Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Two Questions You Must Ask of a Volunteer

In an previous post, Get In Sync with Your Volunteers, I presented a series of question that staff and volunteers should explore together to promote a greater harmony and a higher level of collaborative performance. In this post, I propose two questions I believe staff must ask of volunteer.

"What are the two or three most important
things you want me to know about you so
I can help you succeed as a volunteer?"

"What are the biggest questions or concerns
on your mind that need to be addressed
by me or someone else on staff?"

Asking these questions at the beginning of the staff-volunteer relationship puts into place two building blocks necessary for a trust-based partnership. You will notice the first question is about what the volunteer thinks (s)he needs to succeed, thereby laying the groundwork for a "win-win" relationship.
The second question demonstrates concern and empathy for the volunteer (who is likely to have some doubts about his or her ability to do a good job). In the course of numerous interviews with volunteers, from many different associations, the refrain I often hear goes something like this, "I just don't want to screw up during my tenure as Chair." In other words, most every volunteer feels a bit insecure about their role, it's only natural. The second question provides staff with the insights they need to reassure and support the volunteer.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trust and Keeping Promises

Yesterday, I hosted a meeting of Chapter Relations Professionals on the topic of building trust with chapters. One of the participants noted the following pattern that occurred at her old association:
The HQ would roll out a new program or service for their chapters which was well received. However, the HQ would then often decide, a couple of years later, that they would no longer be able to offer the program. Naturally, the chapters became distrustful when, at a later date, the association rolled out new programs. The chapters were unwilling to commit their time and energy to the new programs for fear they would be discontinued in the near future. Who could blame them?
All of this reminded me of a quote I read in the book Performance Management by Aubrey C. Daniels:
"Trust is measured behaviorally by the correlation between antecedents and consequences. In other words, those who always do what they say are trusted; those who do no are not trusted...An unkept promise by a manager causes the person not only to distrust the manager but the company as well."
The Bottom-Line: Every time an association rolls out a new program or service - be it for its chapters or its members - it is making a promise. To keep that promise, the association needs to be committed to the program over the long haul.

'nuff said!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Get In Sync with Your Volunteers

In theory, volunteers and staff should be collaborators or partners in helping to meet the goals and mission of the organization. All too often, we fall short of this ideal. To promote a greater harmony and a higher level of collaborative performance, I submit the following set of questions for you and your volunteers to explore together:

Is There Clarity Before We Proceed?
Are we in agreement on what is most important?

What is at stake? Why is the work of this committee or task force important? What are the consequences if either volunteers and staff fail to do their job?

Do we (i.e., volunteers and staff) have the information and facts necessary to make good decisions?

Have both volunteers and staff had the chance to say, “These are the major questions and concerns I have going forward”?

Do We Know What Success Looks Like?
Does everyone buy into it?

Do volunteers and staff share the same vision? Is everyone committed to it?

Can we articulate our goal with with the following statement? “By next year, this committee must accomplish _____.  The reason we must accomplish this is because _____ ! “(i.e., a reason that is compelling and motivating to volunteers and staff)

Do We Have a “Hit-The-Ground-Running Action Plan?”
Can we turn words into action? 
Do we have an action plan with no more than a few priorities/tasks?
Do the action steps in our plan meet the criteria below?
Feasibility:  The proposed action item is “doable” – there are sufficient resources, time and staffing to accomplish this (and do it well).
Impact: The action item will have a positive and meaningful result, the type of outcome volunteers and staff will agree, “Yes, that was worth doing.”

Are there clear role definitions among volunteers and staff? What is it that only the volunteers can and should do? What is it that only staff can and should do? What are the areas where volunteers and staff need to collaborate? Is it clear how this collaboration will be managed?

You will notice the important phrase here is, "Volunteers and staff." On second thought, let's make the phrase, "Volunteers  AND  staff."

'nuff said!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Easy on the Eye: Making Life Easier for Volunteers and Chapters

Take a moment to think about the materials you send to your volunteers and chapters (e.g., board materials, membership marketing manuals, etc). How easy on the eyes are they? With this in mind, let us take a look at a marketing manual I created for use at the state chapter level for an association. When creating this piece I tried to answer these three questions:

Is it easy, at a glance, to determine what information is on the page? In the example below, a volunteer can quickly determine the topic covered on the page. The reader doesn't need to spend time wading through dense paragraphs of text to figure out whether the information within is relevant or timely. 

Is there anything engaging that will attract the eye? The information on the More Guerrilla Tactics page uses graphic images to stimulate the interest of the reader. There's nothing particularly fancy about it, but it works.  

