Some people dislike labels because they feel restricted and limited. Me? I’ve always wanted one. To me, it gives me a sense of belonging in this world. A sense of purpose, focus for my life. Oh how I’d love to be defined. My identity has been Something I’ve wanted to know Who am I what […]
(re-post from October 5, 2012) – interesting thinking of this same time a year 6-years later…
For over a decade, I have volunteered with associations and have gone as far as Chairing several boards. With several of these associations, there were no guidelines in managing tasks and tools to encourage volunteers, often a routine of passing the torch to anyone who volunteered to take it over with little cohesive long term planning.
There are a lot of great tools and information available online that make a great framework to utilize if entering such a role that does not have an existing guideline. I have gathered some and have embellished with my first-hand experience:
- “Volunteering is an important and essential contribution from all members of society to help others, ourselves, and to keep life running smoothly.”
- “Guide to Volunteer Recognition:
- Volunteer recognition is one of the essential components of the volunteer program. When volunteers feel recognized and appreciated, they are more likely to continue volunteering with the organization and represent the organization well in their communities.
- The most important piece of recognition is maintaining a culture of thanks – saying thank you regularly.
- Recognition is everybody’s responsibility, not just the volunteer’s manager.
- It does not have to be a grand gesture of thanks, nor does it need to be incredibly time-consuming. Recognizing a volunteer can be as simple as sending a thank you email or card. It should be done separately from any other communication, however, so as not to dilute the message of thanks.
- It is also important to remember that everyone likes to be recognized in different ways. When thinking about how to thank volunteers, keep the Platinum Rule in mind: Do unto others as they want to be done unto them. In other words, try to thank them the way they want to be acknowledged, not necessarily the way you might want to be. A simple way to determine the type of recognition volunteers are looking for is to ask them why they are volunteering (building their resume, sharpening their skills, meeting new people, etc.). The type of recognition they are looking for is usually tied to the motivation behind their volunteerism.”
- “Express appreciation when appropriate: Be sincere. Nothing turns people off more than someone who is trying to curry favor. “
- “When volunteering, all personality types come together. This is perhaps more so than in a workplace, where certain personality types will tend to come together through recruitment selection seeking specific skill sets and personality traits. As such, you’ll meet people from all walks of life, with different approaches to doing things. To deal with this, sometimes you’ll need great patience and a closed mouth. If things get heated, let people have their say and then quietly summarize their position but then go on to suggest the compromising path. You don’t want to lose volunteers because of personality clashes, or those that know it all. Often these people will fly in, tell everyone else how to do it, and then drop out just as quickly as they arrived. Volunteers that succeed the most are those who stick around for the long haul, who know the background and who treat each other with respect.”
- “Question authorities who seek to over-rely on volunteers. If you feel that an organization is asking too much of volunteers, speak up and say that this work ought to be performed by paid persons. There can be a tendency to rely too much on the goodwill of people. “
- “Lead by example: …most importantly, lead your volunteers by example. Don’t demand anything from your volunteers that you yourself wouldn’t be willing to do. Additionally, don’t merely sit around barking out orders and then park yourself in a chair while they work hard. By all means, feel free to be directive, but it is imperative to jump in and get your hands dirty with your volunteers to show them you are willing to work hard, too.”
- “Be flexible…Remember to offer flexibility to your volunteers as well. Your personal and private life is a roller coaster, and so is that of each of your volunteers. These people are offering up their free time to assist in your project, so understand when they need to be away for a week or two or weekends here and there.”
- “Be accurate and detailed…Unlike regular employees, volunteers should not be saddled with too great a burden. This is not meant to belittle the volunteers, but rather to present them with realistic goals. Provide volunteers with clear, accurate, and concise goals from the beginning so they have direction and can produce quality results from the start.”
- “Volunteers will do whatever it takes to get the job done when there is flexibility… When we work to accommodate them at the level of their availability, they are more willing to accommodate us.”
- “Volunteers tend to renew their commitments when they are given the authority to do their job: Contented workers are those who know you will not step in and take control once the assignment has been given. It doesn’t matter if you can do a better job. That is not the issue. Letting someone else do “his or her best,” so you can find needed rest definitely is.”
- “Turn the tables: If someone says, “We can’t do that,” ask, “What CAN you do?” If that person says, “We can’t be ready by that date,” ask, “When CAN you be ready?” or “What factors are keeping you from being ready on that date?”
The Most Important Part of Working on a Board or Committee is Communication:
- Don’t drown volunteers in email: Rather than sending messages as soon as you think of something you want to say, take the time to choose the appropriate recipients and type of communiqué. There are at least three categories of emails to consider: individual exchanges with one volunteer at a time; blast emails that go to every volunteer; and emails sent collectively to selected volunteers working together on a committee or project. Note that many volunteers will be on all three of these lists, so it’s easy to overwhelm them. That’s why subject bars are so critical.
- For individual and small group communication, it’s much better to send several shorter emails – each on a specific subject – than to combine lots of points into one long message. Your goal is to allow recipients to deal with the content of each email and file it away. Not to mention how much easier it will make your life if return messages are clearly about a specific topic.
- As a substitute for working via email, consider organizing an online discussion group, such as Google Groups or Slack (http://groups.google.com/), for specific initiatives or committees. While there may be many posts to get work done, setting the “digest” option consolidates the exchanges each day and may alleviate the feeling of an inundated email box. MY NOTE: I have set this up for several boards, and it has been a lifesaver for all plus, it leaves historical documents for future board members.
