Volunteerism as Leadership Development

74729_10151461893365101_1608222741_nBeing an active participant in community development brings me joy. I’m adding value and having an impact on the future of Omaha – that’s feels awesome. Studies show that people who volunteer are happier than those who don’t – we all know this, right?

But have you thought about the leadership development it can provide you as well?

Serving on the board for the Greater Omaha Young Professionals for the past 12 months has been the single most impactful decision I have made to develop myself as a leader.

As young professionals, many of us have career aspirations that are bigger than our current role. I want to move up, be noticed, and have an impact for my employer. As a board member I have the opportunity to not just read about and talk about the skills I need to develop to be a better leader, but actually use them, consistently in a practical way.

Skills I have been working on:

  • Negotiation – As a board, we are working together to retain and attract young professionals to Greater Omaha through engagement, opportunity advocacy. Individuals all have distinct ideas on how we can accomplish this. As a board member, you must work to develop your negotiation skills and sell the benefits and value of ideas that you support. Refining this skill takes time and practice, serving on a board  is a vehicle to aid you in this journey.
  • Presenting/Public Speaking – Currently, I am serving at the Chair for the YP Summit (our annual conference). Monthly, I present to the board the progress our committee is making to develop our conference for 2015. This allows me to hone my public speaking & presentation skills which adds value to my professional job every day.
  • Writing – & communication in general. To be an effective board member you must be able to communicate well via written and spoken word. Again, that practical application for development is key!
  • Relationship building – Building alliances and strategic partnerships with other community leaders and fellow board members – talk about value here!
  • Time management – Balancing volunteer work with a full-time job and family/friend obligations takes an extra level of balancing and prioritization. It’s oh, so worth it.

Are you considering getting involved on a board or volunteering for a committee? DO IT. There are hundreds of non-profit organizations that would welcome your input.

Inspired? Applications are open right now to serve on the YP Board! Act fast as they close on Friday (the 16th). Come join me in developing yourself as a leader while having a measurable impact on the future of Greater Omaha as a destination for talent and growth. 


Big Omaha Reflections

Energy. Passion. Excitement. Ideas. Dreams.

My new employer sent me to Big Omaha, an innovation and entrepreneur conference developed by Silicon Prairie News.  I felt so blessed to be able to share in the buzz and excitement of entrepreneurship that’s captivating our city. My takeaways & perceptions …

Content: The two-day schedule was packed with entrepreneurs sharing their stories of failure & triumph. The most impactful speakers were both humble and honest the few that bombed, did so because their ego’s were bigger than the room would tolerate.

Takeaway: Eric Ryan, co-founder of Method shared about the careful way him and his team are curating a culture of humility at the Method offices. Additionally, he shared practical ideas on how to foster innovation. His team places their delicate, unbaked ideas on a white board in their hallways. How do you help employees be brave enough to do this? Don’t tear down the ideas with “Yes, but” ….(insert why the idea is stupid here) but instead practice “yes, and” (insert a way to build upon the idea here). Such a simple concept but inspiring – I’m thinking of how I can develop myself both as a leader and a mother with this simple idea.  My children and co-workers can thank Eric for his contribution to my development later. 🙂

Generosity: My favorite word. The fact that generosity is the new trend in entrepreneurship makes me absolutely-positively giddy. Sharing ideas cross-company, cross-industry, cross (gasp) competitor to make us all better. WHAT? Yes, these entrepreneurs want to share with their competitors when it means raising the collective tide. This is still blowing my mind and making me SO EXCITED for the future.

Networking: Even the most comfortable and extroverted people can exhibit self doubt when networking at a big event where they don’t know anyone. How can I make more people feel more comfortable?

Passion: What is more energizing that spending 2 days with people so full of passion you can feel their excitement before they even speak?

Group: Even though I am not currently pursuing an entrepreneurial dream, being at Big Omaha made me feel like I am part of something. My influence, my contribution and ideas will help shape the future of start-ups in our city (and beyond).

Details: The Silicon Prairie News team is thoughtful. A simple basket of toiletries in the ladies restroom (hairspray, q-tips, deodorant, etc) made my smile. Thanks, SPN!

My Dream: The ability AND talent of taking an audience on a journey via a talk/lecture/workshop/name your format is incredibly inspiring! I have a dream to one day share my stories on a stage like Big Omaha and watching these entrepreneurs and thought leaders stirred that desire. Now, the question is HOW do I cultivate this dream into reality? Especially when it scares me….

Jeff Slobotski closed the two-day event with a tweet that reads: “Now do something. #BigOmaha”

What is your “something”?

Building Relationships – New City

This blog was also published as a YP Board Corner here: http://omahayp.org/news/building-relationships/


I moved to Omaha in 2010 knowing absolutely no one except the boss that interviewed me at the agency. And  I’d only spent about 45 minutes with her. As I was saying good-bye to my life & friends in Kentucky I vowed to rebuild my personal network. Quickly. These women meant the world to me. My biggest trepidation about moving was missing that feeling of belonging because to a group of women who loved me.

Having people around me to support me and to lift up in return helps to give life meaning. Purpose. Variety & spice!

I am a natural social butterfly, never afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger. But, building a strong network isn’t as easy as striking up a conversation. I realized its not so simple to extend that initial conversation into an actual relationship.

Human beings are intimidating. It’s risky to put yourself out there. What if you run out of things to say? What if you embarrass yourself? What if they have no room for you?

People are judgemental. Adult cliques and groups do exist, especially in tight knit communities.

Our town, Omaha, isn’t what we’d call a transient community. Not a lot of people move here and stay – they are born & raised Nebraskans.

This gives these people a shared history advantage. They went to college together – or if they didn’t they are familiar with that school and have friends who went there. This familiarity provides a launch pad for a relationship. One that I don’t have with anyone here.

I went to high school in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. A town most Omahan’s have never heard of. They can’t relate.

College? A small school in the hills of Kentucky, Morehead State. No common ground here.

So, how do you rise above the unknown that is you when you didn’t share a geography? What is the quickest way to build that shared history? Is it really important in building relationships?

My first step was to get active on Twitter. You can find me @tuckersarah. Social Media is a low-risk way to find others who have common interests or beliefs. I can slowly get to know someone and not be concerned about rejection.

Attend networking events, regularly. You likely won’t meet your new best friend the first time you put yourself out there. Make your face familiar to people, smile. Ask tons of questions.

Get gutsy and extend the first invitation. Once you have begun a familiarity, meet up your new acquaintance for coffee or lunch. A one-on-one setting allows you to actually get to know one another. Once you have that first meet-up you are well on your way to building new friendships and lasting relationships.