Are there visual cues to help the user remember and reference for use at a later date? There is often a time lag between when a volunteer receives (and hopefully peruses) a resource from HQ and when she might actually get around to using it. Thus, it is helpful to apply the "I remember seeing ____" Test. In this case, a chapter volunteer might say, "I remember seeing a primer about writing better letters."

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

You will notice this marketing manual is pretty basic. It certainly didn't win an awards for graphic design! Still, it got the job done: it was very effective as a marketing tool and well received by the folks who used it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Four Questions for Creating Trust-Building Ground Rules

In an earlier post, Ground Rules for Board, Volunteers and Staff, I presented a sample list of ten ground rules that might be used to promote trust between volunteers and staff. Recently, however, someone asked me, "How does one know if they have a good set or the right set of ground rules?"

In other words, this persons wanted to know what are the ground rules for creating ground rules for building trust.

And so, without further ado, here are the four questions you must be able to answer in order to have effective ground rules for building trust.

Ground Rule Questions

1. How do you want to be treated?

2. How do you want to treat others?

3. How do you think I want
to be treated?

4. How will we resolve conflicts?

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Interesting Fact about Trust

I have been writing (okay, proselytizing!) about trust quite a bit. So here's an important fact about trust and why it just might be really, really important: Nine out of ten employees (91%) define true success as being trusted to get a job done, surpassing fulfillment from money or a title.

This was from The 2001 Randstad North American Employee Review; trust was identified as the number one element driving employee satisfaction.

Click on slide to enlarge

'nuff said!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is a Trust-Based Partnership Possible with Your Chapter?

Look at the diagram below. Which relationship type best characterizes the situation in your association between HQ and its chapters?

Relationship Type



Both parties display trust, highly invested in the “good of the whole,” seeks high performance and innovation.


Both parties get along with each other. Friendly on surface, but no real depth or commitment in their ability to collaborate.


Both parties distrust each other. There is gossip, sabotage, low performance

Chances are, many readers of this article will sigh and then mutter, “I wish there was a true partnership between us and the chapters, but after so many years and given all the ups and downs in our relationship…”
“…in the last four months we’ve actually been partners.”

Take heart for it is possible to move from the “red” or “yellow” zones to the green zone on the chart. That’s a lesson I learned from Bob Foxworthy, developer of Trust-Based Leadership (with whom I had the pleasure of working on a project for the City of Fairfax Police Department).

Bob is best known for his work in building a partnership between Tropicana and CSX railroad. This case was discussed in Monty Roberts Horse Sense for People. Monty is a world famous horse trainer whose “Join up” technique with horses has been a model for strengthening relationships in the workplace. Many companies, including Abbot Laboratories, Volkswagen, AT&T, Toyota and Disney have studied Monty’s techniques for use in their organizations.

Now, back to the Tropicana/ CSX partnership…This is the story of a turnaround in a 28-year, bad-business “marriage.”  Orange juice, being a perishable product, must be shipped quickly from Tropicana’s processing plants to their distribution centers. Over a 28-year period, Tropicana had been dependent on the rail carrier CSX for those deliveries. For a variety of reasons, it had not been a good relationship.

With Bob Foxworthy’s help, management at both companies formed a Partnership Committee to build trust and focus on performance improvements. I know many readers will groan and say, “Another committee, big deal!” However, the results were impressive:
  • In the first year, they realized $0.8 millions in increased revenue for CSX and reduced costs for Tropicana. 
  •  Increased the number of railcars shipped out the Bradenton plant by 50%. 
  • Established a high-speed, cross-country delivery system cutting delivery time from 12-to-14 days to seven days.
The keys to their success included:
  • Information was shared openly so both companies can thoroughly understand each other’s business – “nothing is sacred.” 
  •  Partnership Committee members were given training in the principles and practices of trust-building (i.e., they were given the necessary skills and tool-kit for practical application). 
  •  As part of the Partnership practices, all employee of either company could “catch someone doing something right” and present them with a peer award. 
  •  They developed a “scorecard” so they had metrics: that way they could track success, levels of perceived trust, etc. In other words, they adhered to the maxim: if you want more of something, measure it.
Simply put, they took a systematic approach to repairing and building trust. Four months into the process, Gene Zvolensky of Tropicana addressed a meeting with representatives from both companies. “We’ve been doing business with you for twenty-eight years,” he said to his CSX colleagues. “And in the last four months we’ve actually been partners.”

The Bottom-Line:  This story serves as proof that it is possible to achieve a trust-based partnership, even after years of poor relationships. If Tropicana and CSX were able to do it, then there's hope for your association and its chapters.