When You Visualize Success, You Can Achieve Success

Photo by Fortune Live Media

Photo by Fortune Live Media

[Excerpts from this post are taken from Larry’s book, Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan]

Sara Blakley and Spanx

Sara Blakely may not be a familiar name in the average American home. Some of the products she has created for women, though, would be recognized through her company called Spanx. As a young woman, Sara pursued several different business opportunities that were not working out for her. Before starting her own company, she was selling fax machines door to door. Sara recalls that this time in her career was a great learning experience for her. She learned how to handle rejection through hearing lots of “no’s.” She also learned how to get to a “yes” as well. The art of the sale was a valuable lesson she learned as she finally launched her own company. She also learned another valuable lesson—visualizing becoming successful.

Photo by Mike Mozart

Photo by Mike Mozart

Blakey says she could see her business succeeding from the beginning. She visualized herself being the successful owner of Spanx. Blakely says, “I believe you can take mental snapshots of your future and what success looks like to you. If you mentally see yourself in a scenario, you’ll start to make decisions in your life that get you there.”

Sara Blakely thinks differently than most people. As a result, Forbes Magazine has recognized her as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.

Wealthy People Think Differently

Wealthy people think differently at many different levels. I’m not talking about the NBA basketball player who has the $10 million crib with ten expensive cars parked out front, either. One could make the argument that many professional sports athletes handle their money like poor people who have won the lottery. But, I digress.

Photo by Emma Lopez

Photo by Emma Lopez

When I mention wealthy people, I’m talking about people who have learned to generate income through the purchase of assets and not liabilities. This is the classic Robert Kiyosaki definition that he outlines in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The world has too many people running around today who appear wealthy. If one dug down into their finances, though, they would find they are actually quite poor. They have too many liabilities and not enough assets that generate income for their families.

Wealthy People Ask Questions

Rich thinking doesn’t mean driving a hoopty and living in a double-wide trailer while being the rental house king in our respective city with thousands of dollars in savings and investments. But before signing up for a book of payments on a $40,000 SUV or buying a $750,000 mortgage for the most expensive house in a great neighborhood, many questions should be asked. Wealthy people ask themselves money questions, such as:

  • Am I buying assets or liabilities?
  • Is this the best use of my money right now?
  • Is there a better place or better opportunity to leverage my money?
  • Do I need this particular item right now?
  • Is this a true need or a want?
  • What is the wisest thing I could do with this money, today?

For the Christian who is attempting to live according to these principles, this adds another layer of spiritual thinking. Additional questions could include:

  • Would God be pleased with this purchase? Why or why not?
  • Will this purchase impact my level of giving in the future?
  • Have I prayed about this purchase, or am I engaged in a worldly mindset?
  • Is this the absolute best use of God’s money?
  • If I make this purchase, would God be able to say to me, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”? Why or why not?

There are several key differences between the rich and poor concerning financial thinking. Wealthy people process money information, ask themselves a lot of questions, and seek the wise counsel of others they trust. Poor people follow the poor money habits of the majority of people around them. The poor make emotional purchases based on popular opinion and feelings instead of an overriding financial plan.

The information shared in this post can be found in Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan

According to Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams, Morning Habits Are A Key To Financial Abundance

Photo by David Kelly

Photo by David Kelly

[The information shared in this post can be found in Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams Has Morning Habits

Scott Adams is the creative cartoonist who came up with the “Dilbert” comic strip. He has done many interviews with online magazines and podcasts about his own unique morning routines.

Several years ago, Mr. Adams created a morning routine in which he could manifest his best, most creative work in the early morning hours. Now, he is the first to admit that he isn’t always creative during this time. He structures his morning schedule in such a way, though, to allow himself to get into a creative state if possible. Adams says, “Creativity is not something you can summon on command. The best you can do is set an attractive trap and wait. My mornings are the trap. I wait for the ideas to arrive at their leisure, like a hunter in a duck blind. And in order for the trap to work, I exercise tight control over my physical environment.”

Scott wakes up early each day, anywhere between 3:30 and 5:00 a.m. His first twenty minutes of the day are always the same. He makes it to his home office desk within ten minutes of waking up. He then sits down, eats a protein bar, and drinks a cup of coffee to be energized for the morning.

After eating, he then “primes the creative pump” with positive news. His favorite news source is Business Insider. He claims they have a good mix of business and technology, which is the perfect fit for the “Dilbert” comic strip.

