Here’s part eight of chapter three of my book, A Day of Hope.
HELP OTHERS DISCOVER THEIR STRENGTHS
About two years ago I started working with a volunteer who wanted to help with our marketing. Joelle was a marketing major at CSU, Stanislaus. I met her through a mutual friend, and she let me know she’d be glad to help with our marketing if we ever needed it. I automatically said, “Yes, we can always use help.” I threw out a few ideas to her about what we might need help with and left the ball in her court to choose what she wanted to help with or propose her own ideas.
Joelle and I met every week for a couple of hours, and she was a tremendous help with A Day of Hope. Marketing isn’t something that I’m terribly passionate about. I’m ok at it, and I’ll do what needs to be done. But leading people is what I’m passionate about, not marketing. While volunteering for A Day of Hope, Joelle created a new website, made flyers for almost every single event we held, and brought lots of ideas to the table for our program.
Now Joelle works full-time for a promotional marketing company. A Day of Hope was a key stepping stone for her to discover what industry she wanted to do marketing in, and it gave her an opportunity to discover her strengths and passions while still in college. It allowed her to have some experience and helped her land a job after she was finished with college.
As I look back on Joelle’s experience, it’s satisfying to know I helped someone to discover and develop her strengths. For the rest of her life she’ll reap the rewards from her experience volunteering with A Day of Hope. Do I deserve all the credit for her discovering and developing her strengths through volunteering with A Day of Hope? No. I don’t deserve much credit at all, but I did play a role in meeting with her, encouraging her, and affirming the strengths that I saw in her. I still use her flyers to this day for A Day of Hope, and you can view many of the flyers in the appendix.
Helping others to discover their strengths can be deeply satisfying and gratifying. It’s your role as a leader to do your best to help your volunteers to discover and develop their own strengths. It will benefit A Day of Hope, the volunteers, and everyone they will go on to serve in their life.
How to do you do this? You start by throwing out some ideas on what you need help with. If you pitch them some stuff they might like to do, they’ll pick it up and say, “yes, I think I can do that,” just as Joelle did when she offered to help with marketing. Allow people to select the tasks, projects, and responsibilities they will help with. Or if a volunteer comes to you with a good idea for something that you haven’t thought of, give that volunteer permission and the resources to go for it. Turn them loose, let them experiment, and see what happens.
Always be encouraging and supportive through the entire process. Encouragement is a big piece of helping people to discover their strengths. I’ve found that we often don’t realize what we’re good at until someone else points it out to us. We don’t realize we’re good at it because it comes naturally to us, so we automatically think it comes naturally to everyone.
To help others discover their own strengths, you might want to walk them through the same process that I went through and have outlined in this chapter:
- Tell them that they have strengths, talent and potential that can be discovered and deployed.
- Ask them what comes naturally to them.
- Ask them what they love to do.
- Encourage them to focus their time and effort on activities that line up with their areas of strength.
- Help them realize that once they find their strengths, the goal is to gather people around them who can do what they are not good at.
- Tell them this whole process takes time.
After the people you lead start to go through this process, it’s up to you as the leader to find them the resources they need to support their strengths. You need to rally around them and make it so they don’t have to do any other work except what they are good at.