Thursday, August 30, 2012

Leading to Inspire Volunteers by Glenn Searle

I am a keen student of leading to inspire others and had the wonderful opportunity to undertake research into the phenomenon, the results of which were published in a leadership journal. Recently, at the Australian Institute of Management, DJ & I had a chat about inspiration in the context of leading in the volunteer sector – hence the ‘guest’ post. As part of my research, I interviewed a leader who worked extensively with volunteers and employees. The leader had some interesting perspectives that might be of interest to you.
One of his first comments was, ‘for me, inspiring people is about helping them reach their goal and potential – to help them become what they have been created to be’. Incidentally he saw little difference between volunteer and paid workers in the context of reaching goals and potential. The ways he went about inspiring them were a little different. He proposed that people often become leaders because of their position at work and, consequently, people might follow them because they are bosses.

In the volunteer sector, people primarily come to serve others, not necessarily to follow leaders. In my experience, volunteers follow leaders by desire, not by design. In essence, the question for leaders becomes, ‘Do I wish to inspire the volunteer workforce?’ Volunteers often volunteer as a result of inspiration or draw inspiration from the people they serve. Do volunteers look to be inspired by leaders? Lockwood and Kunda (1997) asserted that inspiration is about being open to the possibilities of it occurring for the self to experience it. Do you think volunteers are open to the possibility of being inspired by leaders within the organisations they give their time and effort?

The interviewed leader considered engagement was critical because volunteering in his sector was ‘a huge commitment’. He was also adamant that inspiring volunteers to engage with the vision is critical, at personal, organisational and community levels. I believe he is right. I believe inspiring people provides them with the energy and confidence they need to achieve wonderful things. How did he go about cultivating opportunities to inspire volunteers? You can read more in my new book, Inspiring Leaders, Practical Insights. In the short-term, here are a few strategies he employed specifically for inspiring volunteers:

1. Validate their importance to achieving the vision

Highlight the importance of activities in which volunteers will be involved, and help them understand the results and outcomes of their efforts. It is vital for people to connect to a vision of what is possible, and a vision of what influence they might have on the lives of others.

2. Illustrate how they could make a difference

Use photographs and images to highlight achievements, experiences and successes of previous volunteers. When people see the achievements of others, and how they connected with the people they were serving, it often inspires people to believe they can make a difference.

3. Get volunteers to share their stories

Leaders don’t have to be the source of inspiration. There are a number of studies that demonstrate that peers can be role models, and therefore a source of inspiration. Tap into the stories of previous and current volunteers to spread the good word and empower others to take action.



Glenn Searle is the Director of InspHigher and has been in the education and training industry for over 23 years in teaching, training and educational leadership roles. His involvement with people of all ages evoked a love of learning and a keen interest in leading and working with others. In an attempt to be a better leader and to understand the phenomenon of inspiration, he undertook a research thesis at UQ. Therefore it’s not surprising the primary focus of Glenn's speaking, coaching and writing is on the topic of  Leading to Inspire Others.

His academic findings were published in the Leadership and Organizational Development Journal in 2011. The article is titled, "Leading to inspire others: charismatic influence or hard work?" Interest generated by presenting his findings led to the authoring of a book , “a breath of fresh air: the leader's guide to inspiring others.”   The book is designed to help leaders and educators learn practical strategies to inspire others.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday Tip – #ttvolmgrs and follow Thoughtful Thursdays!

Join Volunteer Managers from across the globe every Thursday to participate in a weekly discussion and 'tweetchat', focusing specifically on the Volunteer Management issues of the day.
Follow @suevjones on http://ivo.org/ to be notified of the weekly blog post or make sure you visit the blogs page there every Thursday to discover the weekly topic.
Next add your thoughts via twitter using the hash tag #ttvolmgrs and, if twitter isn't your thing - you can contribute via the comments section below the blog.

I have to admit that I have been slow off the mark in regards to twitter. It took me awhile to understand what # even meant!! But I have been observing #ttvolmgrs and the conversation can be enlightening, educational and fun too! See you there! Also a big shout out to those who are giving up their own time keeping it going!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

DJs Thursday Tip: Communicate Inspire Communicate Inspire Communicate!