He says that four hours of creative time each morning flies by. He hardly notices the clock, and by 10:00 a.m. he states that he has written “two ‘Dilbert’ comics, a blog post, a few experimental comics posted on Twitter, four clever tweets, a ‘Dilbert’ movie scene, and an email about a new idea for my startup team at CalendarTree.com.

By late morning, Adams finds he has spent his creative energies. As he approaches lunchtime, he prepares to go workout at the gym. He will repeat the same routine the next day.

Photo by Dennis Amith

Photo by Dennis Amith

Do The “Big Rocks” First!

In Stephen Covey’s classic book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey gives us the well-known illustration of the glass jar. In this example, you take a large clear container and attempt to fit water, sand, pebbles, rocks, and then several large rocks. In this visual illustration, Covey demonstrates that in order for everything to fit in the jar, it must be put in the jar in descending order: large rocks first, followed by smaller rocks, then pebbles, sand, and water. This illustration is a visual representation of our daily schedules. In order to accomplish the “big rocks” in life (in Covey terminology, the important but not urgent), important items must be scheduled first before all the smaller stuff crowds them out.

In the life of Scott Adams, we see the “big rocks” principle at work. Adams knows exactly what he needs to do in his creative work life to be successful and generate the income he needs to accomplish his goals. He has engineered his entire morning routine to complete all those important tasks before anything else gets done in his day.

Life Circumstances Created My Own Morning Habits

A few years ago, I went through a process of establishing a regular morning routine. My routine came about as a result of going through one of the absolute worst experiences in my entire life.

Professional counselors have ranked divorce as the second most stressful life event. According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory it carries a stress level of 73 out of 100. I can testify from personal experience that this statistic is true.

During this challenging time in my life, I dove deep into an early morning routine just to keep my sanity! I would usually wake up around 5:00 am and spend some time reading through my Bible. Then, I would spend time on my knees in prayer, asking God to bring healing to an impossible situation. After that, I would spend time writing a couple of pages in a journal about my problems and personal journey. I would wrap up my morning routine with writing blog posts on my first Christian personal finance blog.

My own experience with establishing a solid morning routine for the last seven years has been nothing but positive. I am more productive and focused in every area of my life, including the spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and financial. By setting aside time in the early morning hours, I am also working on my major life goals with intentionality and consistency.

I believe practicing these morning habits on a consistent, daily basis over time will produce amazing results in all areas of life. I can testify that these routines are just as critical to financial success as a well-diversified retirement portfolio.

Having a solid, purposeful morning routine will propel a person on a path to successful living that translates to every area of life.

[The information shared in this post can be found Larry’s book in the Amazon Kindle store: Beyond Peace In Christian Finances: Accelerating Past Average With Your Money Plan.]

How To Deal With An Inescapible Role That You Don’t Really Want To Fill

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Photo by Chuck Olsen

Funeral Minister For A Day

He’s dead?

There’s no way that could have happened. He’s still relatively young!

These are the thoughts I had a few weeks ago when I learned that one of my former church orchestra members had past away in his sleep.

My friend had moved out-of-state a few years ago for a new job position, so I hadn’t seen him in quite some time. As the news sunk in and became reality for me, I thought about my friend and our relationship. I reflected back on my memories with him.

I was under the assumption that his funeral would be out-of-state where he currently lived, but then, the phone call came. His wife asked me to officiate his funeral here in town. They were shipping his body back in order to do a local funeral for all the family members. She told me that he would want me to officiate his service.

Deep down, I knew she was right.

[Gulp]

What do you say to a request such as that? A request way outside of your comfort zone.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of attending funerals, let alone officiating one for someone I know.

I’m Not Qualified

I have officiated several weddings, but only one funeral. That one funeral was relatively “easy” to officiate because I didn’t personally know the person who had passed away. I had no emotional connection.

But, with my friend, I did have an emotional connection. I knew this was going to be difficult for me to do.

So, how do you deal with a challenging, uncomfortable role such as this that you really don’t feel capable of fulfilling?

