Volunteerpower News March 2003
Volunteer Power News - March 2003
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter
©2003 Advantage Point Systems, Inc. Publishing
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This month I want to share with you . . .
The Power of A Well Focused VOLUNTEER Team
IN THIS NEWSLETTER:
1) TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITY (Game that teaches) - DETERMINING YOUR FOCUS
2) ILLUSTRATION OF POWER OF THE FOCUSED TEAM
3) ASK TOM - IRENE FROM THE CAYMAN ISLANDS - HOW DO YOU GET VOLUNTEERS TO RESPOND TO YOUR LEADERSHIP WHEN YOU ARE NOT THE PAID BOSS?
4) TWO NEW ARTICLES ON FOCUSED TEAMS
-The Power of Volunteers
-Why Volunteer Teams Don't Work
Team Building Activity:
Objective: To demonstrate the essential of "TEAM FOCUS" in solving a problem.
1. Divide the group into teams of at least three-teams of six work great.
2. Hand out the following Team Problem and have each person read the problem.
3. Instruct everyone to work quietly, alone for about three minutes.
4. Pick a team leader.
5. Decide as a group on the correct survival order.
6. If you have up to 30 people, have each group report back their solution and how they arrived at a consensus solution.
7. If you have more than 30 people, have the first two teams that finish report their order and how they arrived at a consensus decision.
You have been a passenger on a plane that has crashed in the desert. These are the items that you have retrieved from the plane before it burned up. The pilot and copilot have been killed and the only survivors are the people in your group.
On a scale of 1 - 11, number these in the order of importance for survival.
Map of desert
Book (edible plants of the desert)
Fifth of whiskey
To see the answer to this problem see http://www.volunteerpower.com/resources/plane.asp
ILLUSTRATION OF THE POWER OF THE FOCUSED TEAM
The power of a focused group can be illustrated by the difference between a laser beam and a light bulb. How can a medium power laser burn through steel in a matter of seconds while the most powerful spotlight can only make it warm? The difference is unity. A laser can be simply described as a medium of excited molecules with mirrors attached at each end. Some of the excited molecules naturally decay into a less excited state. In the decay process they release a photon, a particle of light. It is here that the unique process of the laser begins.
The photon moves along and "tickles" another molecule, inviting another photon to join him on his journey. Then, these two photons "tickle" two more molecules and invite two more photons to join the parade. Soon there is a huge army marching in step with each other. It is this unity that gives the laser its power. A light bulb may have just as many photons, but each is going its own independent way, occasionally interfering with other photons. As a result, much of its power is wasted and cannot be forced to do any useful work. However, the laser, because of its unity, is like an army marching in tight formation and is able to focus all of its power on its objective. That is the quality of a volunteer leader. A leader is one who is able to focus all the energy and power of a team, an organization, or a business on its objective. The volunteer leader must find that point of focus. Many work teams are not united because they don't have a unified focus.
When leaders know how to mobilize volunteers to accomplish their passion, this group can become powerful. It begins with a passion for a unified mission. When groups are fighting over their mission, they accomplish nothing. But when they become unified, they can change the world.
Question: Irene from the Cayman Islands - How do you get volunteers to respond to your leadership when you are not their paid boss?
What a great web site!
I worked for the government for a number of years as a manager and program administrator. When one is given the authority over a program and staff, it isn't too difficult to "motivate" people to do as you wish. Let's face it; many managers rely on their position of authority to get the work done. Although the product is not the best, the work gets done because the "boss" told the staff to do it. If you want the job, you'll do what you are told.
Managing a volunteer work group is a totally different experience. People join the effort because they want to be there. But this doesn't necessarily mean they will respond to direction. After all, the time is donated so whatever is gained from the volunteer is "free labor."
How does one tap into the motivation/drive for a volunteer group when the volunteers don't HAVE to respond to you as the group leader? How do you get a group of volunteers to do what you want them to do so that you can maximize their contributions?
Your Caribbean Fan,
Your question reminds me of Actor Tom Hanks' wonderful line as a gruff baseball coach in the film "A League of Their Own": "It's suppose to be hard," he says in the midst of a tirade on playing great ball. "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great." Irene, volunteer management is hard-much harder than managing at work.
The same skills that made you a boss who people love to work for, are the same skills that will make you a successful volunteer manager. People love to work for a boss that cares, listens, always gives feedback, and involves the team in decisions. This manager never relies on being the "boss" to demand outstanding performance. However, there is a major difference in volunteer management-and this is the hard part. When you were the boss, you saw your workers every day at work to visit and talk with them. You gave them constant feedback and encouragement. It was easy to walk to their desk or go out to lunch with them. We call this MBWA - manage by walking around. It is much more difficult "walking around" with volunteers because they are not just down the hall. Let me make several suggestions in the form of three gifts that you can give to your volunteers.
