November 6, 2011

Finding the X Factor

Posted in Celebrations, Good news stories, Leading Volunteers, Managers Matter at 4:23 am by Sue Hine

In case you missed the celebration of the year (and I don’t mean the anniversary of a long-dead renegade who tried to blow up the English Parliament), here is an account of the event held in Wellington a couple of days ago as a celebration for International Day for Managing Volunteers (IMVDay).

You can read a brief summary of the event, but you really had to be there to get the full flavour, the spot-on comic timing, the bon mots and the audience appreciation in laughter and applause.

This poster introduces the context for interviewing short-listed applicants for a position in the Tree Rehab organisation – a rich source in itself for additional comedy.  All applicants are, in other lives, real leaders and managers of volunteer programmes, so they know their roles intimately.

What we get is a parody of management styles.  There is a humble ‘just a volunteer manager’ concerned with sharing muffins and warm fuzzies for ‘her’ volunteers.  The frenetic Fundraiser and the HR control freak speak in acronyms and refer to volunteers as ‘tools’ and ‘human capital’ like they are so many cogs in the efficiency machine.  The Executive Manager (the man in the suit) voices sexist opinions and is seeking a package that includes a car and a key to the executive bathroom as well as a hefty salary.

Like any good comedy there are moments of truth.  Teresa Green spoke about empathy, and its relevance to leading a ‘happy band of volunteers’.  H R (Hannah) Smith argued for protocols and policies that would protect both volunteers and the organisation.  Lottie Cash, when she could take the $$ signs out of her eyes and the wheeling-and-dealing with sponsors and the big-time funders, knew very well that without volunteers involved in fundraising there would be no organisation.  And Gary Gecko could climb down from his high horse long enough to point out previous experience as a volunteer could be an asset in his approach to management.

When invited to vote the audience is not really of a mind to make an appointment, though we have been given much food for thought in what does not make a good manager of volunteers.

But there is a clear X factor that emerges from the presentations we have witnessed. We need to add dramatic talent to the list of skills and attributes for managers of volunteers.

That capacity to project ourselves into other personae, to better understand what makes those volunteers (and paid staff) tick, to relate with them in ways that enhance the volunteer performance and the organisation’s real appreciation of volunteer contributions is a vital asset.  I do not mean we have to be drama queens – an introduction to models of personal styles or types is all it would take.

I’ll bet most of us already demonstrate that innate ability.  Maybe we just need to show it off a bit more often.

That is the educating up I get from Volunteer Wellington’s celebration on IMVDay 2011.

1 Comment »

  1. Alison said,

    Congratulations to Sue and the team who made the celebration of IVM day so much fun, so educational and a real celebration. Sitting in the back row I noticed the audience nudging each other and giving knowing looks as they obviously identified certain traits in others-or themselves perhaps! It was a wonderful event and my sincere thanks to all who made it happen-I never knew we had so many great actors amongst us. Roll on another year with the challenges and joy of working with volunteers.


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