Archives For strengths

An essential part of ensuring volunteers stay at a nonprofit organization long-term is helping volunteers serve in areas that they are motivated and skilled.

My wife once went to work at a local Homeless Gospel Mission near where we lived. As someone with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and a master’s degree in Social Work she was excited to use some of her skills to help counsel, encourage, and support clients of the Gospel Mission. However, after my wife had clearly explained her professional experience and ideal area for volunteering to the volunteer coordinator, my wife was placed in the waiting room of the Gospel Mission where she was supposed to talk and just “hang out” with clients. Every time she showed up she was expected to randomly walk up to clients who were waiting to receive services and talk. No formal introduction was given from the Gospel Mission for my wife, no support from the staff about what my wife was supposed to do, and no understanding of the skills my wife had and what she could offer.

Do you think my wife continued volunteering for long? Of course not! She left only a week or two after she realized this Gospel Mission was not using her skills and experience in a way to help clients.

Most of the time people are willing to jump in and help a good cause even if the work is something that is uninteresting to them. However, if you want to have volunteers stay and serve for a long period of time you have to find ways to place your volunteers in areas they are motivated and skilled.

Energy flows from passion. A God-given passion—an area of intense interest—lies buried within each of us. One of the goals of volunteer experimentation is to discover that passion. Connecting our spiritual gift with an area of passion is the key to ultimate effectiveness and fulfillment in serving. It’s also one of the keys to maintaining energy when serving. When you are serving an area of passion, nobody has to fire you up to stay involved; you can’t help but show up. It feels like recess, when the bell rings and you get to do your favorite thing.
Bill Hybels, The Volunteer Revolution, pp. 81-82

In today’s post I show you some basic ways you can get your volunteers plugged into areas that they are passionate and skilled.

I. MOTIVATIONS: WHERE THEY ARE PASSIONATE TO SERVE. 

Volunteers need to be placed in areas that they are passionate to serve. You can find volunteers passion either by the area in which the volunteers serve or the task which the volunteers do. Continue Reading…

As a follow up to my post yesterday about the importance to motivate, don’t manipulate people who you are leading, today I am sharing the most powerful way you can motivate people to work with you. Whether they are staff, volunteers, or a board member, this method will be extremely important to employ if you are serious about motivating people and keeping them engaged with your mission long-term.

Flickr Photo Credit: faceleg

Flickr Photo Credit: faceleg

Leadership expert and author, John C. Maxwell believes “people’s purpose in life is always connected to their giftedness.” When leading people it is extremely important to know what their strengths are because this helps you tap into their passion and the area they want to work in.

2 Reasons Leveraging People’s Strengths is Important Continue Reading…

SAYING NO

May 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

This post is adapted from a section that was cut from the manuscript of my book titled, A Day of Hope.

SAYING NO

You have to develop the ability to say no to everything that doesn’t match up with your strengths, and that’s hard.  You have to find a way to set up systems around you and people around you who help you guard your time and energy so you can dedicate as much time as possible to the areas you’re strong in.

Focus

You’re also going to have to learn to say “no” to other outside requests that people put on you.  You probably already know, that when someone request for your time, they might not have your personal best interest in mind. They might have their own agenda they’re trying to put on you. Such as a friend who has the same problem he’s been dealing with for months, but doesn’t take any steps to make it right, however he wants to spend time with you to “talk” about it, with no intentions to take the advice you give.  A knock on the door salesman who comes to your front door asking if you have a few minutes to take a look at “gadget” he’s trying to sell.  Or a friend who’s recently become involved in the latest Multi Level Marketing (MLM) gig where he wants to talk to you about a “great opportunity.” Rarely do these people have your best interests in mind. They have their own personal agenda and they are thinking about themselves when they ask for your time. Thus, you must learn to say no.

Question: How do you say "no" to requests for your time that do not match up to your strengths?

Strength

Great leaders know their strengths.

Discovering your strengths might come to you suddenly after a little thought and effort, or they might start to slowly be revealed to you over a long period of time.  The process will be different for everyone.

