Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lessons in Leadership

As many of you know, I have taken on a big leadership role this year with SHRM-Atlanta.  I am very excited about being the President of our Chapter.  I have had many leadership roles in the past including corporate America, Non-Profit Boards, and at SHRM-Atlanta.

This time it is different.

Unlike serving on a Board where you GUIDE strategy, I am in a operational position of LEADING volunteers.

Many say, "What's the difference?"

To me, it's huge.  Sure the infrastructure is very similar to a leadership job at corporate America.  You have a budget you follow, you have a leadership team that is responsible for his/her functional area,   and you have a strategic plan with goals and objectives.  But, my team doesn't get paid.  They are "working" because their heart is in the game.  The differences are the volunteers are there because they WANT to be not because they HAVE to be there to earn a living.

The critical question for me, and others in my position is how do you lead, inspire and influence a group of hardworking dedicated volunteers?

What I have soon found about myself is this:

My leadership style that has served me well at corporate America and in my own company may not serve me well in my current volunteer leadership position.

I am results focused to a point of being obnoxious.  I am driven by numbers, and progress towards a goal.  That's great when you have a team that shares the same end goal and is driving towards something that is great for the company.  Everyone gets rewarded and all is well.

Well in a volunteer situation, there aren't monetary rewards only the more intrinsic rewards that come from recognition, giving back, and giving of time and talents.  It makes us feel good...

So, given all that what I have learned is that I need to be more explicit on how grateful and blessed I feel in working with such a great volunteer team.  I need to BALANCE my goal orientation with some people appreciation.  

Here is a recent example of the balancing act I am referring to:

At one of my first meetings with my new volunteer leadership team, I passed out our agenda, went over the agenda and went straight to work on goal setting.  I did that in about 15 seconds or less, before I went over to the flip chart and started writing.  I didn't say thank you for being here...until the very end of the meeting.  I should have opened with that.  If volunteers want to be appreciated and recognized I should have put their need for that above my need for goal attainment.  Thank God, someone that is close to me and loves me, pointed out the error in my ways.  Boy, did I appreciate that feedback.  That kinda thing is both hard to give and hard to receive.  But, that feedback made me think, I better pay attention to this.  I feel all those things for my team, appreciation, thankfulness, pride, etc.  I just am not good in expressing that.

I will be working on this facet of leadership this year and for the first time in my life, I have reached out for help.  I am very fortunate to have a coach to help me in this journey.  It is my first experience ever...and I am excited about it.  So stay tuned...I am hoping at the end of this year I can say...I left SHRM-Atlanta better than it was and I influenced my team in a positive way.

What are your experiences with leading volunteers?  What lessons have you learned?


paraman52 said...

In my experience, I find Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership model best explains actually HOW to lead. Remember, lead is a verb. Your leadership style (they identify four basic ones) is determined by the job maturity of the group being led. That consists of their ability to do the job (job knowledge, competence) and their willingness to do it. There are two axes: Task Emphasis (X axis) and Relationship Emphasis (Y axis). The four basic styles are (and I am using the old verbiage): Tell, Sell, Participate, Delegate.

Unknown said...

I a definitely familiar with that model. Thanks for reminding me of that model. I believe situational is key in this scenario. Volunteers vs. employees. non profit vs profit, very different circumstances and situation, so it seems the model makes sense.

Of the 4 choices it seems participate may be my quadrant. But I am not sure what quadrant is high on task and high on relationship as I feel that applies to my situation.

Thanks for reading!


Unknown said...

Great points! I know I've actually left volunteer roles where leadership was not more focused on why the volunteer was there and thanking them for their work. I am confident you'll find your rhythm :-) See you in February!

Unknown said...

leading a volunteer group can be really humbling to one who has always held senior positions in the corporate world. If you are an achiever, you cannot achieve anything with a volunteer group if you breathe down their throats. Leading a volunteer group successfully shows one that you dont really need to crack the whip for productive actions.

paraman52 said...

Kathy, your style is the Sell style (high task, high relationship). You are stressing the need to get things done, while encouraging and emotionally supporting them (i.e., 'cheerleading'). BTW, 'Sell' is the old name for this style. I don't recall what it was changed to.

Anonymous said...

Leadership models should be used as a compass, but what is warranted here is to tap into the intangibles we all look for in team building.
I have found that if you are not careful, you can rely on formal training models too much. If it is not married with critical thinking, people skills,common sense and plain decency, you will fall into a black hole of spreadsheets and reports and forget about the foot soldiers who usually see the bullets coming. Don't let the bullets fly over your head while it is buried in models and theories. Non-profits have a way of realigning with the real world.
Good luck in your new position.