Everyone is a Volunteer

 

Building and leading any robust enterprise is an endlessly creative and fulfilling challenge. However, managing people can be, well, a pain in the butt. So, how do you get the most from your people?

I am not going to pretend that this one post will change your universe, but, it’s ramifications are huge. Let’s start with a little confession.

I’ve spent my life working in and with churches. Translation: I have spent my life leading and working with volunteers. Volunteers are amazing. They give of their own time and good will to make things happen. At the same time, when I looked over the fence to the greener pastures of “normal” workplaces, I often got jealous. It looked like the power of the paycheck made it so much easier to manage employees compared with what it took to herd a crowd of volunteers.

I mean, employees have to “shape up or ship out.” If they want to get paid, they have to perform and “fly right.” Right? Volunteers, on the other hand, have calendar conflicts, can be hard to hold accountable, and often feel their opinions hold extraordinary weight. I was jealous of the illusion I’d created about what leadership was like in the for-profit sector.

Until it hit me one day—and, here comes the big idea—at the core, everyone is a volunteer. It doesn’t matter whether you get a paycheck or not.

That’s right. Everyone is a volunteer! Everyone makes willful decisions every day to volunteer their best effort, or not to. Aligning their focus and actions with the larger mandate and mission is a choice. Cooperating with colleagues requires a desire to do so. Just because someone is physically present, doesn’t mean they are mentally, emotionally, or willfully engaged. Any of us can be present in body even though we are rebellious in spirit.

Everyday, at every turn of events, everyone decides how much of themselves they are going to give to the responsibilities they have. The point is, we choose to volunteer ourselves, or, not to.

So, what does that mean for us as leaders?

The answer to, “How do I get the most from my people?” is actually found by flipping the question around. “How can I pour the most into my people?”

It all starts by re-orienting and reconsidering the way we exercise authority. There are four kinds of authority and only one of them is has to do with the power of position.**  Yes, you can swing the big stick, but a big stick rarely creates internal motivation. Overplay it and your people will only feel bruised and beat up.

Ask yourself, what does it take for me to become motivated and engaged?

I suggest that answer lies in the kind of environment you create for your people. How compelling is your vision or mission. How clear are people about the critical essence of their role? How adequately are they resourced? How connected are they to relationships with colleagues they work beside? What kind of reward or recognition do people get for the effort they put in?

Whether the people you lead are employees or actual volunteers, when you begin building an environment that would empower volunteers, you create an environment that will bring out everyone’s best.

There is so much more to unpack on this issue. For the next few weeks, I will post six different articles on how to create an empowering environment.

In the meantime, why not take a step back and ask yourself, how am I deliberately trying to pour into the lives of the people I lead?

 

Your Thoughts?

 

 

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**Bonus Insight:

Four Types of Authority:
Healthy leaders learn to lead from all four postures.

  • Positional Authority (Based on me being the boss)
  • Relational Authority (Based on us are friends)
  • Expertise Authority (Based on my knowledge as an expert)
  • Spiritual or Moral Authority (Based on the depth of my relationship with Christ and/or my character)

Escape from a Hurried Life

 

How to Escape from a Hurried Life

A friend and I talked one day about the perils of a hurried life and how hazardous it is to our souls. The more we considered how much a hurried life turns our souls into raisins and preps us to give beef jerky instead of steak to the people we love, the more we agreed, a hurried life is actually a toxic life.

Hurried is different than busy or demanding. You can carry lots of responsibility without being hurried. Hurried is: rushed, distracted, frantic, uncreative, non-present. In fact, hurried strikes me as the enemy of being fully present. It is a seductress that lures us into working alone and frantically faster. It is that state of anxiety where the next 4-5 things on your to-do list preoccupy your thoughts and make it hard to stay focused on the people or tasks of the moment.

The key to living in a different way is not primarily dictated by the quantity of things on your plate, but by how you live with that plate. Of course, it just might be that you have too much on your plate. If so, you’ll have to do some surgical downsizing.

If you are driven and compulsive and have your identity all wrapped up in your work, you probably have tougher issues that I can help with in this post. There are no ego strokes to be gained by living as a harried lunatic. However, I can tell you that, the leader who lives an unhurried and unharried life offers a beacon of hope to everyone who is buried by the endless demands of a 24/7 world.

If you are open to new ideas that might inject breathing space — the influx of fresh air — into your daily workload, I have four keys to help you get started.

