Score by Giving Back

Thursday, September 7, 2017

SCORE is one of the largest network of volunteer, expert business coaches in the United States, with more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters. I had the challenge and privilege of becoming a SCORE volunteer more than two years ago.

Like you, I am busy—having to constantly deal with more things than the time to do them. But I am also looking for balance between profit and purpose, a sense of meaning that comes from doing important work in a communal context, without the distraction of monetary rewards.

Working with small business founders who dream big can help bring about that balance.

Free from preconceived notions about any business idea, every relationship with every SCORE client starts with a clean slate. SLATE also happens to be the name of the methodology that we use to broadly guide our interactions with clients. 

  • S for stop and suspend judgment. This practice allows us to focus all our attention on the client and engage every idea with an open mind.
  • L for listen and learn. Active listening means that when the client talks, we neither talk, think about talking, nor look for an opening to talk. 
  • A for assess and analyze. Here, we search for the subtext and context of the concept and what the concept represents to the client on a personal level.
  • T for teach with tools. At this stage, coach and client use business tools and frameworks (financial and operational) to organize knowledge and inform decision making.
  • E for encourage and expect great things! This is when we renew our commitment to our clients’ success by encouraging them to continue to learn, make changes as needed, and expect good things to happen as a result of active learning and hard work. 

Giving back—volunteering your time and expertise to work—with SCORE clients is a rewarding experience. It can help you see the world from different angles by engaging people that you might otherwise have no way or reason to interact with. Diversity of perspective is the best antidote to flawed decision-making, marred by our homegrown instincts about “other” people and “other” things with which we are not familiar. 
Volunteering also can teach you something to help you improve as a manager and as an employee. Companies rely on staff goodwill at critical moments. Monetary incentives beyond a fair salary are of limited use in keeping employees engaged and energized.


Are You Giving Back?

To the busy managers out there, ask yourselves an important question: What would you do to persuade your people to come to work if you could no longer pay them? If you know the answer, why are you not already doing it? If you do not, then volunteer. You may well find out.

What’s more, giving back to our communities doesn’t just mean reaching into our wallets. Many nonprofits and community organizations can use the skill sets of talent development professionals. How do you define “giving back” and how do you think it affects your organization? What are you or your employees and organization doing to give back to the profession or society at large?

Want to see how other leaders and organizations are volunteering their time and resources to the communities they serve? Each issue of CTDO magazine includes the Giving Back column, which covers initiatives at the individual and organizational level to give back to the community and society at large, highlighting how these efforts add to the development and engagement of the workforce.


About the Author
Ali Agha is the president of Think-Cycle Consulting. He specializes in leadership development and strategy and risk management. He has delivered learning solutions for organizations including Memphis, Light, Gas and Water (MLG&W), the nation’s largest three service public utility, Al-Jazeera Network, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and others. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Rochester and Lehigh University, respectively. Contact him at
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