Leadership development becoming new norm for volunteers

PEO continues to provide opportunities for leadership development not only for its core of volunteers but also for its 82,000 licence holders.

As was evident at the April 20 Volunteer Leadership Conference at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, the engineering regulator is keen to recruit and develop new talent in its day-to-day operations. For the past six years, the conference has become a venue for committee and chapter volunteers to work together and share best practices on how to assist the regulator in fulfilling its mandate. Many PEO Council members take part in the conference to apply some of the learning to their committee or Council work.

The theme for the 2018 conference was “Effective leadership through succession planning,” which reflects one of the nine key objectives captured in PEO’s 2018-2020 Strategic Plan. Strategic objective number 7, under the “advancing PEO’s mission” focus area, calls for PEO-specific leadership values consistently practised by volunteers, and encouraged by way of recruitment, training, mentoring, term limits and succession planning.

The facilitator for the day’s events was leadership advisor David Irvine of Alberta, author of six books on empowering leaders and enhancing corporate culture.

Irvine also presented at the 2017 Volunteer Leadership Conference in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on a “building leadership capacity” theme.

In his welcome remarks, outgoing PEO President Bob Dony, PhD, P.Eng., FEC, reiterated the importance of volunteers to the regulator’s ongoing operations. “PEO cannot function without its volunteers,” Dony said. “Our volunteer base is a vital part of who we are and how we regulate the profession on behalf of the people of Ontario.”

The day-long conference included breakout sessions for participants to draw up individual succession plans and share the highlights with the entire forum. The afternoon portion featured additional small group sessions dedicated to formulating novel succession efforts for PEO and for chapter and committee activity.

In his wide-ranging presentation, Irvine said it’s important for volunteers and association members to get a feel for the corporate culture as they consider volunteering and recruitment efforts. In that way, corporate values are enlivened among current leaders and volunteers and, in turn, passed on to successors.

“Taking care of your corporate culture is like taking care of your health,” Irvine said. “Every so often you have to assess your condition, throw out what isn’t helping and be open to new ideas and practices that encourage others to participate.”

Irvine also suggested transferring personal and corporate values to new leaders is an ideal form of succession planning—something PEO has determined to be a priority going forward.

Other guests at the conference included Ontario Society of Professional Engineers President and Chair Jonathan Hack, P.Eng., who said ongoing networking is a key venue for engineers to better understand their profession and to become more engaged in its regulation and policy-setting.

Later in the day, Warren Turnbull, P.Eng., West Central Region councillor and chair of the Conference Planning Committee, said PEO is lucky to have a dedicated core of volunteer leaders. Nonetheless, he added, the annual Volunteer Leadership Conference won’t serve its purpose without participants making a commitment to its objectives. “Our facilitator, David Irvine, has empowered us to make our chapters and committees stronger and better managed,” Turnbull said. “And keeping in mind the strategic plan’s emphasis on leadership development and succession planning, volunteers can help our association build a greater legacy.”