7 Tips To Successfully Motivate Volunteers In Your Organization

Photo by Mark Brannan

Photo by Mark Brannan

Motivating Volunteers Is My Life’s Work

For the last sixteen years, my primary job role has been engaging a small, unique sub-set of volunteers – the volunteer church orchestra.

In my professional opinion, this particular position has a number of unique layers of challenging volunteer motivation. Not only do I have the incredible responsibility to motivate them to show up for rehearsals and worship services, but I also have the privilege of developing them, musically. I must take a group made up of mostly “weekend warrior” musicians and strategically motivate them to grow in their musical abilities.

So, over the last sixteen years, here is the “toolbox” I have developed, mostly through trial and error, to engage and motivate my volunteers to not only show up, but to also become better musicians.

7 Tips To Motivate Your Volunteers

  1. Get personal. If you develop a personal connection with your volunteers, then there is a greater likelihood that they will stay with your organization, long-term. You must know the names of your volunteers. Knowing the names of their spouses and kids is a major bonus and will endear you to your volunteers. Also, you need to “walk around the room.” There is something very special about a leader of any organization who arrives early and stays late just to connect with those he is leading.
  2. Mail them hand-written cards. You should regularly thank your volunteers via spoken word and email communication. This is a given. What will set you apart from others, though, is mailing them hand-written thank you, birthday, and anniversary cards. Why is this so effective? Because hardly anybody does it anymore; it’s too much work for a lot of people. Your volunteers will truly appreciate that you took additional time out of your busy schedule to provide that personal touch.
  3. Honor their time. You need to have a schedule and stick to it 99% of the time. If you ask your volunteers to be present at a specific time, then you need to start on time. If you give them an end time, then you need to end on time. Yes, there will be special circumstances when you may need to flex your start and end times, but make that a rare exception and not the rule. With our ever increasingly busy lives, people appreciate those who can stay on a firm schedule.
  4. Be prepared. Organize their work, whatever it is. You as the leader need to have your own “ducks in a row” as well. Your volunteers will greatly appreciate all of their work resources being organized and accessible as soon as they arrive to volunteer for you.
  5. Communicate the mission. Have you ever heard about the psychology study that included asking people to dig ditches, fill them back in, and ever-increasing monetary compensation for them showing back up the next day to do the exact same task? This supposed psychology study found that people who were hired to dig ditches for half a day and then directed to fill them back in the second half of the day, were less likely to return to work the next day, even if their pay was increased. Why is this? People need to know that their work matters and has some greater overall purpose. As you lead your volunteers, you must communicate the mission of your organization on a regular basis. Say it verbally. Write it down in your thank you cards. Place it prominently in your newsletters. The more your volunteers hear the mission and connect with it, the greater the likelihood that they will keep showing up to volunteer.
  6. Admit when you mess up. In my opinion, the worst leaders are the ones who can never admit they made a mistake. That’s plain dumb. We’re human beings and we all make mistakes. Your volunteers will appreciate you more if you just confess it and ask for forgiveness. Being stubborn about your failings will send your volunteers out the back door, over time.
  7. Celebrate! Every time your volunteer organization moves successfully through a project or special event, you should celebrate. Throw a little party of some type in order to pause, reflect, as well as say to your group, “Yea! We did it!” Too many times, we just blast on through to the next project and ask our people, “what have you done for me lately?” This is probably not the best way to retain your volunteers. Figure out creative, meaningful ways to celebrate your victories and at the same time show appreciation to your volunteers.

Questions: Are you a leader of a mostly volunteer organization? What do you think of these 7 specific tips? Which ones do you use to motivate your volunteers? Do you have any additional tips in your toolbox? Feel free to share your ideas with the community by leaving us a comment below.

How To Increase Your Peak Performance

Photo by itupictures

Photo by itupictures

The best way to increase your personal peak performance is to focus time and energy on your unique abilities during your golden hours.

What Are Your Unique Abilities?

What makes you, well you? Why does your workplace pay you the big bucks? What specific activities make you (or could make you) a superstar at work? Have you even really given it much thought?

