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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 66
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 and Leadership Insight: Why Volunteer Leadership is Like Being A Grandparent: Am I Papa, Grandpa, Dude or Leader?
  2. Volunteer Power Workshop: The New Breed

Featured Article and Leadership Insight: Why Volunteer Leadership is Like Being A Grandparent : Am I Papa, Grandpa, Dude or Leader - by Thomas W. McKee
Why Volunteer Leadership is like being a Grandparent
Am I Papa, Grandpa, Dude or Leader?

Thomas W. McKee

A few weeks ago on a Friday evening my grandson Alec called me and asked if we could talk the next day. I knew something was up. I did not get my best night's sleep that night as I kept thinking about my significant role as a grandfather.

We sat in our back yard with soft drinks and visited. Alec talked for over an hour. All of the McKees are talkers, which made it difficult for me to listen because I had so much to say and so much advice to give. During the hour Alec referred to me as the endearing Papa and Grandpa, the effective business leader and sometimes even the cool dude. The context of the conversation dictated the particular moniker I received.

As I thought about that experience I thought about my role as a volunteer manger. I am not like a parent. I am more like a grandparent.

What is the primary role of the grandparent? Steven Covey says that the essential role of a grandparent is to communicate in as many ways as possible the worth and potential of their grandchildren so clearly that they really believe it and act on that belief. (Steven Covey, The Eighth Habit, p. 99.) That was my goal. I wanted to communicate to Alec his worth and potential in a way that he could see it. And in essence that is the role of the leader.

The key question: How do we communicate worth and potential with our volunteers in such a way that they use their gifts and talents to fulfill the mission of our organization?

The answer of that question is found in the balance of the two leadership factors: Guidance and Trust

An important management skill is the ability to balance two leadership factors: guidance and trust. Guidance – How much hands-on direction do I give? Trust – How much confidence do I have that I can depend on the volunteer?

Guidance is the hands-on direction and control you use in managing your volunteers. It includes giving expectations, training, regular follow up and evaluation. I find that one of the best guidance tools that I use as a grandparent and a leader are the war-stories of best practices.

Gray hair shouts volumes of stories. As a grandparent I have many stories—often very long stories-- to tell about my experience. In fact, I have more stories to tell than Alec has time to listen to. And what I have learned from Alec is that he, like many of my volunteers, has the attention span for about one short story, so I have to choose my story well -- the one story that will make the most impact and somehow relate to his experience and questions. And often the guidance I need to give is about the trust factor.

Trust is the shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose. It includes the expectation and total confidence that the volunteer will execute the duty. Trust is the building block for gaining the respect of volunteers in the non-profit organization. It is tempting for volunteer managers to assume that trust will come naturally; however, leaders don't take trust casually. They make the development of trust a high priority and have to know how to balance freedom and control. Too many managers either expand the trust zone too quickly or they micromanage their volunteers. Either extreme is ill-fated.

Alec was struggling with the problem that all 15 year olds struggle with—trust. What teenager doesn't want to be trusted more by their parents and teachers? They feel that they are far more responsible than they often prove to be in real life.

After an hour of listening--honestly I really listened--we went to lunch together, and I shared this story about his uncle—my oldest son.

When Thom, our oldest son, turned 13, I decided to expand his trust zone. On his birthday I took him to breakfast and I said to him, "Thom, we are going to trust you to take care of your room. It is yours. If you want to live in a pig pen, that is up to you. I'm not going to keep harping on you to clean up your room. The only exception is when we have company, your room must be a showcase—but the rest of the time, you choose." I remember when I told my wife, Susie, what I had done, she responded, "You said WHAT?" I was confident that I could trust him to live in a clean room.

What a huge mistake. Thom would undress leaving all of his clothes on the floor. He never made his bed and in a few weeks we couldn't get in the room. Susie wondered where I ever came up with that stupid idea. I was wondering also. We began to have company over every week just to have him clean up the room.

Sometimes we give too much trust too soon. Alec and I talked about how hard it is to define those levels of trust and how in three years he would be living in a college dorm and trying to get his roommates to keep the room clean (Alec actually keeps a pretty clean room).