#1 KEY = Linger in the Seams

The seams are those moments between appointments, that short breather right after putting one task to bed, the gap created by someone who is late, or the cup of coffee before opening your computer at the beginning of the day.

If you pay attention to them, you will find you have lots of little seams in the ebb and flow of your day. You have lots of little cracks in your day, just stop and linger in them. Embrace the shift without rushing forward. Take a walk. Don’t rush into the next thing. Take a moment to mentally and emotionally put to bed whatever you just finished doing. Before plowing forward, stop and reflect, “what matters most in the appointment or project that comes next?” And, while you are at it, pray for the person or project you are stepping away from as well as the one you are about to move into. The world will wait.

#2 KEY = Practice Being Fully Present with People

This is not hard. Every time you are with someone, adopt the posture of extreme curiosity. Ask them questions. See if you can discover something new to learn. Hold your tongue from delivering that witty repartee and instead seek to ferret out the complexities of emotions they face.

Being fully present with people will demolish the feeling of “another appointment” and take you into a life filled with meaningful relationships.

#3 KEY = Set Aside Time for Follow Up

It seems that every appointment or meeting I have requires some level of follow-up work afterward. It might just be entering a few notes into my computer for future reference. Or, it might be specific assignments that came during the course of the meeting. When I forget about this reality and don’t plan time to address the follow-up work that happens, I find that it jambs up my schedule and contributes to a feeling of hurriedness–too much work, too little time.

The solution is rather simple. When entering an appointment into my calendar, I simultaneously enter another block of time (usually 50% as long as the initial appointment) during which I can get the follow-up work completed. Once in a while I need longer than anticipated, but I am still way ahead of the game with much less schedule stress.

#4 KEY = Say NO to Something Everyday

I actually think that learning to say no is a leadership muscle that needs regular exercise in order to stay in shape. Try it. Say no to one request every day. Say no to an urgent “need” of someone who has a wonderful plan for your life. Say no to that temptation to squeeze in one more thing before wrapping things up for the day. Say no to a request to do something out of obligation that you honestly wouldn’t find much fun.

This tip may sound crazy or even selfish, but there is something powerful about exercising this muscle everyday. Try it. You have plenty of opportunities to say no to things you should never have said yes to. As you do, you will tangibly remind yourself that you are not a victim. Your life and your schedule is populated by your choices.

 

These are only four practices, I’d bet you have others.
What have you tried that actually works?
Make a comment, extend the conversation.

Besides, today is Memorial Day. Do something besides work.

The Power of One Thing



Every day
as a leader you have to cut through the fog and noise of the immediate to keep things focused on what matters most. There is no place where that challenge is more important than in managing the tasks and priorities swimming in your head.

Trust me, I understand. I am wired to see and want to accomplish the 17 things I think are important right now. And, when I achieve some modicum of success on those, my juices get flowing and I start thinking “carpe diem,” seize the momentum and bring up those 37 other things I have been ruminating on. Bad idea.

To that end, I offer this simple discipline: Identify the ONE THING. In every situation, every day, identify the one thing that matters most right now. And do that.

Of all the things on your “to do list,” ask yourself, “what is the one thing that will make the biggest difference today?” If your plans for the day collapse because of some unforeseen crisis, what is the one thing that is non-negotiable?

Do the same thing in planning your week and your month. Ask yourself, “what is the one thing I can or should do that will move the ball furthest down the field?”

For every appointment, identify the one thing that is most important for you to address, contribute, leave behind, celebrate, etc.?

For every meeting, what is the one thing you want every participant to walk away with?

For every presentation, what is the one message, insight, action point, principle, etc. that you are going to talk about?

It is simple. Simple to understand, but a courageously contrary discipline to execute. I dare you to try it. Instead of fixating on how to get more done, focus on the one thing that will bring strategic progress in this moment and do that thing.

TWO PROMISES
#1: Momentum. If you do this consistently I believe you will find that every day, every meeting, every communique will find these incremental steps add up to significant momentum. And, momentum is exciting.

#2: Impact. The depth of our impact is directly proportional to the narrowness of our focus. The broader your focus the more you dissipate impact. So, imagine that every conversation, every day, every week had greater impact. How good would that be?

What’s your one thing for today?

 

FYI. For a future post: “How to approach the one thing question for your life.”