1. The Gift of Communication. Volunteer managers depend on the phone-not the answering machine. When you can talk to people personally and encourage them, they will respond. Volunteer managers spend a lot of time on the phone. In your old job you could just leave a voice-mail or e-mail message. It can be a last resort; however, leaving a message is not as effective because when you spend time talking with volunteers you can listen to their concerns and encourage them.
One very big caution--not all volunteers love the phone. You remember in your government management job, you had employees who loved to visit with you. They would spend each morning visiting with all of their team members before they started into their work. After each break, they would visit with everyone before they settled down to their desks again. They are talkers. These employees needed this constant conversation from you to feel connected. These are the people who have jars of candy on their desk. You would love a piece of candy, but you knew that to get a piece of candy, it would cost you ten minutes of conversation. Some employees, however, don't like to visit. They get to work immediately and would rather you drop them an e-mail message than to drop by and visit.
The same is true for volunteers. Some volunteers love to visit on the phone and need that constant conversation to feel that their role is important to the team. Others don't like the phone and will be turned off by too many phone calls. Your role as a volunteer administrator is to figure out which kind of volunteer you have and communicate with them in a regular way that will help them feel plugged in.
2. The Gift of Affirmation
We would love to believe that people who volunteer don't need tangible incentives. But that is not true. We all need constant encouragement. One of the most neglected tasks of the volunteer manager is the task of affirmation. As I look back on my volunteer work, I am the product of a chain of "affirmers", people who believed in me and took time to communicate to me their confidence in me that I could make a difference. Many times I would have quit and dropped out if it hadn't been for some key person who believed in me.
One effective way to affirm our volunteers is by writing thank you notes to your volunteers and letting them know how much you appreciate them. Although, people are not volunteering to get paid financially, the volunteer does get paid. The volunteer reaps other rewards and often the volunteer administrator is the conduit of these rewards. Volunteers wants to know how they are doing. They want to know if they are really making a difference for all of this free work. In a sense, they are getting paid for what they do and we call that payment recognition. When you recognize the volunteer on your team with a hand written note, they receive the payment they need to continue.
3. The Gift of Identification.
Peter Ueberroth, the mastermind behind the Twenty-third Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, was a model leader. To boost spirits of the many Olympic staff, Uerberroth wore a different uniform each day: a bus drivers' suit, a kitchen staffer's whites, a blue-and-gold usher's shirt. When the workers, many of them volunteers, saw him in their uniform, it was an affirmation of their place on the team through identification. He was one of them.
Great managers do this at work, and we must also do this with our volunteer teams. We don't have to dress in uniforms to identify with our volunteers. We can identify with our volunteers through fun, laughter and food. Volunteers love food. For some reason food is a great social stimulator for all workers-paid or volunteer. Special outings, retreats, and work projects often provide the opportunity for camaraderie. I find that volunteer teams that laugh often and enjoy each other, stay together and stay committed to the task.
The bottom line, Irene, is constant communication, affirmation, and identification. We only see our volunteers once a week, once a month, or less, and in those times we are so busy doing our volunteer work that we often don't take the time to take the three suggestions to heart. This is why volunteer administration takes more effort, but the benefit is worth all the trouble.
Irene, I hope this helps. Keep up the good work in your new volunteer role.
TWO NEW ARTICLES ON THE POWER OF FOCUSED TEAMS
The Power of Volunteers
How a volunteer group can change the world.
When I first met this group, they walked into the room in athletic shoes with whistles around their necks. They were all volunteers who had no money, no power, and no influence. But together they changed a California law-not an easy task.
Who were these people? Most of them were high school coaches who used to teach driver's education. California had eliminated behind-the-wheel driver's education, and this group got together to see what they could do to reverse the trend of teenage driver caused accidents on the California highways. They were the leaders from the California Association for Safety Education (CASE). Their concern was the neophyte teenage drivers on the road.
How can a group of volunteers become powerful when they are not the rich and famous? How can a group of high school teachers change the laws of the legislature? How can volunteers, without money or influence, make a difference? CASE's success story is about two words: Focus and Partnerships.
To read the article on "focus" and "partnership" see
Why Volunteer Teams Don't Work!
How to Make the Team Work
It was a great idea-but it just didn't seem to work. I promoted it hard and believed in it, but what went wrong? I believed that if we changed the names of our committees to teams or a special task force, we could accomplish two goals:
1. We would get away from the stigma of working on a committee. Remember the words of Fred Allen: "A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling, to do the unnecessary."
2. People would not feel the personal pressure when they feel there are others to share the load.
Great idea to get rid of dysfunctional committees. What went wrong? Beginning the second half of the 20th century people began to change the way they worked together, in the work place and in organizations. Two major influences created a paradigm shift in the United States and changed the way teams work. I did not take seriously these two influences when I changed the name of the committee to action team.
To read this article on the difference between a team and a committee, see
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