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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 63
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

2008 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers-those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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In This Issue
  1. Featured Article: Training Volunteers Who Think that They Don't Need Training-Part II -- Thomas W. McKee
  2. Monthly Volunteer Leadership Insight: Mantra Not Mission - Thomas McKee

Featured Article: Training Volunteers Who Think That They Don't Need Training - by Thomas W. McKee
Training The New Breed of Volunteers ...
who perhaps think that you can't teach them anything - Part II

The Most Effective Learning Ingredient is...

When it comes to building leadership skills that last, the key ingredient is motivation and how a person feels about learning. People learn what they want to learn. If learning is forced on us, even if we master it temporarily (for example, by cramming for a driver's test), it is soon forgotten. One study found that the half-life of knowledge learned in an MBA course was about six weeks (Daniel Goleman, Primal Leadership, p. 99).

Human resource professionals are so frustrated by this fact. They require people to attend training classes so managers can update their skills. However, many folks attend classes merely to earn an accreditation or fulfill a requirement-not to learn. That is an advantage that we have as volunteer managers. Volunteers are volunteering because they have a passion about a mission to change their world and for the most part are willing to do what ever it takes to make it happen-including training. We can capitalize on making the training most effective by answering these questions:

In Part I, I answered these questions:
1. What do I want the person to know that he/she doesn't already know?
2. How can I motivate the volunteer to want to learn what he/she doesn't know?

In Part II, I want to answer these questions:
3. How does the volunteer learn best?
4. How long should a training session be?
5. How can I know that the volunteer is learning?
6. Who can best deliver our training?

How does the volunteer learn best?
We all learn differently. Some like to suggest that men and women learn differently. That could be an interesting discussion some time. I recently came across an online video that humorously describes the difference between men's and women's brains. Have a good laugh as you visit the site where Dr. Mark Gungor describes the differences between men's and women's brains.

Three Basic Styles of Learning

On a more serious note, Marcus Buckingham in The One Thing You Need to Know suggests three styles of Learning. I often ask the volunteer, "How do you learn best?"

The Analyzer: The analyzer is a perfectionist who hates mistakes. Analyzers need to hear the whole presentation and role play. They break the task down into manageable parts. Never throw the analyzer into a "wing it" situation. These learners will not get into a sail boat until they have read the manual, taken lessons and visualized exactly what they are supposed to do. And believe it or not, actually they sail pretty well the very first time.

Doer: The doer is the dominate learning style. While the most powerful learning moments for the analyzer occur prior to the actual performance, for the doer the most powerful learning moments occur during performance. These learners will get into the sail boat, turn it over, sink it and destroy it in the process, but they will learn. Therefore, give doers a small task and the outcome you want. Then let them go and get out of their way. Doers are frustrating because they won't give your advice much credence. They have to experience the good and bad outcomes themselves before they believe that it's true. But they are wonderful to have around because they are the first to volunteer and jump into a new challenge.

The Watcher: The watcher is an imitator. They won't learn by breaking the task down and role playing. They learn by watching a total performance. For them to see the individual parts is like seeing the pixels of a digital photograph. They need to see the whole picture. The best way for this person to learn is a "ride along" with one of your great performers.

I am a watcher. I learn best by shadowing someone who is doing it right. I also have a bit of the analyzer and will read anything you give to me about the organization. However, I am not a risk taker when it comes to doing a job in front of people where I might fail. I want to be prepared. Are you prepared for each type of learner?

How Long Should Training Sessions Be?

The General Rule: The ability to maintain learning attentiveness, or focused attention is affected by fluctuations in brain chemistry. This occurs at 90-minute cycles throughout a 24- hour day. Our brain learns best when learning is interrupted by breaks of two to five minutes so it can diffuse, or process, information.

I have no idea who wrote that rule; however, for me 90 minutes of lecture is way too long, unless the person talking is dynamic and the training is filled with stories that are relevant to what I want to learn. My experience is that most listeners tune in about every five minutes or so, and if they like what they are hearing, they stay with you. If they don't, they use our training session to do work, plan or just daydream.

