Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Volunteers, Mercenaries, Drones & Indentured Servants

Marc Dickmann is a pastor. Like most pastors, he depends on volunteers to complete the bulk of the work for which he is responsible. It’s not “church as usual” where Marc leads.  Marc’s volunteers lead innovative and critical ministries like “LiveBirds,” a growing business that creates jobs for people impacted by HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe; “Christmas Village Toy Store", a pop-up Christmas store that empowers at-risk families to provide affordable new toys for their families at discounted prices; “Family Promise,” which uses the church facilities as a week-long shelter for families that are working towards getting back on their feet.

Can you imagine entrusting the most critical and complex portions of your strategy to volunteers?  How on earth do you keep workers motivated when you have no compensation to offer, no real authority to control their calendars or power to simply direct them?

Saying "thanks" and defining reality...the note amidst my desk reading.
Max DePree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is a servant.”  One reason Marc is such a smashing success with his all-volunteer workforce is the consistency with which he defines reality, then says thank you and serves people in between.  When you have a meeting with Marc to cover the details of the work you are doing with him, you can expect a card to show up in your mailbox a few days later.  The card will say “Thank you for making a contribution by ---.” Then he goes on to detail what contribution you are making and why that contribution is so important, thereby defining reality. When you get that letter, you feel indescribably warm inside.

Marc motivates volunteers by tapping into people’s deep-seated desire to make a lasting contribution that is appreciated by others.

You’d be much more effective and your workplace would be much more ensouled if you regarded your employees as volunteers; people over whom you have no authority or power, but who will accomplish remarkable things when they see the contribution they can make and sense gratitude from you for making it. 

The notion of an “employee" is illusion anyway. Workers are either volunteers or they are something completely different. If your “employees” are only working for the almighty dollar, then they are really mercenaries.  If you are directing the whole show, then they are just drones. If you are micro-managing temp/contract workers, then they are indentured servants. The difference between a volunteer and all the others is that the volunteer does the work because they want to, all the others do it because they have to.  Question is, who do you think is going to do the best job of the work before them?  Someone that wants to do it or someone that has to do it?

Ensoul lives and advance the organization’s mission by showing your “volunteers” that you understand the contribution they are making and that you are grateful for their efforts.  How will you follow Marc's lead today?

To find out how a chicken is changing the face of HIV/AIDS in Africa, read on here Live Birds.

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