"What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good."
In the words of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, “What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.”
Indeed, volunteering is a great way to do some good for the community and your team, according to leadership and career expert Michelle Gibbings.
“Developing and sustaining effective team dynamics requires effort and focus, and team volunteering can play a part in helping to build those dynamics,” she adds.
Gibbings is also the author of Step Up: How to Build your Influence at Work, and Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career.
She says that essentially teams are brought together to get things done, with the logic that more gets done together than alone. However, that benefit is only achieved when the team knows how to best work together.
“Effective leaders know it’s critical to create a working environment which facilitates that – so the team makes progress on the right things, at the right time.”
Underpinning that environment are two key ingredients – trust and understanding the strengths and skills each team member brings to the team, says Gibbings.
The leader will usually know the skills and capability of each team member. However, often team members don’t have the same level of understanding.
This may be because two teams have recently been merged, and so relationships are still being formed, or because effort hasn’t been devoted to building that understanding.
“Regardless of the reason, this ambiguity breeds disengagement and distrust,” says Gibbings.
“It also means that team members can’t leverage each other’s skills as effectively because if you don’t know what someone does, you don’t know how they can help you (or vice versa).”
While there are a number of great ways to build team understanding and connection through structured team days and facilitated team sessions, getting outside the office and into a different environment plays a part too.
“When team members come together to volunteer to help a not-for-profit or community group they are usually working in a more relaxed and less structured environment,” says Gibbings.
“This encourages banter, bonding and camaraderie, and the experiences from the day become shared stories that help to build the team’s culture.”
Moreover, it is an opportunity for team members to see each other working in a different context and applying different skills.
Gibbings says volunteering provides a range of positive benefits at an individual level. This is because when a person helps someone it elevates how they feel about themselves, which in turn aids their mental health and wellbeing.