5 Dos & Don’ts of Leading Volunteers

Being a volunteer myself involved in leading volunteers, I get to reflect often on how things are done and how to improve.

It is without doubt that leading volunteers tends to be tricky as you’ll have to ensure motivation and commitment are high at all times. Moreover, you’ll need to take care of the feelings and aspirations of the volunteers, no matter how young or old they are.

So to make things simple, I am going to share with you 5 Dos and 5 Don’ts in managing and leading volunteers:

Dos:

  • Thank volunteers at every milestone, every good report, every job well done. There is no upper limit of how much you can thank them and how. It can range from a simple thank you email, a tap on the shoulder, to inviting them for a free dinner/lunch/get-away.
  • Give volunteers space to make decisions and have a say in what is being done. Barely anyone likes to do donkey work or to simply follow steps given, let the volunteer role be more demanding and challenging.
  • Lead by being a role model, show the way and be the first to step up for action. It takes people a very short time to realize preachers from doers.
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up… oh and did I say it’s important to follow up? You wont imagine how smooth things will go if you just remind people if they missed something ,follow up on tasks to be done and make sure things are progressing as planned. If you just sit there and expect volunteers to get things done without any follow up..at least at the beginning, then you’ll be surprised.
  • Be friendly, polite and respectful. Yes they may seem trivial, but so many times discussions, emails or meetings can become tense, issues urgent, stakes high…that you might lose your temper, say something mean, be a bit harsh or disrespectful. Once you do that..you know you’re going to lose some one from the team or lose their trust and respect to say the least.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t underestimate any volunteer’s abilities, knowledge, network or creativity. You’ll be surprised with how much people can do when you believe in them.
  • Don’t blame or criticize volunteers publicly. Keep morale high and respect of others to each other and to yourself, if you have something negative to say…say it one-to-one.
  • Don’t take all the credit. Give credit where credit belongs… if the team is doing a good job, you owe them the credit, not yourself.
  • Don’t be biased for personal reasons. Give work, credit or thanks for those who are doing work…not for those you like or you’re friends with.
  • Don’t keep information hidden to yourself. Sharing knowledge, experience, information, contacts ..etc. with your  team is key to show them you trust them and to empower them with what they need to lead…to become self-motivated and self-managed.

I hope those few things help you out! 🙂

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My Two Cents on Leadership

I’m going to share with you some of the things I’ve realized about leadership in the several places I’ve volunteered/worked…and I believe they do apply, more or less, at all levels and in all kinds of organizations whether for profit, non profit or governmental.

I believe a clear set of qualities can be found across most those who we look up to as leaders or enjoy working with. Some of which are the following:

Vision: A leader without a vision is like a captain sailing a ship into oblivion. Without a clear direction, a goal or even a dream…that person is not leading but merely managing the work being done without giving much value to why is it being done, how and what for.

Trust: This has proved to be so essential for anyone to be a leader, he/she needs to be trusted and to be able to know how trust others. Without that sense of trust, the leader will quickly loose ground and wont have a team to work with.

Transparency: If the leader is not clear with those he’s working with then they will lose interest, have distorted ideas of what needs to be done, and they most probably will not have a shared common goal.

Stability: A leader needs to be to stable and strong to be able to support his/her team. Without that stability, both he/she and his/her team will crumble sooner or later. Stability comes from several factors…from within, from the society, from family, from work, finances…etc. Thus it is tricky to strike a balance between it all and manage to be as strong and stable as a mountain.

Competence: Any leader who is not found to be competent and able to implement work properly, he/she will not be able to lead a team. Being able to lead others by example proved to be one of the most effective ways. Thus sharing the successes and achievements he/she has done and can do in the future will raise the moral of his/her team and provide guidance.

Humbleness: A leader’s ego can lead to his/her downfall if it is not checked and trimmed often. The leader needs to keep his/her feet on the ground, always treat others as equals and make sure that how he/she acts/talks does not reflect any bossy-attitude, arrogance or a sense of superiority. Everyone on the team is equally important, respectful and worth giving the attention of the leader to develop and grow.

I know those aren’t much, but after my personal reflections those seemed to be the most obvious and note-worthy qualities that a person needs to have to be able to lead.

Let me know if you have others in mind 😉