A Formula for a Successful Volunteer
To begin with, there is no gender-bias in this article. I am referring to the Biblical reference of the scholarly Kings bearing gifts (Christmas). But here we are talking about YOUR three wise “men” – the ones who will bring you gifts of knowledge and experience and save your bacon.
Now I fully realize that other officers or board members may surround you and that you will listen to and work with, but that is not what I’m talking about here. This is about getting more personal in your inner circle.
If you are new to a position of leadership or landuse, this article is for you. Whether you’re a club or Association officer, delegate, event chair, or landuse person, I suggest you find your three wise advisors. A peer review of this article pointed out that this is a strategy that can improve even the best of leaders. Keep reading.
I’m sure you’ve learned this no matter how long you’ve been around: there is no quicker-to-be-butt-hurt person in the world than a volunteer who feels mislead, misinformed, or offended. This formula is how you can (mostly) avoid that and ensure your success.
Step 1: Identify your weaknesses
Be honest and find your three main weaknesses. Let’s say you’re not landuse savvy and don’t know NEPA from Nottingham. Or what if you just hate public speaking yet you must do it. And then there’s the unlucky volunteer who has to lead others yet has never been schooled in supervision and nurturing of volunteers.
Get down and dirty with yourself and honestly identify where you are least prepared for the job you just took. Pick three and take the next step.
Step 2: Recruit one advisor for each weakness
If it’s landuse, find that person that you like and trust with credibility and proven experience in this complex business and ask them to be your advisor on this topic. Yes, certainly take input from all others in your club, Board, group or association, but this “wise” person becomes your number one!
If it’s public speaking, I’m sure you know someone who just seems at ease with talking in front of people. Take some lessons from him/her. Get some coaching. Take a course. And even better yet, let Toastmasters be your “wise” advisor.
If it’s supervision, grab the person you know who is successful with inspiring, motivating and supervising volunteers and spend the time to learn their tricks. Take an online course. Read the latest volunteerism books. But for sure, get someone in your court who can offer advice that is based on solid experience.
Step 3: Don’t get in a hurry and think you know it all yet
Given that you use your three wise advisors a lot at first don’t get to thinking that you are ready to drive the boat too soon. I’m hoping that your advisors have decades of experience to share with you – one step at a time. So keep your team in your back pocket and use them until you find yourself knowing the answers before you ask the questions.
Blending the ingredients together…
If you are wondering how you handle this wise advisor vs your Board or other officers, the answer is two-fold: 1) you keep them distant from your official job and know that they are a phone call away, and 2) try to never pit “them” against your Board or fellow officers. You take all the input, including the “phone call away” and you make an informed, knowledgeable decision. Or make a better speech. Whatever the case.
Special Note from one of my personal mentors, Hall of Fame Inductee and 40-year Cal4wheel member, Jim Bramham, “This strategy should be “paid forward” as you learn and get more confident, help the next up leaders do the same. All ‘wise’ leaders should get off the camel now and then and seek and be open to the new seekers of knowledge.”
Where you will not find this formula helpful, is if you are not completely honest with yourself at the very start – identifying those areas where you know you need help. Then if you pick the wrong advisors, you will always be chasing wildfires. So to be successful in your new endeavor, take each step to heart and do it right.
General Douglas MacArthur did more than his part to win WW II, especially in the Pacific theater; and the Philippines. He was truly a superhero who lived by his credo that “A general is just as good or just as bad as the troops under his command make him.” He has also been attributed with saying something like, “I don’t have to know everything; just surround myself with staff that does.”