This blog is in response to RC Ranaswamy's blog on the topic of "Can we FIRE a Volunteer? 2010 LDC Reflections" that I would title: "Employ Teamwork with volunteers to avoid negative situations like FIRING and to implement CHANGE!"
All organizations face productivity and leadership challenges that can be due to personalities, established networks, fierce competition, etc. In addition to the presence of a lack of productivity by volunteers in organizations I have been a part of, I hear an equal number of comments from several ambitious gen X and millennial volunteers expressing frustration when saying things like: "...older generation get out of the way!" and interest when saying "...how can I get involved?". It is also important to realize how much responsibility one can handle and what your goals are. Be sure to approach situations with tact, which can be another challenge entirely. The comment: "...older generation get out of the way!" should come across more like: "...here, let me help you, so you can help me too!"
As I try to figure out how these types of comments and situations arise (i.e. lazy volunteers, organizational stagnation and frustrated new blood infusion), it is apparent to me that one strategy is tried and true--ask questions and take action. Further, take action and do a good job! When you ask questions and get involved, it doesn't take long before stagnant or less than productive situations dissolve.
It doesn't take long before negative perspective (e.g. the suggestion of firing) do not need to be brought up, and new thoughts are introduced. No one likes negative view points and most of the volunteers that I know, really want to have an impact, want to help out, communicate REALLY well without bias, and go OUT OF THEIR WAY to help out.
If you notice that someone isn't carrying the volunteer mantle, simply suggest that you can take on the responsibility! There is little reason why someone in a volunteer organization should be fired, the role just needs to be filled and it should be obvious if someone isn't filling a role. Maybe group support will be required to address the situation. I once proposed for another professional society that I am a member of that a leadership role be filled with someone that could attend meetings and complete responsibilities.
The initial feedback in the meeting setting was shock and disbelief. In this particular situation, being such a small and tight-knit group, the entire group provided the necessary support and positive encouragement for the member to fill the role. I have practiced and given talks on this topic as an undergraduate starting over ten years ago. I've seen that across the board, no matter where I go in my career; there are a multitude of teamwork-focused volunteer leadership roles that need to be filled. Organizations should be flexible enough to allow for questions to be brought up in a non-threatening manner and allow for change to occur.
In closing and in an entirely clich? manner; there is no I in Team and I can't emphasize enough one of the take home points from Syamal Poddar's talk during the 2010 LDC: communication is CRITICAL and REQUIRED.
Feed with Care Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/13592495@N08/2344202300/
Standing Volunteers Image taken from: http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/thomasboro/partnerships.html
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