The length of the training session should be adapted to the objective of the training and the learner's ability to grasp the material. In Part I, I suggested very specific questions to determine just what training you need for the volunteer.

For most training sessions I find that I can adapt the rules I use for half-day and full-day workshops. I follow these four rules when I am facilitating full-day workshops:

Rule one: Keep presentations down to five-to-ten minutes.

Give a motivational talk for about 5-10 minutes (20 max). If I go twenty minutes, I evaluate what I am saying every five minutes to make sure it is interesting.

Rule two: Follow up the presentation with a DVD, exercise or role play demonstration.

Then I show a DVD, do a group exercise, or get a volunteer to role play with me to break up the learning activity. After the DVD or exercise I facilitate a discussion. I vary this. In some groups I will give a case study (see rule four).

Rule Three: In half-day or all-day workshops, give 15 minute breaks every 90 minutes.

I always have a 15-minute break about every 90 minutes. People need to get up and walk around. In addition, during breaks, the more quiet people ask me questions, and I get great feedback.

Rule Four: Use the case study for learning because it involves all three learning styles, and each member of the group will participate according to their style: analyzer, doer and watcher. Allow members of the group to use their learning style.

I was leading a workshop last month and used the following training exercise. I shared the training experience by Jonathan, co-author of The New Breed. After I told the story, I asked each group to come up with a similar situation which they could present to the group.

Sample Case Study Learning Exercise: The Roll Call

  1. Read the case study.
  2. Point out three important ingredients of the role call:
    a. They spent 15 minutes of a 20-minute meeting in continuing education.
    b. They did it every day.
    c. It was relevant to what they would face during the day.
  3. In groups of six, come up with a situation or problem that the group could use with their volunteers.
  4. Have each group present their case to the room.
I have used this exercise and have had great results. The advantage is that the learners are actually trying out a training exercise and leave with a case study that they can use.

A Training Experience*
Jonathan McKee

A while back, I was in Los Angeles visiting my friend Brian, a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department. Brian asked if I wanted to go on a "ride along," and I gladly accepted.

So there I was-in the heart of Los Angeles, in the middle of the night, riding shotgun in a police car. (Brian had to keep telling me to stop playing with the lights and siren!) I loved the experience. But the evening didn't begin by jumping in a car. It all started with roll call.

All the police from that shift gathered together in a room before they headed out to the streets. During this 20-minute meeting, about 15 minutes of it was continuing education.

One officer shared an experience that two officers had the previous day. A fight had been reported in the street. When officers arrived on the scene, a trail of blood led to the door of the house, with blood also on the doorknob. The two officers had knocked on the door, but no one answered.

So the Sergeant running the training asked, "Can we enter?" Officers from around the room started answering. They discussed "probable cause." The Sergeant gradually revealed other details. The consensus in the room was, "Yes, enter the house."

The trainer said, "That's what we did." Then, on a whiteboard, he drew the interior layout of the house, drawing X's where people were sitting on a couch.

"What now?" he asked.

People from around the room shouted out answers: "Ask to see their hands."

"We did." Then he circled an X on the couch. "But this guy wasn't moving at all." Then he drew another X on the couch, and said, "When officers looked closer, they noticed a 3-year-old kid sleeping right here next to the man."

"Now what?" he asked.

The discussion in the room was intense, because the situation wasn't just made up in someone's mind. It had just occurred the day before. And the more the officers got into it, the more the trainer disclosed about the situation.

This was a real-life experience turned into a teaching opportunity. The officers were able to objectively evaluate the good and the bad in the situation. Most importantly, they assessed what could be done better next time.

As we rolled out of that meeting, I asked Brian how often they did these training sessions. His answer: "Every day."

Exercise instructions:

In your groups come up with a typical role play or case study that you could use as a training exercise.

Present your case study (or role play) to the class to see how they would handle the situation.

*Jonathan McKee, Thomas McKee, The New Breed, (Loveland, CO, 2007, p. 125)

How do I know if my volunteer is learning?

Those of you who know me or have been in my workshops have heard me say, "Without feedback you don't know where you stand." That saying is one of my mantras. Not only is the mantra great for encouraging volunteers with the thank you for what you are doing. But the mantra is great for training.

