March 13, 2011

Accentuate the Positive

Posted in Best Practice, Managers Matter at 4:31 am by Sue Hine

There’s a yellow rose on my windowsill.  It is starting to droop a little since I received it on Tuesday this week on the occasion of International Women’s Day.  The yellow rose is the symbol for Zonta the service organisation working to advance the global status of women, and women’s rights. 

At the function I attended (co-hosted by Zonta) the speechifying gave much attention to the plight of women in developing countries, and some reference to the problem of domestic violence within our own communities.  Not to mention the inequities in representation in management and on boards, and in pay scales.

Women’s status, and their rights.  Hmmm….  We’ve been a long time on this one.  And we’ve been pushing for recognition and status for Management of Volunteers since around the time of the 1970s global wave of feminism.  And when I go to meetings and conferences I can see one of the reasons why: the majority of people employed in this occupation are women.

Which is no bad thing.  Women’s multi-tasking skills, relationship-building, eye for detail as well as the big picture are great assets in managing volunteers. 

But somewhere along the line there’s a big chunk of something missing.  When managers / leaders / coordinators of volunteers are run ragged, never given a jot of recognition for what they do, exploited to the nth degree, and the devil-may-care for volunteers it is small wonder there is such a high turnover and on-going stories of burn-out. 

And I start to wonder whether it’s the nature of the job, or the nature of female traits that causes such distress.  

So in the interests of self care and better management of volunteers here is my get-up-and-go list:

  •  Take responsibility for your own needs – find the supervisor or mentor, the support group to prop you up just when you need it; draw a line between what your organisation expects and what you can offer – and stand up and tell them what you think! 
  •  There is heaps written about the professionalism of managing volunteers.  So go explore the training options for professional development – figure out what you need to know and go find out how to get there.  And note: ongoing education / training is the mark of a true professional. 
  • Decide for yourself what is best for you – don’t wait for other people’s advice because it might not be right for you.  
  • Don’t you dare tell me you have not got time!  You cannot afford not to take time, specially if you are wanting the best experience for volunteers.
  • Self-care is really important.  If you do not look after yourself how can you expect to provide support for volunteers and to run a great programme? 

 So – in the words of a very old song:

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.

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