Volunteering Can Hone People Skills

Thanks to the worldwide communication that is the internet, Australian Volunteer Manager, DJ Cronin has posted an article on OzVPM that he spotted in the Salt Lake Tribune in the USA. It is relavent to all of us who manage volunteers, including us here in South Derbyshire. This was written by Dawn House (who is probably not related to our own Richard) and her original article is at http://www.sltrib.com/ci_12925003?IADID=Search-www.sltrib.com-www.sltrib.com.

Dave Karcher, director of operations for the Bountiful Community Food Pantry and a former senior program manager at Hill Air Force Base, suggests that bosses start volunteering to sharpen interpersonal management skills.

What surprised you when you traded a managerial career for a supervisory position overseeing volunteers?

I learned that supervisors need to be a much better managers when dealing with volunteers. Paid employees will keep coming back to work because they need the paycheck, but volunteers will continuing giving their time only if they feel useful, productive and they believe they’re making a difference. With volunteers, you also need to do a better job of matching skills with the work that needs to get done. In the corporate world, you try to do that but sometimes the press of business causes you to assign tasks because they need to be done. If there’s not a good fit between volunteers’ skills and the tasks at hand, they won’t do a good job, they won’t feel like they have contributed and they won’t be coming back

Why should business managers work in a volunteer organization to hone their supervisory skills?

In a paid organization, supervisors should always try to maintain a positive, uplifting environment and give lots of positive feedback to their employees. When you manage a volunteer organization, these essential skills become a natural part of how you deal with people, which makes you a better manager. Also, in the corporate world, people are concerned about salaries, rank, title, promotional opportunities, being visible with the boss and getting credit for what they have accomplished. In volunteer world, all of that is gone. Everyone is an equal. Everyone is motivated by the same thing — the task at hand. Volunteers can be completely honest about how they think how the organization should operate. You leave your ego outside the building.

What types of supervisory traits won’t work with volunteers?

The authoritarian, “I’m the boss,” the “do it my way” won’t work. Some in the corporate world use anger as a management tool, the “what do you mean that report isn’t done?” Anger doesn’t work with volunteers. With volunteers, you must a you’ve got to work as a team. The volunteer world forces you to eliminate bad habits that just don’t work.

What managerial skill sets are strengthened when working with volunteers?

The corporate world often takes the smartest engineers, the best performers and promotes them to managers. But what you really need to do is promote employees with good people skills because the manager is the one who sets the tone for the entire organization. Their attitudes, their energies and their cooperative spirit set that tone. Almost always, under-performance can be tied to a leader weak in interpersonal skills. I would have loved to have worked for a manager who grew up in a volunteer organization.


About Volunteer Centre South Derbyshire

We are the Volunteer Centre serving South Derbyshire, supporting volunteers, volunteer managers and volunteering organsiations
This entry was posted in Good Practice, Volunteering and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Volunteering Can Hone People Skills

  1. Chris Jarvis says:

    Great cross-post article! I especially loved the observation that for NPOs, promoting people with good people skills is key! Also, the attention to motivation, and providing an environment where people can make meaningful contributions. Not new, but very well said. Thanks for posting this.

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