I love the story of the speaker who got some interesting feedback. At the end of his speech a person came up to him and asked, "I have been fascinated as I listened to you speak. Can I ask you a question?" The speaker thought he was going to get an insightful question and was excited until the person asked, "Are those your real teeth?"

We never know what is going on between the ears in a person's mind. They may look like they are getting it all, but their thoughts might be a million miles away.

My favorite way of finding out what they have learned is to give them a very practical application of how they would use the information.

I was training a group of volunteer managers recently about how to deliver a difficult message to volunteers who are hurting the organization. After going over the way to deliver this message, I gave them the following exercise.

Bill is a volunteer who is late to all of your meetings. When he comes in late, he always seems to be disruptive and wants to go over things that you have already gone over. You ask Bill to stay after the meeting to talk. When everyone has left you say to Bill, "_______________________". What will you say to Bill and where will you deliver your message?

By developing such a case study, you are not only able to hear just how the volunteer manager is using the techniques that you have taught, but you are also able to hear just how skillful the volunteer manager is able to handle this situation.

Who can best deliver our training?

Shock - the best volunteer worker is not the best trainer. Just because a person is a great worker doesn't mean that he or she is a great trainer. Ferdinand F. Fournies has some very helpful suggestions in his book, Why Employees Don't Do What They're Supposed To Do, And What To Do About It. In his chapter, "They don't know what they are supposed to do," he makes some suggestions for the corporate world that I believe are applicable to our world of volunteer management. The following is a summary of his thoughts adapted for volunteers:
  1. Choose a single person to train new volunteers (and send that person to a train- the-trainer workshop).
  2. Create a training manual for the instructor that will guide and standardize the training of the new volunteer.
  3. Provide detailed reference manuals for volunteers that will support learning and job performance after the training.
  4. In all jobs where failure is important (including volunteer jobs), give volunteers simulations of the actual work so they make their mistakes where the cost of failure to you and them is minimal. (Note: Why do airline pilots learn in simulators? Mistakes are costly. Role playing is the poor person's simulator).
  5. Create a test for all new volunteers on the job so you will know whether learning has actually occurred.
Bottom line:
"Better to train someone and lose them, than to not train them and keep them." (Zig Ziglar)

Great advice for all of us.

And speaking of training, why not consider either myself or Jonathan or both of us for training workshop for your managers. Just last week I received this letter about a workshop that Jonathan and I did together.

Dear Tom and Jonathan:

Thank you so much for coming to Meredith, New Hampshire, to present your "New Breed of Volunteer" workshop. The information and materials you provided to the attendees were stellar in both their content and quality.

Throughout the day, you were energetic and entertaining as you informed participants of the best practices for attracting and retaining volunteers in the 21st century. Your observation of the traits and interest of Baby Boomers, "Gen Xers" and "Gen Yers" were spot on, and will no doubt aid many of our NH organizations in more effectively working with their volunteers across all age groups.

Again, thank you for presenting a fantastic workshop yesterday. I highly recommend you to any organization or company seeking innovative strategies for volunteer recruitment and management in the 21st Century.

Yours truly

Sara DiSano
Downtown Resource Center
Concord, New Hampshire

For Information about bringing a workshop to your organization, click here.

Monthly Volunteer Leadership Insight: Mantra Not Mission - Thomas W. McKee
One of my favorite blogs is Guy Kawasaki's "How to Change the World". What volunteer manager wouldn't love that title?

Several years ago he challenged me with his blog, "Mantra not Mission." I love his advice because I have always believe that the only people who loved the mission statement were the people who wrote it.

Mantras get people excited. They print them on T-shirts and bumper stickers. I saw a T-shirt recently that caught my attention. It read, "Don't Go to Church . . . Be the Church." The name of the church and logo was on the T-shirt. I became curious and immediately wondered, "What church would advertize don't go to church?" The people wearing those T-shirts were all out doing community projects-cleaning homes, painting, building fences in needy areas of their community. Many churches do that, but not on a Sunday morning. This church cancelled their morning worship services for three Sundays and went out into their community demonstrating their faith with action. When I interviewed members of the church, I asked them why would they cancel their regular services. They said that they felt worship included putting hands to faith. It caught on. The church mantra is "Be the Church."