6 Thoughts On Filling A Role You Really Don’t Want To Fill

Here was my approach to filling this role that I was asked to do:

  1. Acknowledge the need. The family needed an officiant for the funeral. It would need to be me or another minister. Deep down, I knew my friend’s wife was right. I couldn’t argue with her. I knew that my friend would want me to officiate his service. I had to accept this role, even though it was going to be extremely uncomfortable and emotional for me.
  2. Be confident in whatever experience you do have to help you. The biggest argument I had against doing this service was lack of experience. I had only preached one other funeral several years ago. But how do you gain experience preaching funerals? There’s only one way, by preaching funerals. Yes, I do have public speaking experience. Yes, I have script writing experience. Putting together a funeral script and preaching that script may be challenging for me, but I know that I have enough experience to do this. Be confident in the abilities God has given you.
  3. Seek advice. As soon as I knew I was going to need to prepare this funeral service, I started emailing a couple of other pastors I know for advice. They gave me some great ideas, and I was off and running in getting the funeral script and service put together.
  4. Prepare heavily. I spent quite a bit of time writing and re-writing the funeral script. Then, I spent additional time reading through and practicing the script. I visualized myself standing before the family and his friends as I delivered the various elements of the service.
  5. Pray for strength. When I was in the car driving to the funeral that morning, I spent quite a bit of time praying to the Lord for supernatural strength. He provided exactly what I needed, when I needed it!
  6. Be Authentic. I’m an emotional guy. I’ve been this way since I was a small boy. I probably could have done a better job fighting back the tears as I preached my friend’s funeral, but I allowed myself to feel the emotions of losing him. I was really in tune with the words that were coming out of my mouth. I wept occasionally as I spoke. I was overcome with emotions. In many ways, I felt like a failure as a funeral minister, but I had several friends and family members approach me after the funeral saying what a wonderful job I did. People appreciate authenticity over “having your act together.” Isn’t it strange how that works?

Questions: Have you ever had to assume a role that you really didn’t want to do? Do you agree or disagree with my approach? What was your approach?

5 Ways to Achieve Critical Mass Momentum Like The Kansas City Royals

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

Momentum.

It’s one of those aspects of life that is very difficult to quantify.

When an individual or an organization achieves momentum, how in the world are they able to accomplish that?

At the time of my writing this article, my hometown baseball team the 2014 Kansas City Royals have been able to achieve somewhat of a miracle for their franchise. For the first time in 29 years, the Royals have finally been able to make postseason play. The last time they made the playoffs was the year they won the championship in 1985.

The Royals were off to a great start at the beginning of this season but lost their way in June and July when they fell 8 games behind the Detroit Tigers. But since July 22, the Royals have been on a 41-23 tear that landed them a spot in the American League Wildcard game with the Oakland A’s. And now, the rest is history, at least up to the point of my writing this on October 8. The Royals have won their last four postseason games in a row.

So how has a wildcard team, a come from behind team such as the Royals, been able to accomplish great things over the last few months? Simply put, they are riding a tremendous wave of momentum.

But how did this momentum happen? How have the Royals been able to manufacture momentum while other perhaps “better” teams have not been equally successful?

Here are my thoughts on how some teams are able to achieve momentum while others are not.

5 Ways The Royals Have Achieved Momentum

  1. They posses team unity. A few days ago, I was watching the ALDS series with the Royals and Angels, and one of the commentators mentioned that what made the Royals unique was the fact that this ball club is not a collection of superstar players like other teams. The Royals seem to be able to check their egos at the door and do whatever they need to do for their team to win. Sometimes superstar players have a way of making decisions that benefit themselves and not necessarily the team. If you want momentum, focus on the team and less on yourself.
  2. They are focused on their strengths: speed, defense, pitching, and bullpen. These are the core strengths of the KC Royals. They are not big home run hitters. Most of their games have low scores because they are not the best offensive players. But, they also understand if they excel in their strengths, they don’t necessarily need a lot of runs to win ball games.
  3. They are working hard. Left fielder Alex Gordon is somewhat of a legend for his passion, desire, and work ethic. It is well-known that Gordon often arrives to the ballpark before even the coaching staff gets there. He has “heart and hustle” and helps the team every way he possibly can.
  4. They benefited from excellent timing. Many times, momentum builds completely on the “luck” of good timing as has happened with the Royals. But who knows. Perhaps the timing has been right because the team has put in the hard work and focused on their strengths? Maybe it’s more than just “luck.”
  5. They are having fun! You can tell the Royals are really enjoying this season. Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain recently said, “We’re going to enjoy it, going to have a blast, and hopefully we can just celebrate like this. This is awesome.”

Questions: Have you ever been part of a team that experienced a tremendous surge of momentum? What would you attribute that surge to? Are you a Royals fan? Am I missing any other big reasons why the Royals have done well this season?

Feel free to leave a blog comment for me and join the conversation.