In my book I share that I four strengths:

  1. Visioning – Seeing the future of what God wants me to create and do to further His kingdom.
  2. Thinking – Generating ideas and concepts that will help that vision to become real.
  3. Communicating – Communicating that vision and ideas to a group of people either in writing or speaking.
  4. Creating – Make daily progress on that vision to create new things and new services to help people.

While you go through your own strengths to discover them you might not end up with four. That just happened to be the ones I ended up with. You might have six, ten or two.  However many you feel you have is fine because there is no right or wrong amount of how many strengths you have.

When discovering your strengths, focus on qualities and characteristics, not on tasks and activities. This is important because a task and activity can often be part of a quality or characteristic. But a quality or characteristic isn’t going to be part of an activity or task.  Notice that my four strengths are primarily qualities I possess. I have great vision, I’m a good thinker, I’m a good communicator, and have the ability to create things.

An example is that I’m a good communicator in many ways. I’m a good communicator when it comes to being diplomatic and helping to find common grown with people. I’m also pretty good at connecting with a person when we’re talking one to one and I’m able to build some rapport to where we feel that we understand each other. And I’m decent at communicating to a group of people. I know how to prepare to speak, I understand how what I say will be perceived, and I know how to use my body language and tone of voice to communicate what my words mean.  As you can see, being a good communicator is a quality that I possess.  But it’s not an activity.  

There are many activities that can take place within that one quality so do your best to find your strengths that are qualities, not just tasks.

Question: What are your strengths?

 

It Takes Time

March 18, 2011 — Leave a comment

Here’s part nine of chapter three of my book, A Day of Hope.

IT TAKES TIME

Some of this is hypothetical.  What I’ve shared with you in this chapter has been a best case scenario.  There will be times when you have to do tasks that are outside of your strength zone.  There will be times you have to ask people to do tasks that are outside of their strength zone too.  Your job is to do the very best with the resources available to you.

This entire chapter is about striving to discover your strengths so you can successfully deploy them in order to contribute to A Day of Hope in the best way possible.  I certainly haven’t reached that place yet in my own leadership of A Day of Hope, but I know I’m always improving in my ability to narrow down what I’m good at and my ability to only do work in those areas.

It takes a significant amount of time to discover and deploy your strengths.  It took me years of work—and failure—to find my strengths.  Failure is a key part of figuring out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at.  Practice and thinking will also help you to discover your strengths.  Practice is the part where you try lots of things, experiment, and fail.  Thinking is what you do after you’ve “practiced” to evaluate what you’ve done and see what you’re truly good at.  You need both.  You can’t successfully discover your strengths without practicing and thinking daily.

Every successful person has discovered what her strengths are.  If you know a successful person, ask her what her strengths are and how she found them.  It was a great help to me to listen to successful leaders speak about their strengths and how they found them.  Yes, you are your own individual person. Your strengths and talents are going to be very different than others are, but you’ll still be able to listen and learn from their stories.  If you don’t know any leaders, just find someone who is great at what he does.  Or go to the local library and read a biography about a past president, a successful businessman, a professional athlete, or anyone else who is known around the world for what they do and have done.

The important thing to note is that it’s going to take time to find your strengths, and you can’t just sit around waiting for them to be figured out without work from you.  No one else is going to do it for you.  The initiative lays in your hands.

The past few months, I’ve been learning to dance with my girlfriend.  When we go out dancing there are always a lot of different dances I don’t know how to do.  But when we dance, we dance most of them because the only way I’m going to learn which dances I like and don’t like is by trying different ones.  I get out there, and we look goofy.  I accidentally step on her feet, and we fumble through it all.  When the evening is over we look back at the night and think about what dances we enjoyed and reflect on them.  So jump out there, get going, start trying things, fail, succeed, evaluate it all after it’s done, and then try again.

Always Say Yes

March 16, 2011 — Leave a comment

Here’s part seven of chapter three of my book, A Day of Hope.

ALWAYS SAY “YES”

The principle of always saying “yes” is one of my favorites in the entire book.

