About a year ago I decided I’d like to give back to my community more. Sure, I recycle, vote, and donate to causes I believe in but, I was questioning whether I was really making an impact that I could be proud of. In my professional life as a Consultant at NATIONAL, I’ve had first-hand experience with how a thriving culture of equality and collaboration not only helps me complete projects for my clients but also build strong teams. I wanted to bring those lessons out of the boardroom and into the world. And in particular, I wanted to find a way that I could help to empower women and girls.
Upon reflection of my own life, and the services that helped shape and support me, I kept coming back to one organization: Girl Guides. I was given so many opportunities through the organization including an eye-opening trip to Guiding World Centres in London and Switzerland, exchanges with girls across Canada, and building the foundations to some of my most treasured friendships to this day. So, I jumped in as a Guide leader, both feet.
Girl Guides of Canada recently announced a new vision (“A better world, by girls”) and mission (“To be a catalyst for girls empowering girls”). These are powerful statements, and things I believe to be true of the organization. The messages I was raised on through Guiding are part of what led me to seek a workplace culture where equality and teamwork are celebrated, and what left me with my niggling sense of doubt in my own community impact a year ago.
But joining a like-minded organization is just one part of the puzzle—actually making an impact and sharing your knowledge is another.
At NATIONAL Atlantic’s year-end offsite, we participated in a team-building exercise that helped highlight the importance of clear communication and collaboration. I knew it would be perfect for these bright young minds.
The idea was simple: a back-to-back drawing exercise. In teams of two, one partner explains how to draw an image while the other partner follows the instructions they’re given. I went with a winning combination of a flower, bumble bee, and happy face.
How did it go? In a nutshell: they loved it, and they rocked it—as they do most things. Best of all, it led to some fantastic conversation about descriptive language, supporting each other from start to finish of a project, and finding joy and lessons learned in a not-so-perfect end product.
Some of my top takeaways:
- Teamwork makes the dream work. The girls could not believe I did this activity at work. I got a ton of questions about my job, and a few along the “exactly how old are you?” track as well. What a great “ah-ha” moment for a bunch of 9-11-year-olds that work can be rewarding, educational, and fun. I got to share with them that I solidified connections with some of my dearest friends in Guiding through shared interests and experiences when I was their age. Similarly, I am very lucky to have a workplace that encourages these kinds of activities, which helps me build meaningful connections as an adult.
- Great ideas don’t have an age limit. I take a lot of what I experience at work (media literacy, presentation skills, design, and project management for example) and infuse it into our programming at Guides. What seemed to be unexciting or adult before now seems valuable and able to suit a fun, friendly environment with a bit of creativity.
- Sharing time isn’t enough. You really have to engage and share your knowledge to make a difference. Guides is the time for me to put my phone away, and engage with the girls in an authentic and heartfelt way. I do this with my clients every day in meetings and on calls, and it’s a wonder I don’t do it for myself or my community more often. Guides puts my ‘head, hands, and heart’ to work and, to do it well, I need to do it fully.
The 24 young women I have the opportunity to spend time with at Guides will be entering a workforce where high EQ is often as important as IQ to their success. And if I can do even a little bit to help make them more prepared, then I will consider that a win.
To learn more about Girl Guides, or to volunteer, please visit: www.girlguides.ca—I’d highly recommend it.