Other times we over react and don't grant trust. Volunteers have a word for it. It is called "micromanagement." No one likes to be micromanaged. The micromanager monitors and analyzes minute steps and refuses to empower decisions. While volunteer managers rationalize their micromanagement tendencies with excuses such as, "I'm just holding our volunteers accountable and responsible," volunteers recognize micro-management tendencies. Perhaps the worst mantra that a volunteer can use for a manager is, "Who do you think you are—my mother?"

I learned several things from my visit with Alec. First, I sure like grand parenting better than parenting. Telling the story of Thom brought back the many struggles of developing trust with our children. But I also learned that we need to be more like grandparents than parents when we manage our volunteers. As a grandparent I have a tendency to listen more than I did as a parent. I also can stand back and affirm and encourage. I can help define trust zones in a way I didn't as a parent.

Alec and I laughed and joked together as we talked about my experience with his Uncle Thom. The meeting was great. How do I know? The next Saturday I got another call from Alec. But this time the request was, "Hey papa, can we hang out?" No crisis, no questions, just hang out and talk about cars—a common interest that we both share. I really like this grandpa stuff. And I began to wonder if in my professional world of volunteer management, if I master this skill of balancing freedom and control, I might be called "Papa" or maybe even "Dude."

Two ways to learn more about Trust and Guidance
  1. In the book, The New Breed, chapter six is, "Empowering the Volunteer to Do It Their Way" – from delegation to empowerment.

  2. In the Volunteer Power Workshop we train you how to balance trust and guidance.

    In the four phases of Volunteer Power management we start with low trust and increase the trust as we increase and then decrease the guidance. Strategic leadership is the delicate balance of these two factors as the leader begins at phase one and skillfully guides the volunteer through the stages while increasing the trust and decreasing the guidance (see diagram below).

    • Phase One: Awaken the Passion of the Pre-Volunteer: Low Trust and Low Guidance
    • Phase Two: Channel the Passion of the Enthusiastic Beginner Volunteer: Low Trust and High Guidance
    • Phase Three: Manage the Passion of the Fragile Veteran Volunteer: High Trust and High Guidance
    • Phase Four: Unleash the Power and Passion of the Peek Performer: High Trust and Low Guidance

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

Volunteer Power Workshop:
The New Breed of Volunteer
A Volunteer Power Workshop
Thomas McKee

Recruiting and managing the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way

Workshop Content

The 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of seismic shifts that have changed volunteer management. These shifts have impacted the volunteer organization; therefore how we recruit and manage the new breed of volunteer is a whole new game. The seismic shifts include the following:
  • Generations – Gen Y and retiring boomers—the new frontier of volunteers
  • Technology – The addition of the virtual volunteer to the face-to-face volunteer.
  • Empowerment – The knowledge worker demands to be led— not managed
The Two Leadership Factors: Guidance and Trust
  • Guidance – How much hands-on direction do I give?
  • Trust – How much confidence do I have that I can depend on the volunteer?
The Volunteer Power Management Strategy
  • Stage I – Awaken the Passion – The Pre-Volunteer – (Low Trust—Low Guidance)
    • The three levels of motivation
    • The deadly sins of recruiting volunteers
    • The dating process of recruiting
    • The "big idea" method of presenting your passion

  • Stage II – Channel the Passion -- The Passionate Beginner (Low Trust – High Guidance)
    • Communicate expectations five ways
    • Train

  • Stage III – Manage the Passion -- The Talented but often Fragile Veteran (High Trust, High Guidance)
    • Affirm the passionate who are the core of your volunteer team (recognize and reward)
    • Awaken the passion of the veteran volunteer
      • Reframe
      • Refresh
      • Re-assign
      • Re-train
      • Or – if all else fails--Retire

  • Stage IV – Empower the Passion -- The Empowered Volunteer (High Trust, Low Guidance)
    • Delegation vs. empowerment
    • How to empower the volunteer without dropping the ball

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

For more articles by Thomas McKee, visit the Articles section on our website.

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