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Volunteerpower News April 2003


Volunteer Power News - April 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 . . .

How to Build A Volunteer Team that Can Make a Difference


® Why Use Behavior-Based Interview Questions: Getting the Right People on Your Volunteer Team

® TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITY Getting Started on the Right Foot With a New Team

® ASK TOM - Bill from Sacramento: Isnít a team just a dysfunctional committee with a new name?


Why Use Behavior-Based Interview Questions: Getting the Right People on Your Volunteer Team

What is wrong with this interview question?

"What would you do if you delegated a project to a volunteer team member and the team member dropped the ball?"

There is one major problem with this question. It is hypothetical. Many volunteer managers who are interviewing prospective team leaders use hypothetical questions to determine if the volunteer team leader can motivate and manage a team. But the problem with hypothetical questions is that they ignore one very important factor that the volunteer administrator must know. That factor is past behavior. Dr. Paul Green, who developed the behavior-based method of interviewing, coined this phrase: "Past behavior is the best predictor of future performance." How a person worked in the past is a strong indicator of how that person will work in the future; therefore, in interviewing the prospective volunteer team leader, we need to develop questions that focus on past leadership behavior in the areas of motivation, communication, problem solving, performance and coaching.

Some examples of behavior-based questions for a volunteer team leader could be:

1. Give me an example of your past volunteer team leadership experience and how you think it prepares you for this team.

2. Tell me about a time when you felt that you were able to build motivation in your team members.

To see how to develop behavior-based questions and more examples of behavior-based questions, see http://www.volunteerpower.com/resources/questions.asp


Getting Started on the Right Foot with a New Team

The first team meeting is important for the volunteer team. No matter what the project, these three suggestions will help you get off on the right foot.

1. Pre-meeting call

Before your first meeting, phone each member of the team and talk to them about the project. Ask them, "Tell me about your past experience and what expertise you bring to the team." Tell them you are going to ask this question at the first meeting. Be prepared to take notes so that you can elaborate on what the team member says at the meetings. Some team members will be afraid of bragging and you will need to fill in some of their accomplishments for them. During this call you also want to find out about each team memberís commitment to the project. If you find a reluctance, you might want to consider replacing the team member. You donít want a negative influence on the team.

2. Food (refreshments)

People love food at their meetings. You can serve anything from Krispy Kreme doughnuts to fresh fruit with some coffee and soft drinks.

3. Explain the project and the scope of the project

Before you have each person introduce himself or herself, explain the project and thank the team members for their time.

4. Relational activity and expertise

Ask each person to introduce himself or herself by answering three questions. The first question is a relational question like one of the following:

Sample Relational Questions

1) What is your favorite vacation spot?

2) What do you do for fun?

The second and third questions are, "Why are you excited about this project and what expertise do you bring to the team?" Start with yourself with something like this:

My name is Tom McKee and I am the team leader. My favorite vacation spot is Maui. My wife, Susie, and I go to Hawaii every January to get out of the cold central California fog. The expertise I bring to this team is my passion for our project. I feel deeply about this project and have been involved in the last five years as a team member. I have also facilitated the following teams: "Holiday Party Team" last year, and the "Search Committee Team" for our last director. Iím really pumped about this team and am especially excited about the team members that have been chosen for this project.






Ask Tom

Thanks for the team-building workshop last month in Sacramento. However, I have been thinking about teams a lot and have a question about the effectiveness of teams. In college, we were trained that the most ineffective way to get something done was to assign it to a volunteer committee. Isnít a team just another name for a dysfunctional committee?


Yes, Jim, for years I avoided being a part of a committee. I remember the old joke that a camel was a horse designed by a committee. I felt that a committee was a waste of time and I wanted no part of a committee; however, I have learned that a standing committee, such as a nominating committee, a finance committee, or a strategic planning committee can be a very effective team. What makes a committee a powerful and effective team that gets results?

Effective teams (and committees) have three important factors that are essential for success.

ß Factor one: Strong leaders who know how to facilitate effective meetings.

ß Factor two: Roles and responsibilities. Effective team members know their roles and responsibilities. So often committees just meet to discuss things and the members really donít know what they are supposed to do.

ß Factor three: Scope. Effective teams have a well-developed scope of the project they are undertaking. The team knows that they are to recruit a new executive director, plan a holiday party, and develop a strategic plan. They keep focused and donít get off track. The holiday party team doesnít spend time discussing the new director and the search committee doesnít discuss the holiday party. They focus on the project at hand.

I talk more about this in an article entitled "Why Volunteer Teams Don't Work" explaining the difference between a committee and a team. To read this article see http://www.volunteerpower.com/articles/teams.asp