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To do the right thing, we must provide training and tools to all volunteers at every level of involvement.
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To do the right thing, we must provide training and tools to all volunteers at every level of involvement.

Peter Drucker said that while management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right thing. To do the right thing, a group of ACS leaders petitioned the ACS president in 1999 to seek ways of improving ACS leadership development programs. Several task forces later, the ACS Committee on Budget & Finance passed a new program funding request, and the ACS Board created the Board Oversight Group (BOG) and the Pipeline and Skills Implementation Teams to carry out the work.

BOG developed this vision: "A full pipeline of skilled and effective ACS members ready, willing, and able to step into leadership roles in their volunteer and professional lives." ACS rides on the shoulders of its member volunteers. To do the right thing, we have to provide ourselves with skills that are valuable to us in the workplace as well as in our ACS activities, and we must do it right. We set out to "transform ACS leader development to ensure that ACS will be the premier professional organization in the world," a big, hairy, audacious goal to be sure.

The Skills Team vision became: "The American Chemical Society will have a premier, integrated, comprehensive leadership training and development program for all current and potential ACS leaders, from local sections to the board of directors, which serves as a benchmark among professional societies and is highly valued by members and employers." The Skills Team set this goal: "Transform ACS leadership development by defining and overseeing the creation, implementation, and assessment of a competency-driven, integrated ACS leadership development framework that incorporates state-of-the-art learning and delivery models and produces effective ACS leaders."

To do the right thing, we must provide training and tools to all volunteers at every level of involvement from those just beginning to well-seasoned board members. We must utilize the best methods of adult learning and the best methods of content design. Our programs must focus on core competencies but be tailored to individual needs, and they must build skills that employers find valuable. To do things right, we must utilize the best technology for modern content delivery, we must deliver training and skills at times and places that are conducive to volunteer participation, and we must staff our courses with highly motivated, skillful facilitators who can guide participants to achieving the course goals.

The Pipeline Team's goal is to "raise the level of involvement and increase the number of members and affiliates who have sustained participation in all areas of the society." We have all come to realize that finding, sustaining, and developing volunteers is increasingly difficult. To do the right thing, we must give something back. We must make it easy for volunteers to find opportunities to participate in activities that they find important and rewarding and for leaders to find motivated, capable volunteers to staff their programs. We must provide recognition to volunteers for the valuable work they do. To do things right, we must ensure that no volunteer is wasted and that no offer of help goes unheeded.

What have we accomplished? The Skills Team identified five core competencies that are most important for the success of our volunteer leaders: personal capability; interpersonal skills; focusing on results; setting a clear direction; and character, which arches over all the others. Based on these competencies, plans were made to develop the Extraordinary Leaders Workshop with an accompanying 360o feedback assessment tool and a series of 16 learning assets consisting of facilitated workshops and e-mediated modules.

These assets are components of a learning system matrix that considers both a person's level of involvement and the competency they wish to develop. Five units will be completed in 2006, and the remainder will be developed in 2007 and 2008. This summer, we piloted the Extraordinary Leaders, Engaging Colleagues in Dialogue, Involving Volunteers, and Coaching Volunteers workshops. President-Elect Catherine T. Hunt says these workshops are among the best she has seen.

The Pipeline Team is designing a Web portal coupled to a database that will connect volunteers with programs. New concepts in volunteer recognition are being developed, and we want to impress volunteers and their employers with the value of what we do. Planning is under way for the transition in 2008 and 2009 from the current ACS Leaders Conference to a new Leadership Summit where the Leadership Development System will be prominently featured. The team has also developed metrics to gauge the effectiveness of our new leadership development system.

ACS President E. Ann Nalley says, "We must do a better job of engaging our younger members throughout the society's volunteer leadership ranks today." To do things right, we must create a system where volunteers easily and quickly find interesting and important activities, which develop valuable skills, when and where they want them.

Once these tools are ingrained in our everyday way of operation, we will be one step closer to achieving the ACS Vision: "Improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry." Do the right thing, and do it right. Please e-mail us at leaders@acs.org.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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