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Servant Leadership Empowering Volunteers

How servant leaders can look deeper to release full potential in volunteers
by

Darren Mumford

on 10 November 2013

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Transcript of Servant Leadership Empowering Volunteers

Servant Leadership Empowering Volunteers
Diving Deeper with Volunteers

It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference. ~Tom Brokaw
How can volunteers be engaged deeper through servant-led training?
Training of volunteers can sometimes be limited to the essentials, where to find required materials, how to complete forms such as a attendance list and practical skills required for the role. As a TSL I am called to value orientation and training as a critical opportunity for early engagement. When discussing a capacity building approach with volunteers, Creyton (2013) encourages us to look at what the volunteer can do with support, training and encouragement; engaging a whole set of skills rather than limiting to one specific role. During the orientation process I need to be asking good questions to learn about the passions of the volunteer and how these align with various opportunities.

Being well-prepared when a volunteer enters an organization demonstrates a genuine interest in their success, so I need to ensure I have an orientation that includes a job description reflecting the YMCA values, overall mission, specific objectives with participants and provide opportunities to build relationships with fellow volunteers and staff (Connors, 2012). Providing a strategy for training where volunteers have an opportunity to observe, assist, then lead others (Bergeron, 2013); role models our willingness to share our time for their success. A servant-lead approach also calls me to providing training that expresses the joy and meaning to be found in the volunteer role and clearly present the vision for the work (Greenleaf, 1970). This is also an opportunity to demonstrate that volunteers are an equal partner in the work and their ideas are encouraged and appreciated.
How can volunteers be engaged through deeper purpose?
Recognizing that a volunteer has a desire to make a positive impact in the world may seem quite simple but I can think of many situations where I have not made this a priority. Connors (2012) suggests that although volunteers are aware they will learn new things, that is not enough. There needs to be a purpose where learning becomes something more than when they started. An example would be a volunteer coach in our youth sports league. If the message is given that the role is teaching teamwork and basic sports skills, we are looking only at the surface. To go deeper and engage heads, hearts and hands (Wheatley and Frieze, 2011) I need to talk about the assets developed when a child engages with another positive adult role model, the transformation that can take place when a child receives encouragement and is challenged to develop values such as sharing, respect and empathy through physical activity.

Allowing volunteers to be engaged in decisions of importance is a valuable way to engage them at a deeper level. A recent opportunity to involve some youth volunteers in presentations to City Councils with the CEO of the YMCA has lead to a number of new opportunities and a growing passion for community development within these teens. They have also become role models for peers, ispiring others to take on opportunities to present to adults on important issues.
How can volunteers be engaged deeper through recognition?
Often when recognition is discussed, it tends to be a gift card at the end of a season with a short thank you note. If I am to demonstrate genuine TSL behaviour, recognition cannot be a one-off but instead, needs to be a consistent consideration. Part of the ongoing recognition process is feedback on performance as volunteers want their efforts to be meaningful and improve in their performance (Connors, 2012). Making the time to invest in verbal and written performance feedback for volunteers is an area I need to give greater consideration as it says I care about their personal development and the quality of service they provide others. Bergeron (2013) espouses consistent communication and feedback that is a two-way street with the leader asking the volunteer if there are things they need to know or they can do better.

Taking a servant-led approach in recognition of volunteers means putting thought into the way people wish to be acknowledged for their efforts. People are giving their time freely because they wish to make a positive impact so the sharing of stories where mission is being achieved and progress towards goals, recognizes how they make a difference (Fritz, 2013). When I consider recognition that has moved me most deeply, it has been very simple words from those who have seen benefit in the efforts I have made, taking the time to put their appreciation in writing. Creyton (2013) also reminds us we need to recognize volunteering is one part of a busy life for many and provide fexibility and realistic expectations for their service.
Assignment 3
Professor Bill Beatty
Leadership 503: Volunteerism & Governance
Trinity Western University
9 Nov, 2013

In his comments about servant leaders, Deterding (2013) notes that what we easily see in a
leader is their leadership skill and physical talent but deeper than that, in their heart we find their character. Often we look only at the surface in our connection with volunteers and we miss the opportunity to engage the great potential under the surface.
How are we currently engaging volunteers?
What are the benefits to deeper volunteer engagement through a TSL Approach?
How are staff team members served deeply in tandem with volunteers?
The YMCA of Greater Vancouver provides many different community services right across the Lower Mainland and volunteer engagement is lead using the decentralized approach shared by Connors (2012) where each department is responsible for their volunteers. Therefore the level of engagement varies depending on where the staff responsible sees volunteers on the continuum from a means to fulfill organizational purpose to a person who has a need for guidance, confidence building opportunities and the support to find a sense of community (Malik, 2012).

