I have worked with volunteers – team members – since 1997. Nothing has changed since I led my first team of volunteers. Volunteers are volunteers. However, HOW I have led them has been different. We can all recognize how meaningful and helpful it is to have great volunteers on a team. Their impact matters. Their influence is palpable. Their inspiration is felt. Their passion is contagious. Their commitment is incredible. Their energy is ongoing. Their selflessness is admirable.
I have seen great volunteers walk away for different reasons. I have been guilty of being the leader of a team where great leaders jumped ship. I didn’t like it. I didn’t understand. This is where I landed…
This is how you lose a great volunteer:
- Keep dead weight on the team – Who you keep on the team communicates what you are willing to do for the good of the entire team.
- Micromanage – Give away more responsibility than you should to your trained team and trust them.
- Don’t manage at all – Leading and managing well prevents ambiguity, annoyance, and apathy.
- Forget to celebrate – Unintentional or not, overlooking praise-worthy moments are deflating.
- Over reward poor work – Recognizing subpar work for whatever reason forecasts a new standard.
- Keep people in the dark – Not communicating helpful information frustrates and isolates.
- Miss pastoral moments – The absence of care in key moments feels like the task is greater than the person.
- Refuse feedback – Remain open minded to new ideas and incorporate those thoughts that fit.
- Provide no leadership pathway – Show people the onramp(s) and how to get into a leadership role.
- Walk aimlessly – Give people clarity on purpose and where you are going.
- Misunderstand the idea of rewarding – Recognizing team members with awards can lead to a drop in motivation and productivity.
- Mismatch ability and role – Learn about someone and find the best place for them to serve.
- Lack of accountability – Create touch points for observations and insights.
“Great leaders are cultural tone setters. They are the frontline representation of the organization.”