A New Concept In Successful Living

Photo by TheTaxHaven

Photo by TheTaxHaven

A Doctor Reveals The Secret

Turn your head and cough.

Yeah, it was that magical time, once again, with my doctor. A few years ago, I had just turned 40, and I needed to go in for a physical evaluation, just to make sure everything in my body was still up to factory specs.

As he and I were sitting in the examination room going through my medical history, he told me I was a boring patient.

I was like, “Geez, thanks a lot, doc.”

Fortunately, he meant it as a compliment.

He told me that in the medical profession he loves boring patients – individuals who are proactively taking care of themselves physically and not engaging in risky behaviors.

I said, “Yup, that’s me. I’m about as vanilla as they come.”

Boring Means Successful

The more I have thought about my doctor’s statement, though, the more I have considered the importance of this as a life philosophy.

I also started thinking about successful people and their daily routines and rituals.

The successful people I know are extremely disciplined, proactive, routine-driven, and not given over to “cray cray.”

Yeah, there are a few exceptions to the rule such as successful, business people types who “party like it’s 1999” and can (sort of) keep their life stuff together, but that’s pretty rare.

The Success Habits Of The Boring

The successful boring people out there have several boring habits.

Maybe that’s a big part of why they are successful.

They wake up early. They engage in personal quiet time, prayer, or meditation. They journal. They write down and review their goals on a regular basis. They focus on two or three important tasks a day that only they can accomplish that will move their career or business forward. They work on the hardest projects, first. They fight hard against procrastination.

They delegate additional activities to others in order to stay focused on their vital few. They eat right. They exercise. They stay on top of their personal finances. They and their spouses are on the same page when it comes to business, finances, and their family. They enjoy spending time with their spouses and children.

They invest all of their time and energy into activities and processes that make a difference.

Now, how corny and square are all these activities? The majority of people on planet earth probably laugh at these type of people and call them “nerds.”

To the successful, though, these activities aren’t boring. They’re actually exciting.

So, if boring works so amazingly well, why aren’t more of us this boring?

Questions: Are you boring and successful in life? If so, what boring activities do you engage in that you would give credit for your success?

Using Mint.com As An Excellent Financial Dashboard To Think And Act Like The Wealthy

Mint.comI’m A New Fan Of Mint.com

Several years ago, I heard about Mint.com but never really took the time to dig deep and discover what this website was all about.

So, why didn’t I?

Like many financial websites, I assumed it wasn’t really going to change much of my current financial process of budgeting, saving, investing, and debt-free living. For many years now, I have been disciplined in my finances, so I wasn’t seeing the need to throw one more layer of personal finance tracking into my current process.

But a few months ago, through the encouragement of some friends of mine, I decided to give Mint.com another look.

Now I get it.

I’m not sure why I didn’t understand the beauty of this site five years ago. Because we now live in the age of electronic banking, we all have website accounts that need to be monitored. These websites include multiple bank checking and saving accounts, investment accounts, credit card accounts, and perhaps other loan accounts such as student loans.

So, once I actually took some time and plugged all my electronic accounts into Mint.com, I began to see the beauty of the website. Mint.com became my own personal finance dashboard. Instead of visiting all of my accounts individually, I could have a snapshot of my family’s financial health in one convenient website.

As I was reviewing my financial dashboard the other day, I had this thought:

Used correctly, an account on Mint.com can help people to focus on three important principles of the wealthy.

3 Important Principles Of The Wealthy

Source Note: These three principles were taken from Rich vs. Poor People Principles by Harv T. Ekker.

  1. Rich people play the money game to win. Poor people play the money game to not lose. With the way the financial dashboard is set-up on Mint.com, it has a quasi-game feeling to it. And, if you are the competitive type, I can see the dashboard having a unique way to encourage you to pay off debt, save, and invest.
  2. Rich people focus on their net worth. Poor people focus on their working income. Due to the nature of this financial dashboard, you have a clear picture of your net worth. Mint.com automatically adds up all your assets and subtracts your liabilities, leaving you with your net worth at the end. Mint does a great job with this wealth principle. I’ve enjoyed watching my net worth grow each month. Thumbs way up!
  3. Rich people manage their money well. Poor people mismanage their money well. At the end of the day, Mint.com is a great tool to manage your personal finances well. Now, you still have to put work into your personal finance management. Mint doesn’t do this management for you automatically, but this website sure can help you become a better money manager.

