How to have Passionate Volunteers That Keep Coming Back

When you’re a boss with paid employees, it’s easy to give orders and get things done. But when you have volunteers that choose to give up their spare time to help, it takes much more to get them there, keep them motivated, and possibly most important, keep them coming back.festival-hands-up-people-partying-picjumbo-com

From my experience of being a volunteer, and having volunteers under me, these are four crucial principles for interacting with your volunteers.

Just was a quick side note, this should not be seen as a way to manipulate people. This is simply you striving to be a better leader to those around you. Ok, let’s dive in.

 

  1. Remind them of why they’re there. When you do run your events week after week it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of it all. So it’s important for you, the leader, to remind your volunteers of the importance of their role, and also the impact they are having on the world.

    For example, I used to help with a children’s program for 1st-6th graders at a church. I was only there for a year, and had very little interaction with my small group. But recently I ran into one of my guys, who’s in middle school now. He informed me that there was just something about our time together that really encouraged him to grow in the Lord. Please hear me when I say I’m not trying to brag. What I hope you understand is that while I didn’t see anything particularly life-altering about our small group time, it had an impact on this kid. Hey, you never know.

  2. Have fun. Don’t be that guy that’s super serious and all business. No one likes that guy. Do your tasks, make sure things get done, but have fun with it. Crack jokes, be a little goofy. Maybe even playa prank once in a while (harmless ones, of course). Your volunteers might have hard jobs, but it doesn’t have to be boring.
  3. Do things with excellence. Have you ever had a job that you looked at and thought, “I am really proud of the work I did.” That’s the feeling you want people to walk away with when they volunteer. It’s a contagious feeling, and makes you want to come back for more. Maintaining high standards helps people appreciate what they’re doing.
  4. Correct problems with grace. Obviously, problems arise everywhere. How you handle them says a lot about you as a leader. I’ve had plenty of times when people under me made a mistake, and I handled it badly. When correcting someone, always listen to their side, don’t jump to conclusions, and correct in a way that builds them up. The Apostle Peter is famous for denying Christ three times. But when Jesus had the chance to talk to him about it, he was calm, and strengthened and encouraged Peter for the future.
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A Simple Strategy to Build Team Unity

When I was working in an overseas ministry, I wanted to grow in my friendship with my co-workers, both my peers and my leadership. To do this, I opened Evernote and started a note with everyone’s name on it. Then below each name I put bullet points with traits about them that I either was thankful for or admired about them. From then on, whenever I got the chance, I would try to compliment them or thank them.

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The result, however, wasn’t what I expected. I thought I would be changing their lives, but it was really me that was changing. I really became more thankful for them, and enjoyed telling them so. Hopefully, this also made me a better person to work with and be around.

I believe that one of the best things you can do for your company, team, staff, family, spouse, church, school, etc. is to exude an attitude of thankfulness.

What is thankfulness and how do I instill it in others?

I would describe being thankful is showing appreciation, either personally or publicly, for something done or something you have.

But why should I be thankful for my employees? It’s their job, They MUST do their work, right?

Wrong. They don’t have to work for you. Oh sure, there will be setbacks for them if they leave their job, but odds are they’ll be able to find another one. Maybe even a better one. Then you’re stuck with filling a position and training someone entirely new. But expressing thanks to your employees and volunteers helps build confidence and retain staff. Doesn’t it make sense that people will want to stay and work hard for someone that appreciates them.

It’s even more vital for you if you’re a Christian. Think about all the places in Scripture that pop into your mind about being thankful. The opposite of thankfulness is ungratefulness, which leads to complaining. In fact, this is the reason that God punished the entire people of Israel to wander the dessert for 40 years, keeping them out of their Promised Land.

How to do it.

To train others to be thankful you must first train yourself. If you want your children to be thankful people, they need to see you be thankful. You are the leader. Just as the vision for the company trickles down from you, so does a culture of thankfulness. Some ideas are:
  • Show it to your team. Express your thanks to everyone when you accomplish company goals.
  • Show it to individuals. If you can publicly thank someone in front of the rest of the staff, do so. Just as wrongs must be publicly addressed, so should people who do their job well.
  • Take up a special challenge. One of my college teachers gave an assignment for the entire class to write an encouraging note to three people before the next day.  Everyone was amazed at how fun it was to send encouragement to another. That’s part of being thankful. Find creative ways to promote thankfulness amongst your staff.

Why It’s Important to Agree to Disagree

I finally got a call back from a pastor who had 2 questions for me: What do I want to do in Poland, and what do I believe about the Bible. The first question was usual. But then he asked what translation I used. That’s when I lost him.

Well, this pastor started explaining how erroneous my translation was (I prefer the ESV), and how correct the King James Version was.

