Friday, February 15, 2013

create a volunteer organization

I read somewhere the other day that all organizations are volunteer organizations.  Everyone who works at our University makes a daily decision to wake up, get dressed, get in their car, and head to work.  They could choose not get up, not get dressed, not get in their car, and not head to work (there are days I might have wanted to choose that in my life).  While they get a regular paycheck - and while many of them need that paycheck to pay the bills and live their lives - the truth is that they are still choosing to come in every day and do the job to which they have been called.  In some ways I feel very fortunate that they choose to do that on a regular basis - and in other ways it scares the heck out of me that they might choose to stay in bed, not get dressed, not get in their car, and not head to work.  So what can I do to help keep the latter behavior from happening?

I spent seven years working in a large downtown church where most of my responsibilities included overseeing programs that depended on volunteers.  Running Vacation Bible School or Sunday School...directing a choir...organizing worship services...directing a single parents ministry.  All of them included hundreds of volunteers throughout a year's time.  People's livelihood did not depend on whether or not they showed up or kept volunteering year after year.And yet, for the most part, these people decided to wake up, get dressed, get in their car, and head to their volunteer position at the church.  Why?  Here are a few thoughts as to how that may have happened:

  • they found meaning in what they did
  • they believed that what they were doing was important
  • they were involved in creating what they were doing
  • they were finding friends and a sense of community
  • they saw what they did as a calling
  • they saw the results of what they did
  • they were thanked profusely for their extra time and energy
  • they were kept away form the politics and bureaucracy as much as possible
  • they were using their specific gifts and talents in their roles
  • they - and what they did - were held up as an integral part of the church
  • they were celebrated throughout the year
  • they were given breaks when needed
As I look around my organization today, I have to ask whether or not those who work here would feel the same way about their jobs.  What am I doing people find meaning in their work...remind people that what they do is important...involve people in the creation of the work they do...create a place that is fun and builds relationships...hold up people's jobs as true callings...provide evidence of results...thank people over and over again for their interference for people so they can do their work without hassles...put people in roles that magnify their gifts...tell others how integral these people are to the organization...celebrate the work that is done...give people a time and place to breathe and relax?

I have always loved working with volunteers - whether they receive a paycheck or not.  It is my goal that those who work with me will actually CHOOSE every day to get up, get dressed, get in their cars, and head to this place we call Concordia University Texas - and that the choice will be made not because they have to, but because they want to.

Friday, February 8, 2013

the hardest thing for leaders to do maybe this is not the HARDEST thing for leaders to do, but it certainly ranks up there in the top five.  So here it is...I believe that the hardest thing for leaders to do is to shut up.  Now my mother told me never to use those words, so let me rephrase that...I believe that the hardest thing for leaders to do is to be quiet.  Most people get to a leadership position because they are good talkers.  They schmooze well, they solve problems well, they speak well, they articulate their ideas well, and they are often the first ones to offer an opinion on a subject  Eventually they end up in that office that says "leader" on the door and they keep doing what made them successful in the first

So why do I believe that the hardest thing for leaders to do is to shut up...I mean, be quiet?  Yesterday I had the honor and privilege to interview Ken Schiller, co-owner of K&N Management here in Austin.  K&N Management runs four Rudy's BBQ restaurants and 4 Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries, and Shakes restaurants.  One of the things he said repeatedly is that if he is smarter than any of the members on his team, he has hired the wrong people.  He was also a man of few words (never a good idea to invite someone for an interview who has learned to shut up...I mean, be quiet).  I realized that his success is due to the fact that he hires well, takes care of his people, and really listens to them.  The paradox is in the fact that by hiring people who are a whole lot smarter than him, and then actually listening to them, might make him the smartest man in the room.

Those of us in leadership positions have so much to learn when it comes to shutting up...I mean, being quiet.  Here are a few thoughts in how to be a better "shutter-upper:"

  • learn to ask good questions, meaning they are not questions to which you already have an answer
  • remind yourself that you do not have all the answers
  • learn to take notes when others speak
  • really believe that those around you have a lot to offer to the conversation
  • allow others to lead by giving them roles and responsibilities that put them up front
  • resist the urge to explain everything you say
  • realize that sometimes people get tired of hearing you talk
  • ask other people their opinions
  • put a sign on your desk or in your notebook or on your computer that says "shut up" (I mean, "be quiet")
  • don't always be the first one to offer an opinion
  • ask those whom you trust to let you know when you are talking more than listening
  • when you have the urge to respond, don't
I wish I could tell you that this was an easy seems that it should be.  But as I started out, this may be one of the hardest things a leader has to do.  I know it is for me, and my guess is that if you are sitting in a leadership position, it is hard for you.  You may not agree with me on this and believe that everything you have to say really matters.  I urge you to consider trying shutting up (I mean, being quiet) for a week or two and see what happens.  If you feel that your organization is worse off because of it, then by all means start talking again.  But make sure that you are not the only one in the room who once again enjoys hearing your voice.