I realize that not everybody out there is as detailed and compulsive as I am regarding stewardship and personal finances. I am always on the lookout for new ideas and great tools to give me an even greater edge in this area of life. Mint.com is one of those tools to give you an advantage in living out the principles of the wealthy.

Questions: Do you use Mint.com in your personal finances? Why or why not? If you do use this service, do you agree with my assessment of the manner in which it helps you focus on these three wealth principles? Why or why not?






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How To Control Your Thoughts And Influence Your Outcomes

Photo by Nicola Albertini

Photo by Nicola Albertini

The Power Of Choice

“Make it a great day, or not. The choice is yours.”

This quote is on the back of an entrance sign for my daughters’ school. Every time I need to run up to school for an event, I contemplate this quote when I leave the school grounds.

This quote is a great reminder to all of us that there is tremendous power in our choices.

Before our heads hit the pillow at night, we can (and many times do) decide how the next day is going to go. We can dread it and decide that it will be a horrible day at the office. And, guess what kind of day it will be? Probably the worst day, ever, simply because we decided in advance, without even realizing it!

Or, we can take a better, more proactive approach. We can decide that tomorrow will be the best day ever, and we can’t wait to wake up in the morning and enjoy it!

Will it be a perfect day? Well, probably not perfect, but it’s going to be a better day because you made the choice in advance that it would be.

This is all rocket science, I know.

The Bible And Our Thoughts

You might be surprised that God’s Word talks about our thought life.

In Proverbs 23:7a we read, “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he …” We become what we think about.

That’s kinda scary when you contemplate that statement for a while.

Negative thoughts breed negative results. But, on the flip side, positive thoughts breed positive results.

Now, I’m not talking some kind of New Age mumbo-jumbo in these statements. But, our thoughts will guide our overall outcomes.

God wants you to have a thought life that is positively focused on faith and trust in Him for all things. Now, this doesn’t mean that our lives will be puppy dogs and rainbows once we make this switch in our mental focus. But, it does mean that God will give us the faith and strength to handle all outcomes.

Check out these additional Bible verses on our thought life [Source: Openbible.info]. Meditate on these spiritual words of wisdom this week.

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Isaiah 26:3
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Philippians 4:6-9
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Questions: How’s your thought life? Do you focus on the positive or negative? Do you purposely “guard your mind?” Do you think your current outcomes in life are related to your thought life? How do you need to think differently, starting today?






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Provide Massive Value First, Then Go For The Ask

Photo by jamesbastow

Photo by jamesbastow

Asked To Complete A Survey

One morning here recently, I was sitting at my iMac doing some writing, and an email came through from a social media/business networking company that I subscribe to. There was nothing outstanding about this email. It was pretty simple and straightforward. In fact, here’s what it said:

Dear Larry Jones,

Thanks for being a member of [company name]! The [company] Research team is conducting a slightly different kind of survey. The 7 to 12 question survey allows you to write answers based on what comes to your mind first after reading the question. Don’t think about your answers too much and feel free to keep your answers short. Your top of mind feedback will guide us in developing products and services to help you.

To take part, please respond in the next two business days. We will close the survey once we receive the desired number of qualified responses.

Please click here to begin the study.

We appreciate your time!

Best Regards,
[lady’s name]
Market Research Lead

See, it’s exactly as I said. A very simple, straightforward email. What I found interesting, though, is that this email immediately pushed me to take action.

Normally, on an email such as this, I would make a mental note and say to myself, “yeah, when I have an extra five minutes, I’ll fill out this survey.” But, not this time. I immediately stopped what I was doing and turned my attention to completing the survey for this company.

One could make the argument that it’s a well-written email with the claim of an easy-to-complete survey with a tight deadline to complete it. Yeah, I can see how that was part of my motivation to complete this quickly for them.

But, for me, the real reason I wanted to jump online and complete the survey is that I really like this company. I have received a lot of value from them. I appreciate what they do for me, personally and professionally. I can’t live without their product. I want to help them improve and become even more successful

You see, when you provide massive value to people, it’s easier to go for the ask and then ultimately get the action you desire.

Provide Value First

I believe the currency of our new economy is adding value. And, you must add a lot of value, too, over a lengthy period of time.

A quality, successful blog is a lot like this. You need to provide months, many times even years of high-value content before you can truly reap the benefits of the time and energy you have put into your content. Michael Hyatt’s blog is a good example of this. He’s currently riding a financial tidal wave of success based on years of blog writing with very little to no monetization on the front end. He built is tribe over several years, and now he’s receiving the financial reward from his tribe.