Bible translation is a crucial issue, but the general consensus is that several translations are acceptable and reliable. But this guy was insistent that he was right. Every time I tried to go our separate ways he just wanted to keep pressing his point of view.

Quite frankly, I didn’t care what translation he thought was the best. It was the way he pushed his view on me non-stop just left me annoyed, and quite frankly, left a really bad taste in my mouth.

For the record, I have no problem if people use King James. I know a lot of good people that still use it. But what I can’t stand is when people say one translation is better than another for no real reason.

“Some people just want to find facts that will justify their own opinions.”

But even more than that was this man’s attitude that he was absolutely right and was determined to prove it. At one point I explained that clearly we disagree about this and we should just part ways, but instead he continued trying to convert me.

When you work with other people you’re eventually going to disagree about some things. But what separates the “men from the boys” so to speak, is how you handle it. Here’s some positive reasons why you need to learn to agree to disagree and some negative ones too.

Positive reasons: 

  • You’re still friends in the end. There’s no need to lose a friend or partner over a non-crucial issue. For example, I prefer chairs over pews in a church, but my wife is the opposite. Is this going to ruin our marriage? No way!
  • You’ve shown that you can work with people. Being able to disagree with someone and still work with them in a responsible way shows maturity. It shows that you can see past the disagreement and see them for their worth.
  • It shows the love of Christ. Being able to disagree in a mature, calm way can show that you care for the person even if you disagree. Where do Christians seem to disagree the most? Church. How will people know we’re Christians? Loving each other.

Negative reasons:

  • You come across as arrogant. Just the opposite is true when you can’t get along. You come across as arrogant and proud. Nobody wants to be around someone that thinks they have the authoritative view on everything.
  • It reflects on all of your ministry. Questions arise like, “Do they dictate everything?” or “Will he destroy me for bringing up this new idea?”If people perceive you as close-minded on small issues, then they see you that way for everything you do.

How You Can Build Up the Next Generation

Solomon, because of God, is the wisest human being to ever walk the earth. Most people try to emulate his wisdom, or aspire to it. He’s like the big brother you wanted to copy because you thought he was cool. But there’s one thing that Solomon did to make sure this wisdom didn’t end with him. He passed along his gained wisdom to others, namely his son. bigstockphoto_hammer_striking_nail_w_sparks_333329

Experience trumps knowledge in many areas. Take landscaping a patio. Looking at it I would think you just clear an area, smooth out the dirt and lay some bricks. Wrong. Experience teaches about having the right foundation, taking note of the ground you’re building on, what kind of bricks you need, weather, etc. We need older, wiser, more experienced people to teach us. We need you to teach us.

Who should we pass this wisdom along to then? Solomon addressed several chapters of Proverbs to his own son (Prov. 1:8). Paul instructs Titus to have the older men train the younger (Titus 2).

Basically, we need to pass our wisdom along to the next generation. 

You can do this in many ways, but I’ve noticed 3 ways that have taught me the best:

1) Talking: Share your thoughts. Teach them from your past. Go for a walk, find out what’s going on in their life, and see if there’s any wisdom from your life that you can pass on.

2) On-the-job training: Working on a project together can really cement lessons into a persons heart. Before I served in Hungary for several years, I wanted to learn how to drive stick shift. A deacon from our church had a stick shift truck that was willing to teach me. He explained the concept to me first, but then he also let me drive it and feel for myself. It was great. While I never got to drive stick shift, I still remember the basic concept and will be so much better prepared when we get to Poland as full time missionaries.

3) Lead by example: Kids especially learn a lot by watching others. Teaching principles by our life is extremely powerful, both positive and negative.

Another example from my life is when my mentor took me out grocery shopping with him. He was doing the shopping for his wife as a treat, but also took his two little girls with us. At the end of the trip he pointed out to me the love, kindness, and wisdom of being a man and going the extra mile to take care of your wife, in this case by running errands for her and giving her alone time, something I appreciate even more now that I’m married.

How are you passing along wisdom? Who in your life taught you a wise lesson? 

Maybe We Should Be More Like Toddlers

Ever talked with a 3 year old? They’re great because they’re so curious. We love watching them explore and look at new things and ask questions. But there’s one question they seem to ask more than any other: WHY.

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I remember talking with a toddler when he was asking me consistently “Why?” It’s fun answering their questions at first, but after the first three hundred times it gets a little old. So I started asking him why he kept asking me why. My fun didn’t work though. He just changed the subject…and then asked me why about something else.

But I think these little guys ask the best question of all. It’s the one that brings us to the topic of our very existence. Unfortunately the fun stops there. Once you get older it seems people criticize you for asking why. They may not say it out loud, but they do so but what they don’t say. If you never address the topic, people will be discouraged to ask about it.