- Train everyone to pay attention to the subject bar (both in receiving and sending messages) and make sure it communicates what each email contains. This is your most important tool to ensure successful email control.
- If there is something critical in the message, include the word “important” or “urgent” in the subject line, but do so sparingly. If every email message from you says urgent, recipients will not take your notes seriously. Don’t cry wolf!
- First, decide on an acronym for your organization and use it consistently as the first item in every subject bar. Then, follow the abbreviation with something that alerts volunteers about the contents of the email. Agree together to use specific terms consistently in subject bars. In other words, decide that you will always say “Treasurer’s Report” and not later use “Financials” or “Cash Flow” to refer to the same document you send every month. This helps everyone to recognize and save emails in similarly-named folders.
- Use “Reply All” wisely and sparingly. Give careful thought to what you say to the broader audience and avoid overloading the inbox.
- Change the subject bar when the contents of the email no longer refer to what was in the heading 3 weeks ago! It’s common for people in an ongoing cyber conversation to just keep hitting “reply” without noticing that the subject bar of the message still says “Christmas party planning” even though it is now April.
- Conversely, teach people when NOT to use “Reply All.” There are no hard and fast rules on this, but sometimes it’s helpful to say something in your message such as, “I am sending this to the whole team as a heads up, but after this Alicia and Michael can exchange emails without copying the rest of us.”
- If an email includes a deadline or a request for something specific, put this information at the beginning of the message to be sure it is seen. Then go on to explain it. If you bury deadlines at the end of your messages, don’t be surprised if they get missed.
- Of course, the issue of not getting fast answers back from volunteers is another story! Do not get angry at silence. Train everyone on how to work with you via email. Many of the tips here will help. Recognize that most people are overwhelmed by the number of electronic messages they receive and make your communications ones they will want to open. Make sure they know exactly how to respond.
Want “More Tech” to assist your Role? Here is how to get it…
by Jeanavive Janssen aka the NetworkGirl
Are you an employee who wants “More Tech” to support your Role? Here are a few tips on how you can effect change as an employee or perhaps you are an outside influence with a Tech product/SAAS you want to have championed?…the stakeholders aren’t always the same.
Who are the stakeholders in the Tech Decisions? What do you need to know to Champion the Tech you want?… (this, e.g., Is for SAAS that effects the sales team)
- The CEO – needs the big picture info if a large company and not a user.
- Who is in charge of the Budget? Finance/Accounting? They will need to know; what are the costs, initiation fees, monthly fees/user fees, cancellations terms/costs….
- The sales staff who will use the software – how does it help them?
- What other teams may be affected by implementation? Eg. Marketing?
- The VP of Sales – They will need to know; what kind of reporting or service does it offer them to increase productivity and support of their teams?
- Who else will need reporting or access?
- Who will do the training/implementation – is it you?
- Does your company have a division that does the training?
- Do you have an IT* department that can do training?
- If not, who is a stakeholder prepared to learn and train? Is it you?
- How much time is genuinely needed to implement? Who can be affected if the implementation is delayed or the team doesn’t learn it quick enough?
- Do you know what IT* means? (if not, we may need to take a big step back, and the first questions should be are you Tech-Savvy?..if, yes, keep reading)
- Do you have an in-house IT department? Are they employees or contractors?
- Are they too busy fixing printers?
- Are they the type to embrace more work?
- Or are they early adopters and want to be ahead of the curve in Tech?
- They will need to know, quality assurance issues, debugging, scalability, programming language security, and so much more – your Tech will need to talk to their Tech.
If you do have an IT department you will need to get to know how they function before you align the users, the IT can be your ally or hold up the process if there is a lot of work on their end to launch the new SAAS.
Take a walk to their department one day (are they even onsite?). Don’t engage; just investigate …don’t make any sudden movements and scare them off.
If it is a small department or a contractor, they may not have the time to embrace ideas that have not been handed down by C-Level. If it is an in-house IT department with tech adopters, they may be more inclined to assist. Do not try to work this change thru IT first, but be aware of how it affects them in the long run when it does get past down from the top, they could be the final cross-check as the experts in their field and they could “stone-wall” it. Most often, companies selling SAAS will work the IT department first, but there still has to be a real good reason for them to care to make a change; and that is where the user’s buy-in is essential.
If you don’t have an IT department and if the SAAS guarantees plug and play (with a certain amount of internet bandwidth to users), you may find that aligning the users and getting their buy-in influence over the CEO for the Tech change may be a more straightforward process.
If you are the Champion of the Tech, align yourself with a good partner on the Tech side before you go in the ring, they need to make it easy for you to understand the big picture, the bottom-line, and ROI. If you are not getting what you need from your assigned salesperson at the company – not just an “order taker,” ask for them to supply additional people who may be able to break it down in a different way so that you understand completely what you are championing. Also, are they prepared to take on the IT Dept.? with your groundwork, you will be able to provide insight into how they function.
What SAAS do you want to Champion?
- Admins or Office Managers, Check-out OfficeNinjas http://officeninjas.com/ to find more Apps/Tech/SAAS that may be good for your office: http://officeninjas.com/category/tech-tools/
- Join the Executive Assistants Organization and learn more about #tech and how to effect change: http://www.executiveassistantsorganization.com/
Really, most IT organizations need to make a decision on how to serve the people that depend on them for service and decide how they really want to interact with them. There is not a single right or wrong answer, but you can’t choose both. The method you choose really depends on your own overall organization and how you feel you can best serve them.
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