This is an article I wrote for the monthly newsletter of the North Florida Chapter of the Society of Certified Public Managers. Although I volunteer regularly, and used my experiences volunteering with NFCPM (and other places) to inform this article, today brought it all home to me in a real way. Sabrina Hartley, our president, and I packed books into boxes for Operation Paperback. With every choice of book I made that will end up in the hands of a military serviceperson and/or a dependent, I was reminded of a) how simple it is to do something that will be meaningful to a serviceperson, like donate a book, b) that behind the simplicity of donating a book is an entire process –sort the books, store the books, pack the books, fill out the paperwork for the books, label the books, etc., and c) that, as I said in the article, there are things we learn about each other when we do something “out of our usual zone” that we would not have otherwise learned. I’ll keep signing up!
Helping others, together, makes us a better “managers’ organization.”
When you hear the name “Certified Public Managers,” what images come to mind? Management theory? Programs such as those we’ve had recently on Conflict Management, Performance Measurement, and Procurement Processes?
One other thing should be part of the mix: an image of service.
That is why I feel so strongly about making sure our chapter members have opportunities to serve the community once a month. There is something that members of an organization gain through serving a cause outside of their own, something that can’t be measured on a flow chart, ishikawa diagram, or scattergram: the benefits of striving to go beyond ourselves.
It is the things you find out about one another huddled around a bank of phones at 6 a.m. to take calls from donors – what radio programs people like, how they are the neighbor of the guest host, that they like their coffee black, that they look like a different person in glasses because they don’t put their contacts in that early in the morning.
It is the things you find out at a run, helping hand out water to people struggling through a tough competition – how it takes teamwork to rapidly dispense a hundred cups of water in a span of five minutes, to clean up the aftermath, and to laugh at each other when you think the lid on the big water container is a screw-on and it ends up being a “pop off.” When you see people who you normally only encounter in business attire or a uniform, in sweats or shorts and a t-shirt instead, some of the differences that may be transmitted by our business attire evaporate.
It is finding out that even as adults with years of work (and management) experience behind us, there are still “teachable moments” in situations where we are with people who are younger, older, smarter, less educated, of a different race, and a whole host of other differences. We should get out of our comfort zones and plop down in the middle of some other group’s universe once in a while. Marvel at young people smart enough and motivated enough to concoct a history fair project and put it up for the scrutiny of a panel of adult judges (for example).
We learn that it may take a bit of time out of our schedules to volunteer for a few hours of community service, but, in doing so, we are adding to the collective heart of our group and bringing new insights, knowledge, and experiences to our traditional monthly meetings.
We are putting more “public” into our Public Manager credentials.