Monday, November 1, 2010

Quit Torturing Your Volunteers

Oh, the things we ask of volunteers! But what happens when there is a misfit between duties of the volunteers and their strengths or talents? Let’s take a look at two association boards where the volunteers found themselves in a “torturous” situation.
A “Big Picture” Board is Tortured by the Financial Details.

Here we had a small association in dire financial straits; in fact, they were in danger of bankruptcy if they failed to turn things around. To assess the Board’s strengths and weaknesses, the Leadership Spectrum Profile® was used. The profile identifies six types of priorities a person is likely to favor and how that priority influences his or her decision-making process:
 Leadership Spectrum Profile®

Innovation and survival
Develop new ideas, products and services
Fast growth
Gain market share and win customers/new members
Manage risk and establish order
Build infrastructure, create systems and processes for high performance
Maximize results
Improve processes and procedures  for effective resource utilization and return
Maintain success
Develop committed workforce, build capabilities, & support culture/identity
Position for the future

Surface assumptions, practices, and issues; and create strategic options
© 1998-2002. The Leadership Spectrum Profile®. Enterprise Management Ltd.  All Rights Reserved

As you can see, the association’s situation required individuals who were Developers and Performers.  It turned out all the board members were either Challengers or Inventors. In other words, they were “big picture” thinkers and not well equipped with the skill set or temperament to meet the association’s immediate challenge. No wonder the board members were so frustrated!

A “Detail-oriented” Board is Tortured by the Big Picture.

In this case, the association represented the administrators for facilities heavily regulated by both the state and federal government. Thus, the members needed to be extremely detailed oriented in order to be successful in their work.

Now imagine the Board, consisting of such individuals, being asked to brainstorm about the future, envision multiple scenarios for success, develop a mission statement as well as broad strategies. Yes, it was a jarring mismatch. As one board member said, “This is torture for us. Our minds just don’t work this're asking people with a checklist mentality to step back and look at the big picture.” The lesson: at future strategy meetings, it was agreed to invite “outsiders” with both industry knowledge and planning skills to coach the board.
The Bottom Line.

In both of the above examples, the volunteers were inadvertently “tortured.” Imagine the frustrations of being asked to meet an important challenge for which your talents and decision-making styles are not well suited. The goal, of course, is always to set up the volunteer to succeed - in these two cases, the opposite happened.

So ask yourself, are you “torturing” your volunteers? If so, stop doing it!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Allen. Very similar situation happens also at staff level, in countless organizagations, including associations.

    For example, in sales organizatitons it's common to take a high performer and promote him/her into sales management. The once high performing sales individual turns out to be a poor sales manager. The invidual ends up being unhappy and everyone is left wondering what happned. While intention is good, it frequently leads to a misfit.

    It's SO important to have the right person in the right role doing the right things. When this happens, it's like making music and everyone wins.

    Thanks for this very important topic Allen. And all the best on your new blog.