Do you find yourself caught up in the day-to-day minutia of getting things done? Are you constantly head-down trying to accomplish individual tasks?
Once you lose sight of the overall mission, you become a manager, not a leader, and your organization needs leaders.
Yes, the work needs to be done to further the mission but if your sole focus is on the tasks and not on the mission, both suffer. Leading volunteers involves a lot more than just getting things done. As the person in charge of your organization’s volunteers, you are a leader. You have the opportunity to make a real impact on the organization. Never mind your job title, or your perceived level in the organization; as the leader of the volunteers, you are vital.
Start by advocating—Be an advocate for volunteers. Articulate to staff and the board exactly how volunteers support the organization and further your mission. Demonstrate the real value of the volunteers. Fight for things that will benefit them, whether that’s a budget to hold appreciation events, or the opportunity to attend diversity training. What do volunteers need to be the best they can be? Remember, the more you help them, the more they will help you.
Develop a vision for your volunteer program—Know what a “perfect” volunteer program for your organization would look like, and determine the gap between that and where you are now. Certainly, no organization or program is perfect, but the closer you can get, the better. Look at the areas where you are farthest away from the ideal, and start working to make them better. Over time, you’ll see a big difference in the effectiveness of the program, and that will take your mission farther.
You need a vision, too, for the volunteers—Set a goal, leading toward the accomplishment of the mission. Make it achievable but challenging, and have them work toward it. Get them involved in the creation of the vision and in brainstorming ways to achieve it. The more they are involved right from the beginning, the more committed they will be toward accomplishing it. Once volunteers are fully committed to something, they will move mountains to achieve it.
Be strategic—Structure all your work around the organization’s strategy and mission. This helps you prioritize your tasks and make better choices about where you’re spending your (and the volunteers’) time. You might be surprised at the number of tasks that you do that aren’t actually necessary. It also helps you strike a good balance between operational and strategic priorities. Working in this way will demonstrate to your colleagues that you are a strategic thinker, and it will increase your influence. That, of course, will allow you to make an even bigger difference.
Leading strategically will advance your mission faster, with less effort—Set strategic priorities, advocate for volunteers within the organization, and set a clear vision for the program and for the volunteers. By doing this consistently, you can supercharge your volunteer program and advance your mission much faster than you would if you just focused on each task as it comes up.
It may take a bit of a mind shift, but it’s worth it.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.