Engagement varies from volunteers who are given a very basic orientation and provided basic administrative tasks and input is rarely sought, through to volunteers who are invited to speak to City councils, lead fundraising events and work with community partners. Often the level of engagement requires a volunteer to take the initiative but a TSL will be aware of needs and consistently look for opportunities to ensure experiences are meaningful.
Connors (2012) suggests that few non-profits have the knowledge to maximize volunteer engagement and leaders don't have a clear idea of what they could expect from a highly engaged volunteer team. I believe the YMCA is moving in the right direction with volunteer engagement, in part due to the increasing expectations required for recruitment of volunteers. To increase member safety, volunteers must have a completed criminal record check, three references, read and sign a 25 page statement of understanding in regard to roles and responsibilities, view a child safety training video and within their first six months, attend a one hour child protection workshop.

The investment required prior to a volunteer beginning in their role inspires many staff to make intentional efforts to maintain engagement. An advantage to applying a TSL approach with volunteers is the sense of agency that occurs when personal values align with an organizations values and people are inspired by their opportunity to make a positive influence in the world. A servant-lead approach sees volunteers as key contributors and providing them a voice creates deeper investment. This can generate the type of resilience where programs continue to function through challenges as people become more sensitive to present and future needs for change (Wheatley and Frieze, 2011)
It is very well recognized that our lives are busier than ever with Duxbury's national report (2012) clearly showing work demands are increasing and creating increased stress for many people. Balancing the needs of volunteers and staff is a major challenge but there are opportunities for a TSL to provide strong support for both groups. One example I found very beneficial was the example of PepsiCorp where staff are engaged in volunteer opportunities. Tsokris (2013) provides an excellent example of the incredibly valuable team building that takes place when staff are given the opportunity to give of their time and learn from different people, improving communication, increasing humility and developing a desire to do more. Providing opportunities for staff and volunteers to engage in change making opportunities together seems to be an important opportunity for me to demonstrate TSL values.

Connors (2012) discusses the team building relationship between volunteers and staff at length and provides many valuable suggestions including the setting of goals for teams, promoting consistent communication between and intentionally building trust between staff and volunteers and celebrating successes together. This is something our youth leadership program has done very successfully at the YMCA and important learnings need to be shared with other teams across the association.
How difficult is a servant-led approach to supporting volunteers?
A while ago I attended a Rotary convention where a former Olympic swimmer provided a keynote speech. In discussing what it took to become an Olympian he said the concept was simple; get up early and swim for two hours, have breakfast, go to the gym for two hours, have lunch, take a nap, back to the pool for another three hours, have dinner, technical training then in bed early and repeat seven days per week for ten years. What needed to be done was simple but the dedication and discipline required was very challenging. Similarly, I believe the concepts for helping volunteers reach their full potential are quite simple but it takes practice and dedication to ensure they become consistent in my behaviour. Greenleaf (1970) provides a clear and compelling need for servant leadership but admits it is an unpopular approach as the alternatives such as being directive are much easier. The following short video provides an excellent example of how simple it can be to serve others.
References
Bergeron, C. (2013). Leading volunteers effectively. Retrieved from http://leadforward.ca/2013/10/caroline-bergeron-shares-on-leading-volunteers-effectively/
Connors, T. (2012). The volunteer management handbook: Leadership strategies for success. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Creyton, M. (2013). Working with: Collaborative approaches for engaging and leading volunteers. Volunteering Queensland
Deterding, M. (2013). The Character of a Servant Leader. Retrieved from http://www.triuneleadershipservices.com/leadership-philosophy/the-character-of-a-servant-leader.html
Duxbury, L., Higgins, C. (2012). Revisiting work-life issues in Canada: The 2012 national study on balancing work and caregiving in Canada. Retrieved fromhttps://courses.mytwu.ca/file.php/22277/Module_Resources/Module_6/Week_6/2012-National-Work-Key-Findings.pdf
References (cont.)
Fritz, J. (2013). What do your volunteers want?10 ways to make them happy. Retrieved
from http://nonprofit.about.com/od/volunteers/tp/whatvolunteerswant.htm

Greenleaf, R. (1970). The servant as leader. Retrieved from https://courses.mytwu.ca/file.php/22277/Module_Resources/Module_7/Week_7/TheServantasLeader.pdf

Hager, A., Brudney, J. (2004). Volunteer management practices and the retention of volunteers. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute

Malik, H. (2012). Servant leadership and volunteerism. Retrieved from http://www.habibmalik.com/2012/10/08/servant-leadership-and-volunteerism.html
Spears, L. A. (2002). Focus on Leadership: servant-leadership for the 21st century. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Tsokris, S. (2013). PepsiCorp performance with purpose. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvXUjWEs2H

Wheatley, M., Frieze, D. (2011). Walk out walk on: A learning journey into communities daring to live the future now. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
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