Leading Volunteers

I recently completed my second term as president for the Rotary Club of Benoni Aurora. When I took on this challenge, I thought it would be a breeze to manage the club, its members, and its affairs after many years of leadership experience in the corporate environment. There were similarities concerning having a plan for the club and setting goals of what we wanted to achieve, giving feedback into a District and then into the International organisation. However, the reality is somewhat different. The club is a group of volunteers. They pay dues to belong to the club and Rotary International. The people who are there all want to be there, not for any personal gain but because they want to give back. They want to make a difference in the lives of others, and many want to leave a legacy behind. They want to expand their network to reach more people to create a more significant impact.

So what have I learnt over the past two years? Many people want to do good. They want to make a difference. I have learnt that when you do something you love and value, you do it without expectations of rewards or recognition. I have learnt that you need emotional intelligence and self-motivation. You need to be open-minded and understand the importance of our diversities and the benefits of working towards a common goal.

The important things to remember when leading people in a volunteer organisation:

  1. You need to put people first.
  2. You need to understand the members' motivation for wanting to be part of the club.
  3. You need to engage members at all times.
  4. You need to gently push people to step outside their comfort zones.
  5. You need to get people to do things they never thought they are capable of doing.
  6. You need to understand that if you want people to support you in achieving the goals, you need to get every member's buy-in at the outset.
  7. You need to remember that communication is the essential key to success.
  8. You need to empower and trust people. 

So as I sit and reflect on the points above I ask is this any different from running a business or is this not the perfect model to adopt when running a business?

Many business owners or business leaders believe they can "dictate" what we want to achieve to succeed. They pay their staff a salary, so they think their staff owe them something, they do not. This leadership style may work in the short term. However, it is not sustainable. As soon as a better option comes along, your staff are likely to leave. Leading by fear is not a way to get people to want to make a difference. They will not push themselves to achieve more or become innovative or remain committed to your cause.

If you want to achieve success, you need your team to be on the same page. In addition, you want them to be willing to step outside their comfort zone and want to make a difference. 

If your teams are happy and feel fulfilled, they will spend less time focusing on their expected rewards and instead focus on their contribution towards achieving the end goals. They will become a part of the success and be willing to go the extra mile to get there. 

As a leadership development specialist, I have seen the negative impact of drilling people to achieve results versus leading others to success. As a leader, think differently, create an organisation that people want to be part of, help create an environment that encourages others to want to make a difference. Ask yourself, if I was not paying these people to be here, would they still stand by me and want to see me achieve my goals.

To create this environment, start by connecting with your team, ensuring you share a common goal, and building mutual trust and respect. Next, define your expected outcomes, then determine how you will achieve these, ensure you have an alignment of purpose. Next, influence people positively, provide guidelines and recommendations to help them make the right decisions and change their behaviours. Next, create positive energy, enthusiasm, excitement and inspire people to want to achieve great results. Then finally empower people and build the capacity for people to perform.

Lead your team as volunteers and reap the rewards.

"I believe that leadership Coaching is a process of self-understanding and can help every organisation achieve success. Reach out to me today to learn more about how to develop your leaders, Coach Sonja Shear".

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