For example, if:

  • you’re a professional pitcher for a major league baseball team, then you get paid for throwing strikes and keeping batters from making hits and scoring runs in order for your team to win games.
  • you’re a car salesman, then you get paid for selling and leasing a lot of cars in order for the car lot to turn a profit.
  • you’re a CEO of a major company, then you get paid for leading the employees to make your company a lot of money.
  • you’re a nurse at a hospital, then you are paid to help patients get well quickly and enjoy their stay as much as possible.
  • you’re a teacher at an elementary school, then you are paid to help students learn the concepts they need to know over the course of 10 months in order to move from one grade level to the next.

Whatever unique gifting you possess that makes you indispensable at work, then you need to focus on developing those specific gifts to higher levels of peak performance.

So, in our examples above:

  • the pitcher needs to practice high performance pitching (and related activities) regularly and consistently.
  • the car salesman needs to study and practice the best and most current sales techniques.
  • the CEO needs to be reading, studying, writing, and reflecting on his leadership skills in order to grow in his abilities and lead his company to the next level.
  • the nurse needs to develop her bedside manner and stay current in the medical field.
  • the teacher needs to develop his teaching, motivation, and disciplinary techniques in order to move his students to the next level.

Whatever unique abilities you possess in your career, you need to focus on growing these abilities during your “golden hours.” This is how peak performers beat out all the competition and become the best in their field.

What Are Your Golden Hours?

The concept of “golden hours” are your peak productivity hours each day. For the vast majority of people, these best hours will most likely be in the early morning. But, there are many people who just can’t handle the early morning routine. They’re more night owl than early bird. I know several people who will never be morning people and who actually do their best work at midnight!

In my own five daily rituals, I attempt to accomplish my top three between the hours of 4:30-7:00am. These top three rituals (journaling, Bible study, and writing) require the most quiet time and concentration. Since I have a young family, it doesn’t happen every day for me, but I try to get this time in as best I can. In the remaining hours of my morning at work, I focus on the priority activities for which my church pays me to accomplish. These early and even mid-morning hours are when I am my most productive and creative.

Again, you know you. You know if you function best first thing in the morning or late at night. And, if you’re not sure, simply experiment. Try out one week in the early morning hours, and then the next week, do the midnight thing. Figure out which week you were more productive and go with those golden hours. Leverage that time to accomplish your priority activities with excellence.

Questions: Do you know when your “golden hours” are during each day? Have you ever experimented to determine when you are most productive? Do you know what specific skills you possess that makes you invaluable to your employer? Do you have some type of scheduling plan in which you’re doing your most important work at the very best time?

3 Universal Laws That Every Teen Should Understand Before Graduation

Photo by Jason.Low

Photo by Jason.Low

We Are Governed By Universal Laws

I’m a big believer that God at the time of creation established certain laws that govern our universe. In science classes, you probably learned a few of the scientific ones when you were a kid growing up. The Law of Thermodynamics, The Law of Conservation, and the Law of Gravity are the first three that come to mind as I write this post.

While these scientific laws are certainly important, these are not the laws I’m referring to that teens should know and understand. I’m thinking more down to earth, more real-life application.

The following three laws are vitally important for all of us to comprehend and act upon in order to be successful long-term in our lives.