“Why?” can be applied to all areas.

  • Why do we have a weekly meeting at work?
  • Why do you cut your lawn in that direction?
  • Why do you take your kids to that particular playground?

All people, especially teens, are asking “why” questions. While it may scare us, we shouldn’t run away from this; we should embrace it. It means they’re learning, they’re growing. They have come to the end of their knowledge and want more. Man, isn’t that exciting?

It used to be that these kind of questions labelled you a trouble-maker. But good leaders are embracing the why questions. Here’s 3 things you can do to foster and encourage why questions:

1) Answer people. If you dismiss their inquiries you squash their curiosity.

2) Encourage others when they do ask. Say “That was a good question, Carl.” Not only will he be encouraged to ask more questions like that, but so will everyone around you watching.

3) You ask. If they see the leader do it, people will probably feel safe in asking why themselves. Not only will you cultivate curiosity, but it will also bring out creativity. But be careful. If you only ask things like, “Why did you screw up that project I gave you?” it won’t help you.

What was it like for you when someone encouraged you to ask why? How did people respond? 

One Thing All Teams Need to Succeed

When you try to work as a team, sooner or later your differences will arise. Different styles of doing things, different ways of talking with people, even different ideas of when something should get done. So how do can you handle these differences without blowing up at each other?

People try to overcome this in different ways.

Some try to ignore it. They turn the other cheek. And then again…and again…and again. They think that being the more mature person means taking all the hits. But in reality, they’re burying their frustration until it explodes in their face and they lash out at someone. Real maturity means confronting and resolving the issue, not ignoring it.

Some try to overpower it. They think “If I just act tougher, if I just yell louder, if I just press harder, they’ll see it my way.” That might be good for getting your way, but not only is it childish, it’s bullying and flat out wrong.

There’s really one main thing teams need to succeed.

In order for your team to succeed, you need to be able to respect one another.

The Bible has a key theme for its believers: unity. We all know that you will fail if you are divided and fractured. But how do you keep that unity going? Respecting one another. Ephesians 5:21 says “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (ESV) Then Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Now I’m not perfect at this, but a couple years ago this principle struck me (unfortunately the hard way) a couple years ago, and here’s 3 ways that I try to put respect for others into action.

1) Time  Treasuring the time of others is a sure-fire way to show respect to others. When I need to email others information I choose when to send it based on what time they will need it by. When we have a meeting, I try to respect their time by being on time.

2) Words  When it comes to assigning tasks to others, I try to ask them if they would be willing to do it as opposed to telling them to do it. Some people might get scared of that idea, but I’ve found that people are more responsive when their work feels desired and appreciated by you. Be kind to others and create an environment of helping each other, not just following rules.

3) Little Acts  Pick up a print order from the copier. Grab a supply that someone needs. Refill the Keurig rack. Offer to make a delivery if you’re going to the Post Office. Any little acts can go a long way to show that you value them

You may have the same goals, but in order to really thrive as a team you need to think of the other person. Imagine if everyone in your organization thought of everyone else first, and themselves second.

What’s a way you show respect to others? Share your creative ideas down below. 

3 Leadership Lessons from Batman

Batman is the coolest superhero to ever exist. No arguing, no debates. It’s just fact. I’ll admit I’m biased, as I’ve always been drawn to the story of Bruce Wayne.

Well, I was watching one of the movies from the “Nolan trilogy” and some thoughts occurred to me of why Batman is so effective at what he does. So for this post I want to look at 3 examples of leadership from Batman.

1). Know your purpose. Batman doesn’t get dressed up like that just to look cool. He has a purpose, a vision. And that vision is what keeps him going. It’s our vision that allow us to keep going in the hard times; to keep going when we suffer physical damage, emotional pain, and spiritual droughts.

For me, the driving force behind the more specific details of my vision is to glorify the God who saved me. It’s my relationship with God that keeps me going. Have you ever thought about what your purpose is?

2). Never looking for a Thank You. One thing about Batman is that he never expects people to say “thank you,” even after he takes a bullet! Humility is something you will always find in people that influence others. They never look for a “thank you”; they just serve. Which leads to the third point…

3). Keep a Good Team Around You. While the Dark Knight often works alone, he has several people that help him along. He works with Jim Gordon leading the police against crime, Lucius Fox to get his tech, and Alfred to take care of him. We can go far, but with a well-balanced team around us, we can go ten times farther. The body if Christ is like that, in that we all have different strengths, abilities, talents that we can use for the glory of God, working together with others.

“We can go far, but with a well-balanced team around us, we can go ten times farther.”