Of course, building relationships is key to anything we truly want to accomplish, whether it is a quality blog, influential ministry, successful business, or loving family. We must go above and beyond to provide massive value to those whom we influence.

Then hopefully, after we provide value to others, people will read our blog posts, follow our leadership, buy our products, or feel loved and appreciated. It’s as simple as that.

How Do We Add Value?

Adding value to others can be a challenge. I’m not going to over-simplify this. In 20+ years of leadership, I’ve noticed that every personal and professional relationship in the area of adding value varies from person to person.

With some people, you need to add tons of value with them before they completely trust you. For others, you may have an immediate, personal connection, and then they’re willing to follow you to the ends of the earth.

Here are some quick thoughts on adding value with people:

  • Be present. Show up. The only way you can add value in building relationships is to be present on a regular, ongoing basis.
  • Be energetic and magnetic. Is slow and lethargic inspiring? Probably not.
  • Have personal, meaningful conversations with them. Quality communication is key to developing any and all relationships
  • Follow-up quickly. If you promised to do something for someone, make that turn-around time as fast as humanly possible.
  • Provide WOW content. Your sermons have to be amazing. Your blog posts have to be killer. Your products have to be world-class. Your leadership has to be decisive and compelling. Your love must be unconditional.

Once we have added value, once we have gained the trust of those around us, then we can start the process of asking. The starting point, though, is always providing high value to others.

Questions: Are you doing a lot of asking for stuff and not receiving a whole lot in the process? If so, have you examined the value you are providing for others? Has your focus truly been on adding value into people’s lives or simply making the ask?

5 Strategies To Develop Your Volunteer Teams

Photo by mtsofan

Photo by mtsofan

Volunteer Development

In a normal work environment, employees are routinely and strategically developed in their professional growth. While most employees typically understand the necessity for their own proactive, self-motivated development, I’m not quite as confident that volunteers always have the same view of their individual role within an organization. Of course, volunteer development is strictly based on the type of task that needs to be performed.

For example, if you’re volunteering to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen, then a minimum of training is required (i.e. stand here and scoop these potatoes onto each plate). If you’re volunteering to teach a 5th grade boys Sunday School class at church, then I can see the potential for training in the areas of teaching, discipline, classroom management, and so on. Every volunteer position will vary in difficulty and training required to accomplish the task.

I believe the majority of volunteers show up to fill a spot. They can see and understand that there is a need. Then, they step up to meet the perceived need. I’m not always sure, though, that they understand the training and development necessary to perform their role.

If you are a leader of volunteers, then you need to passionately guide volunteers in their personal growth and development. Here are some strategies I have found useful in leading my volunteer groups.

5 Strategies For Your Volunteer Development Arsenal

  1. Model Superstardom: if you want your volunteer group to perform at an amazingly high level, then your own personal performance has to be at the extreme high-end of your own expectations. The groups that you lead will not typically rise past your own level and ability as the leader. If you desire for them to be superstars, then you need to be a superstar performer yourself, first. “You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself. “ – Gene Mauch
  2. The 5-Minute Motivational Speech: no, this isn’t shades of Matt Foley (“… living in a van, down by the river” stuff). This is actually a quasi-newer addition for me in my development arsenal. So far, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from my volunteers. They view it as spiritual devotional at the beginning of our time together. I actually view it as a way to teach and motivate my volunteers each week. Either way you view it, though, it works well as a connecting and teaching opportunity.
  3. Print and digital newsletter: for 16 years, I have done several motivational activities within the context of print media. For my own volunteer organization, we utilize a print newsletter and digital pdf version that we email out each week. Within each publication, I typically utilize these two articles to subtly and consistently develop my team. The Quote of the Week: at the top my weekly newsletter, I attempt to include a motivational and encouraging quote. You know you’ve hit a home run on a quote when members take that quote and put it up on Facebook after reading it! Note from Larry (or Note from the Leader): in this section of the newsletter, I always try to be an encourager of their successes and grateful for their commitment to the mission and vision.
  4. Workshops: whenever possible, we schedule small workshops to assist in the development of our volunteers. We occasionally will also go off site for larger workshops and conferences.
  5. Books: there have been a few occasions when I have utilized short books with smaller groups of leaders. Books are always great tools to learn and grow, even in the context of a small group. You can read through them together and have group discussions regarding what you’re learning.

Questions: Are you a leader of volunteers? Do you use any of these five strategies and have they been effective with your teams? What other strategies have you utilized and how effective have they been?

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.