of volunteers:

  • Be a good team member first, before trying to be the leader
  • It helps if you have previously done a lot of the duties involved, as a team member, before being the leader
  • Understand the larger group that you are working with, if larger than the leadership team (such as a student IISE chapter, or ISE department)
  • Make sure everyone knows the end goal & key deadlines
  • Be organized and develop a good timeline/plan
  • Do the prep ahead of time, to make things go smoothly
  • Get into the details, so nothing important is missed
  • Plan for contingencies
  • Practice good communications, including explaining expectations
  • Try to get everyone involved in the activity
  • Try to get volunteers rather than make assignments
  • Respect the other volunteers’ time and try to set everyone up for success
  • Encourage initiative and creativity by each team member
  • Use some of the collaboration tips listed in “Successful team collaborations”
  • Monitor progress regularly, and share with the entire team
  • Use a “trust but verify” approach, when monitoring results from individual team members
  • Make it fun for everyone (including yourself)
  • Observe other leaders and copy their best practices
  • Celebrate success with the entire team
  • Be aware of individual team members’ skills, to ensure everyone is safe, such as when leading volunteer groups doing potentially dangerous activities (like a downhill ski trip or a white water rafting trip)