Do you feel unfulfilled in your executive position? Perhaps volunteering could be the solution…
I’ve talked, in previous blogs, of the issues some executives face in their career. One problem that some high-achievers may encounter is the feeling of being unfulfilled – after spending years climbing to the top of the ladder, some executives feel their career stops offering them any sort of challenge. Without a goal to aim for, there’s a risk that those in senior positions may start to lack direction.
Is age a factor?
Towards mid-life, we wonder about our contribution – what legacy do we want to leave? Some argue the ‘ultimate intelligence’ is spiritual intelligence (SQ). This spiritual dimension is a search for ‘wider meaning and purpose’, not necessarily religion. Denton (1999) defines spirituality as ‘the basic desire to find ultimate meaning and purpose in one’s life and to live an integrated life’.
Within the 32 approaches to coaching (who knew there were so many?) certain techniques are especially helpful when thinking about our higher purpose. Ontological, transpersonal and existential coaching techniques focus on self-actualisation; they offer particular value for those seeking meaning or higher purpose, who wish to broaden their field of awareness.
Of course, this isn’t everyone’s experience. Job satisfaction and what constitutes a meaningful life can involve different things for different people.
A recent survey by Pilotlight showed that 62% of executives and business leaders volunteering through its programmes subsequently gained job satisfaction in their own roles. 85% improved their coaching skills as a result of working with charities, and 87% acknowledged that the process had brought new leadership styles to their attention. Another benefit saw executives’ empathy increase, along with their understanding of the challenges faced by those needing help.
Business leaders are increasingly seeing volunteering as a way to refresh or hone their business skills. Though the motivation for giving their time and experience to a charity was to ‘give something back’, according to 80% of those executives surveyed, the sharpening of their own attributes was a close second. Many of the executive participants on Pilotlight’s programme went on to become charity trustees.
Do you have the time?
It certainly sounds like a win/win situation for all concerned, but despite both the executives and the charity enjoying a range of positives from such an initiative, there were still hesitations. The biggest issue, for 81% of respondents, was their perceived lack of time, as well as a misguided belief that their skills and experience borne from the private sector would be of little use to charities.
Dr Paul Steinfort, 63, found volunteering became a true passion. Although he enjoyed a high-flying career masterminding projects like the redevelopment of Melbourne’s cricket ground, Paul was drawn to volunteering after he spent three months in India. Rebuilding areas and communities in such as Japan and Indonesia was, Paul says, one of the most rewarding things he’s done in his career. Whereas most executives his age would be planning retirement, Paul attributes his volunteering as a “passport to other worlds and all sorts of cultures”.
The bigger picture
It’s been said that this generation is one that values making a difference more than any other benefit – whether within their own organisation, from volunteering, or through a similar opportunity. Spending time with people from completely different backgrounds, and especially those from a position of disadvantage, can be very humbling, and teach us a lot about managing people that can be implemented when back at work.
Other transferable skills
Volunteering in some parts of the world could place you within the next ‘emerging market’; information gained at ground level could make a significant impact on future projects and the direction your organisation may choose to follow. Another indirect benefit stems from dealing with people from different cultures; your communication skills are likely to be better understood and honed – both vocal and non-verbal dialogue. Adapting to another way of life also strengthens your resilience, yet another transferable skill.
Corporate responsibility is an integral element of most organisations today, and seeing those at the top of a company willing to give their time and experience for the benefit of communities (however near or far away from home) builds a good reputation, seen by customers and the public in general.
It’s easy to talk about giving back – personally making a difference speaks louder.
Coaching is an especially useful tool in such circumstances. When your direction seems uncertain, coaching can help you ascertain what is lacking in your life or career, or help you unlock the extra elements that will enrich your existence.
There can be many reasons why you may feel unfulfilled; if you’d like my help to evaluate your life and career paths, contact me on 01302 220021, or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to holohololand at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.