Is what you’re doing important if it’s not making a positive impact on the world around you? This is a question I asked myself early on in my career and one that I deliberately still take the time to answer.
Leadership is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly. And as business leaders often have a platform to express their values and inspire others through their actions, their achievements and even shortfalls can impact the entire organization. In addition to helping their businesses thrive, leaders should actively work to make a positive impact on their employees, customers and broader communities.
I’ve always felt compelled to do what I can to better the world around me – and today, I’m talking about stewardship. Volunteering your time, resources and knowledge to others in circumstances less fortunate than yours. Stewardship has always been a priority for me, as a father and member of the community; but as a leader, it’s even more important, as I have the opportunity to effect change and inspire others to give back. Here’s what I’ve learned about stewardship in my years as a business leader:
If it’s important to you, it’ll be important in your work.
While the personal and professional self are often separated to a degree, it’s difficult to keep your values and passions out of your work. And that’s not a bad thing. The leaders in our organization’s not-for-profit practice, you’ll find, are genuinely invested in the well-being of the local charities and groups they support. This is because they are personally devoted to their communities and the organizations that selflessly serve those communities.
If you’re inspired to support your community, a local organization or even a larger cause, find ways to integrate that passion into your professional career. At Sikich, we have an internal volunteer program called FORCE (Focus on Raising Community Engagement), which provides employees information about local fundraising events and volunteer activities. It’s a convenient way for our employees to contribute to the causes and charities they care about.
Inspire through action.
As a leader of an organization, I have the opportunity to inspire many others to drive change and get involved in organizations and volunteer groups. If someone really wants to lead an organization or group of people, the best way is to lead by example. When I served on my local school board, I wanted my kids to see me making a difference through this commitment. It provided me the opportunity to have a real impact in not only my children’s lives but the lives of all children in our District and connect with fellow parents, community members and the school’s teachers.
Similarly, I aim to inspire by action at Sikich, as well. I work closely with our human capital team to identify opportunities and causes Sikich can support. Some of my genuinely favorite memories during my time at Sikich have been volunteer outings during our annual partner meetings and visits to offices across our footprint.
Build a culture you can be proud of.
Your people make up your culture – and culture is not something that can be fabricated or forced. Find what causes are important to you, as a leader, and your employees, and then align your culture to supporting those causes.
Leaders who don’t work to give back to the communities they serve professionally may struggle to create an engaging culture and could have a harder time attracting talented professionals. According to SHRM, 66% of U.S. workers surveyed by Fidelity Investments think it’s important for companies to be philanthropic.
As Sikich continues to grow across the country and implement a new approach to work, our FORCE program helps bring people together around the causes that they are most passionate about. Philanthropy is a core component of the Sikich culture; offering volunteer opportunities and ways to give back is a key driver in maintaining our culture in this virtual world.
Don’t do it because it’s a marketing ploy.
While substantial donations and public volunteer events can make your organization look good to clients and community leaders, volunteering your time and energy out of obligation, guilt or a desire to get local attention will only leave you and your employees unfulfilled. Commitments must be genuine. While fundraisers and philanthropic efforts are still worthy of celebration, consider applauding your employees and organization internally or modestly.
As a national organization moving to a flexible work culture, where many of our employees are choosing to work remotely, I believe we have an even greater opportunity to impact the world around us. With employees in communities across the country – and with causes important to each and every one of our team members – I’m inspired to build a better tomorrow here and everywhere. I hope you are, too.