3 Laws Every Teen Should Learn And Love

  1. The Law of Attraction. I definitely do not want to get “New Agey” on you, because that’s not what I’m about. But, I do think there is much truth to the Law of Attraction: whatever you focus on, you attract. So, for example, if your teenager begins focusing on achieving good grades, chances are they are going to get good grades. If they focus on becoming a great drumline player in marching band, again chances are that they will become a great drummer. Whatever you spend time, energy, and focus on, you become. You attract that into your life.
  2. The Law of Compound Interest. Compound interest has long been considered one of the great miracles of economics. Even physicist Albert Einstein described it as the most powerful force in our society. The Law of Compound Interest states that investing your money carefully and allowing it to grow at a decent rate of return (compound interest) will eventually make you wealthy over time. If teenagers learned and truly comprehended this law at an early age, then there really shouldn’t be any excuses for people here in the United States to retire broke and living on Alpo.
  3. The Law of the Harvest. This law states “what you sow, you will reap.” Many times, we view this law in a negative context. “If I keep eating a whole bag of potato chips every day, then I’m going to get fat.” Or, “if I’m mean and hateful to those around me, then I won’t have any close friends.” While these negative statements may be true, the Law of the Harvest can be extremely empowering in a positive light. This is especially true within the context of awesome daily rituals. For example:
    • If I eat healthy food and exercise daily, then I have a greater probability in living a long, healthy, fulfilling life.
    • If I spend daily quiet time reading my Bible and in prayer, then I will grow in my relationship with my Lord.
    • If I write 500 words each day, then I can build a quality blog.

Sowing and reaping works in a positive context just as well as a negative one. My advice would be to focus on the more positive sowing events in order to reap more positive outcomes in your life!

Question: What do you think about these specific 3 Laws that teenagers should understand before graduation? Good list or bad list? What universal laws would you put on the list for your own teenage son or daughter to fully comprehend before they graduate from high school?

What’s Your “Why,” And Why Haven’t You Discovered It Yet?

Photo by Cea.

Photo by Cea.

The Best TED Talk Ever

Have you ever heard of a guy named Simon Sinek who has this little TED Talk video called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action?” I believe this is the most viewed TED talk to date. In my humble opinion, it’s also the best TED talk I’ve ever seen.

This guy gets it. This guy understands what inspires people to accomplish amazing things in their lives.

Before reading and further, I would encourage you to watch the TED Talk YouTube video link I have embedded into this post.

The Golden Circle

As part of Simon’s research into how great leaders inspire action, he codified the concept of “The Golden Circle.” The Golden Circle is simply a diagram of 3 concentric circles. The outside circle is labeled “What.” The second circle is labeled “How.” And, finally, the inner circle is labeled “Why.”

Photo by Gavin Llewellyn

Photo by Gavin Llewellyn

Simon believes that most people and organizations work from the outside in. They start with “what,” then move on to “how,” and then many times they never even move on to “why.” Most people’s “why” is fuzzy to them anyway. As a result, they aren’t as successful as they possibly could be.

In this video, Simon Sinek lays out the supposition that individuals who achieve great things as well as attract a passionate following start from inside The Golden Circle, and then work their way outward.

They start with their “why,” then move to “how,” and finally “what.”

3 Examples Of Powerful “Whys”

In Simon’s talk, he gives us three primary examples to support this Golden Circle concept: Apple, Inc., the Wright Brothers, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Apple, Inc. has a cult-like following because they “think differently.” The company’s mantra is to challenge the status quo. Their following is attracted to the company’s “why.” Apple just happens to build great computers, software, and peripherals as an expression of their ultimate “why.”
  • The Wright Brothers had a dream to figure out how to build a flying machine. They didn’t have a lot of money or additional resources. They mostly used equipment from their bicycle shop in Dayton, OH. What they had, though, was an incredible passion to figure out how to accomplish this flying thing. Their “why” was stronger and bigger than the others who were trying to accomplish manned, powered flight around that same time period in 1903.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. He had a long-term vision of a country that had a completely integrated society of both blacks and whites living and working together. People of all colors were attracted to his vision. The peaceful march on Washington, D.C. in 1963 and eventual end of segregation were the direct result of his “why.”

Who Cares? Why is “Why” So Important?

Why is “why” so important? From the standpoint of The Golden Circle, the “Why” of any individual or organization is the driving, passionate, motivating force to accomplish any great movement.

So, what’s your why? Do you even have a why? Do you have a vision bigger than yourself, that it keeps you motivated in your career, business, and life?

If you don’t have a great, motivating “why” for your life, don’t worry. You still have time. Spend some quality time meditating and journaling about what you’re passionate about. Attempt to pinpoint what gets you out of bed in the morning. What motivates you (or has the potential to motivate you) to live your best life and accomplish great stuff along the way?