Thursday, August 7, 2014

Volunteers

The late Peter Drucker makes the assertion that organizational leaders should view and treat employees as volunteers (rather than as servants or subordinates).  Phil Schlechty makes the same case for educators, insisting that students should be viewed and treated as volunteers - volunteers of their time, their effort, and their attention.  As I have considered the opinions of these excellent thinkers over the years, I have come to believe they are correct.  

Here are some of the reasons I believe we (and our organizations) are better served when leaders treat others as volunteers:

  • We have to "win" the investment of the volunteers' contributions, which makes us examine deeply our motivations for their desired responses and the actual need for those responses.  In effect, are our expectations from them worthy, noble, and tightly aligned to our actual goals?
  • We naturally tend to treat volunteers from a basis of equity and with reverent respect.
  • We freely offer appreciation and gratitude to volunteers (through varied means).
  • We understand that we NEED the volunteer to invest themselves fully (and we go to great lengths to avoid alienating them).
  • We work to build strong, positive, and lasting relationships with volunteers, knowing that such relationships serve both their interests and ours well over time.
  • We approach differences of opinion or contentious situations with volunteers much more gently and empathetically, in the interest of preserving those relationships.
  • We often include volunteers in the setting of expectations, establishing norms, and determining metrics of accountability.
Now you see why I believe Drucker and Schlechty are on the right track.  

One word seems to capture the wisdom of treating employees and students as volunteers - RESPECTFULNESS.

Yes, please.



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