Keeping up communication with the volunteer team is essential in my opinion. Volunteers work on different days and different hours and it’s a challenge keeping them up to speed with organisational news and updates, new policies, great stories, etc. Here are some of my tips:
·         Create a volunteers newsletter. Have it driven by volunteers!
·         Create a volunteer email list with those volunteers who agree to be on one.
·         Have a fantastic notice board where volunteers sign in
·         Have  a volunteer liaison committee which meets regularly with volunteer management and executive/board
Keep the communication positive and inspiring. Tell the volunteering story. Share positive feedback and don’t be afraid to keep asking for volunteer feedback.
Celebrate volunteering and communicate it. Keep in touch. Volunteers will appreciate it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Telling the inspiring story of volunteering

Recently I presented at a conference on a volunteering program I manage. The presentation took out an award for innovative practice. The presentation was up against several other presentations on innovative practice in a hospital setting. It was, I noted, the only presentation on volunteers during the entire conference.


I still get nervous before presenting. It’s the same with my stage work. Sometimes I feel physically sick before walking out on stage. Once I am out there though the nerves settle. I feed off the audience. If for example I am in a stage comedy and there is no laughter after the first gag or joke and only a cough and the sound of a pin dropping then I know the night can be a struggle!

In some ways, the role of volunteer manager calls on us to be presenters. There is so much presenting we can be involved in. We present when we hold training and orientation for volunteers. We Present when we are talking to other managers about our roles. We present when we educate up about our roles and about volunteer services to our executive or our boards. We present at community forums and groups when recruiting for volunteers. In short there can be a lot of public speaking going on.

Back to the conference I was on. I was especially nervous as this was the first time I was presenting in front of a large audience outside of my workplace and outside of my volunteering and volunteer management sector. The winning presentations were voted on by the audience.

This was good I thought to my self as I sat at my table looking at the delegates throughout the room. Here were Managers, Directors and CEOs. Here was my chance to share the wonderful work of my team and here was a chance to talk up the potential and benefits of volunteering. I was sharing a room with many people of influence and I wasn’t going to miss my chance!

Such thinking of course only made me more nervous. I sat there, sweaty palms, hand shaking to get the glass of cold water to reach my lips and all the while my heart beating a little faster than usual.

Then the speaker before me was introduced to the stage. The facilitator introduced her with a glowing bio including “has completed a Diploma of Presentation Skills”.

Great! Just great! The speaker just before me too! And she was excellent of course.

Then I toddled up to the podium after my introduction. I looked at the audience. They looked back. In the distance a dog barked. Ok I made that bit up. I took a deep breath. With my deadpan face I started -

“ Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the organisers of todays event for placing me after the speaker who has just completed a diploma of Presentation skills. Thank you. That is great”

Well the laughter that rolled across the room was wonderful. My nerves settled, the palms decided to dry up a little and the heartbeat decided that it wasn’t going to run a marathon after all today.

When the laughter died down I continued “Today I am going to tell you a story about an inspiring group of people doing innovative things. These are our volunteers…” and the rest as they say is history.

I encourage all of you reading to share the story of the volunteers that you work with. Volunteer managers can be story tellers. Telling the stories of individuals and groups. While we do this well at our national conferences or volunteer get togethers we can and should tell the story to wider audiences.

Because I believe that Volunteers Matter. And I believe in telling the volunteering story. It inspires me daily. It will inspire others too in a world that needs its inspirational stories!



Thursday, August 2, 2012

DJs Thursday Tip – Add volunteers to the staff orientation checklist!

Get staff educated on volunteers and volunteering from the Get Go.

If you have paid staff at your organisation how are you educating them about volunteers and volunteering? Here’s one tip. If you have regular staff orientation sessions make sure volunteering is on the agenda. Do a little presentation or workshop on volunteers at your organisation. Don’t just rattle of what volunteers do. Spend time on how their work contributes to your organisation and its people or clients. Talk on how your organisation values your volunteers (because it should right?) and how they as staff members can contribute to the ongoing recognition of volunteers.

Are you presenting on volunteers at staff orientation? If the answer is no, now is the time to act. If your next question is “why” then here are a few of my reasons

·         First impressions last. Staff get to see that volunteers are important enough to be part of the orientation program
·         Staff understand roles and responsibilities of volunteers
·         Volunteers are part of the team right?
·         An opportunity to let people know about your role too!


 Let me know how it goes and email me if you need any more info.

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