I think that Kawasaki would like that mantra. He recommends a three word mantra, not a "mission statement." Anyone can get a hokey-sounding one. For example:

"We strive to quickly revolutionize corporate materials and conveniently simplify enterprise-wide technology. -Dilbert

Here are some "mantra" examples Kawasaki gives:

Nike: Authentic athletic performance
FedEx: Peace of Mind
EBay: Democratize Commerce

Kawasaki says that the ultimate test for a mantra (or mission statement) is if your telephone operators (Trixie and Biff) can tell you what it is. If they can, then you're onto something meaningful and memorable. If they can't, then, well, it sucks.

I recommend Guy's blog to challenge you and your leaders about "Changing the World".

Tom's Books: The New Breed and/or They Don't Play My Music Anymore
The New Breed


Here's a glimpse of the Table of Contents:

Introduction: The Common Predicament
Where It All Begins

Chapter 1: Who Is the New Breed of Volunteer?
   A Profile of the 21st Century Volunteer

Chapter 2: Recruiting the New Breed of Volunteers
   The "Courting" Relationship

Chapter 3: Finding the New Breed of Volunteers (Not Scaring Them Away)
   The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers

Chapter 4: Tapping into Two New Breeds of Volunteers
   Retiring "Boomers" and "Generation @"

Chapter 5: Motivating the New Breed of Volunteers
   Discover Three Levels of Motivation

Chapter 6: Empowering Volunteers to Do It Their Way
   Move from Delegation to Empowerment

Chapter 7: Managing the Virtual Volunteer
   Virtual Volunteers and Using Technology

Chapter 8: Managing High Maintenance Volunteers
   Performance Coaching the Volunteer from Hell

Chapter 9: Leading the Successful Volunteer Organization
   Mobilize the Collective Power of Volunteers

Chapter 10: A Leadership Case Study
   A Fable of How to Do It Right

  • Sample Position Charter
  • Sample Project Charter
  • Interview Guide for Hiring a Paid "Volunteer Manager"
  • Sample Questionnaire for Virtual Volunteers
  • Sample Board Code of Conduct
  • Strategic Planning Retreat - Agenda of Questions
  • SWOT Analysis Form
  • Ice-Breakers and Openers
  • Team Building Activities
  • Sample Training Exercise-A Case Study:


Plan Your Future
When the World
Keeps Changing

Get Tom's Inspiring Book

As we try to navigate the 21st Century in this increasingly fast-paced and technology-driven world, many people are drowning in our culture of unremitting change. In the innovative book, They Don't Play My Music Anymore, Thomas McKee presents a creative approach to facing personal and professional change. He offers eight essential principles that can help you gain the confidence to face an unknown future. Using these techniques, you will develop a new thinking frame by which to approach your future with hope and confidence as you learn to embrace change instead of merely reacting to it.


Tom's Eight Principles
Will Help You Gain the Confidence
To Face an Unknown Future

"In a world where change seems to be happening faster than the five miles every second the Space Shuttle travels, They Don't Play My Music Anymore offers a practical, common sense approach to not only surviving this frenetic pace of change, but building and growing from it. Incorporating Tom's methodology as I chose to make a change in my profession has helped me map out and launch into new adventures in many ways as exciting as the three space missions I flew. I very highly recommend applying these principles!"
Rick Searfoss, NASA Astronaut
and Space Shuttle Commander

Hear Tom McKee Live: Listen to an MP3 of a ten-minute sample keynote presentation by Tom McKee, The Power of Volunteer Passion
Thomas McKee
Who Takes the Fall When Your
Keynote Speaker is Just

You Do!

You can count on Thomas McKee for any size group. He has spoken to over one half million people in Europe, Africa and the United States over the past 35 years and has worked with some of America's top corporations, organizations and associations.
(More info about Tom here)


Click here to listen

Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at tom@volunteerpower.com. Other articles and free resources are available at www.volunteerpower.com

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