Sasha Macchi, Commercial Trainee, Nestlé, explains how volunteering arranged through Business in the Community has helped her develop leadership skills.
I’ve been at Nestlé in York for 18 months on the Fast Start Programme in the Confectionery business, and during that time I’ve developed both professionally and personally through the variety of training, experiences and events that we are exposed to.
Despite us coming straight from school, Nestlé expect us to work just like any employee. Whilst that might seem like a lot of pressure, the opportunities and experiences we share as a team help us develop the skills and qualities that we need to thrive and progress as leaders.
As part of our leadership studies at Sheffield Business school we recently had the opportunity to run a Business in the Community Career Kids session at a primary school in Sheffield. We ran a series of workshops in school to encourage the children to start thinking about their aspirations and open their minds up to the world of work – the first time any of us had worked with kids! The day was a massive success and we got a huge amount out of it, along with a warm glowing feeling from helping the children.
You can watch a video about the trainees’ experiences on the Career Kids day.
The top five things I learnt from the day were:
1. The power of delegation
Two of us were asked to organise the day and quickly realised it was a monster task! We had limited time to think up four engaging activities for 60 kids, and create and source all of the materials we needed – all on top of our day to day roles.
But we engaged our wider team, and between 11 of us realised it wasn’t a monster at all. Dividing into four smaller teams to create the sessions, we were able to focus our energies to produce high quality tasks and materials for the kids to work with. The delegating didn’t stop with the planning, and on the day we split the kids in the activity into smaller groups to make it easier to manage.
2. Passion inspires
It seemed a little artificial to try to inspire 60 kids – especially at my age and with a meagre 18 months experience to call on. However, our genuine passion and belief in what we were doing shone through. It really reinforced our faith in what we we’re doing at Nestlé. Passion most certainly inspires and it has the biggest impact when it’s genuine.
3. The need for communication
As a team we didn’t have much experience of working with children, and found we had to adapt our communication styles. Our communication within the team also had to be strong – we had to be very clear on timings and responsibilities. It was a fabulous opportunity to explore our coaching abilities and familiarise ourselves with different communication styles and how to adapt them to a different audience.
4. Confidence is a game changer
I now know that standing up in front of a group of 15 noisy children and timidly asking them to get on task does not work! The next time I needed the group’s attention, I moved to the centre of the room, moved my arms, spoke in a loud, clear voice and I think I even dared to clap at one point!
It may not be appropriate to raise your voice and clap at work, but there’s definitely something to say for confidence. The children responded differently to us when we were confident and clear – they seemed to respect us more and engage.
5. Keep calm… and carry on
Career Kids showed us the importance of thinking on our feet. Our first group stormed through the activity, completing it in half the time that we had anticipated. Despite not having a contingency plan, my colleague’s quick thinking on how to extend the activity saved us. Actually, it was such a good addition to the task we included in the next sessions.
So the lesson is, always have a contingency plan. And keep calm if you have to change tactics – the kids and teachers were none the wiser.
Career Kids was a thoroughly enjoyable day for us and the children. We had the opportunity to test out some ideas we had around leadership and start understanding what does and doesn’t work. Reflecting on the day has been really beneficial in helping me understand my own development needs and styles, and will certainly feature in the assessed reflection piece we will complete as part of our studies.
If you would like to use volunteering to develop leadership skills please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Business in the Community