This principle was birthed out of feeling totally burned out and overwhelmed on many occasions.  At times I would feel so tired, burnt out, and beat up that I just couldn’t do any more.  I had nothing left to give.  I realized that the passion I had to serve people far outweighed my ability to help them on my own.  I could only work so much, and if I was going to serve and help as many people as possible, it was going to require more people to help.

Out of this experience I slowly adopted the principle that every time someone offered to help me with A Day of Hope, I would say, “Yes” to their offer.  It didn’t matter what it was, who it was, or when they offered to help; my goal was to be able to say, “Yes” to their offer regardless of any other circumstance.  This allowed them to lighten my workload.

One of my leadership weaknesses that I’m still working on is learning to delegate more.  In the past I would rarely delegate or allow others to help me.  If they offered to do something I already knew how to do or planned on doing, I would tell them that I had it taken care of.  Little did I realize that every time I told them I didn’t need their help, I was inadvertently telling them they shouldn’t offer to help in the future because I “had it taken care of.”

I began to say “yes” to every single offer someone had for A Day of Hope.  If someone offered to do a fundraiser car wash on a Saturday, I would say, “Yes, go for it!”  If someone offered to make us a new website (even though we already had a pretty good one), I would say, “Yes, make something new and let me have a look at it.”  What I’ve found is the more I’ve learned to say, “Yes” to people’s offers to help me, the more they seem to offer.

Remember that anytime someone offers to assist your effort to serve people in need, you have to find a way to say, “Yes.”  Find a way to say yes so they can do some good to help you raise funds, gather food, and raise awareness for your project to help people in need.

Here’s part six of chapter three of my book, A Day of Hope.

DEFEND YOUR STRENGTHS

There are two types of people who lead A Day of Hope: those who think of lots of ideas and those who implement ideas.  As a leader of A Day of Hope, you are more than likely in the first category.  I know I am in the first category as someone who generates lots of ideas—so many that I have trouble implementing them all.  I’m lucky if I implement 25 percent of the ideas that I generate.

If, like me, you are a person who generates lots of ideas, one of the last things you need is more people who generate ideas.  What you need are people to implement them, people who can make things happen and who can administrate well.

This is very important because my experience in this area caused me to become extremely unproductive when I first started working with people.  People will hear about what you’re doing and want to suggest ideas to help.  Often when I tell someone about the work of A Day of Hope, they’ll say it’s a great service that we offer to the community.  Then they’ll say, “You know what you should do . . ?” or “Have you ever talked to . . ?” or “Have you called this person?” or “Have you ever contacted Oprah?”  They all have great ideas, but as the leader there’s no way you can chase down all the ideas and still focus on doing what you do best.

Remember, your job as the leader is to focus on doing what you do best and to find others to do the rest.  When people keep putting ideas on you, it’s impossible to do what you do best.  I learned a long time ago not to let other people set my agenda and fill my calendar.

Here’s some effective ways to respond to people who want to give you ideas.  “Yes, that’s a great idea!  How can I support you to make it happen?” or “Yes, we do need to do that.  Can you help us?” or “I’m really busy right now, so I can’t do it.  Would you like to do it?”  Surprisingly, some will actually say in response, “Yes, I’ll give it a try,” and they will take some type of action to see that work is done.  If the person declines to take initiative on the idea they had, then it probably wasn’t that good of an idea to begin with.  If they really thought it was a good idea and wanted to help support you, then they would take the initiative to make it happen.

As you can see, this is just one example of how you’ll have to defend your strengths as the leader of A day of Hope.  There will be many other instances where you will have to do the same.  To effectively lead from a position of focusing on your strengths, you’re going to have to keep fighting to focus on them and to defend them.

Remember that if you leave your calendar and agenda up to others, they will determine it for you.

Do What You Do Best

March 11, 2011 — Leave a comment

Here’s part four of chapter three of my book, A Day of Hope.  If you missed the first three sections, you can follow the links below.

Passion: Discover & Deploy Your Strengths
You’re a Natural

DO WHAT YOU DO BEST

Once you’ve started to discover what you do best (your strengths), then it’s time to stick to them and not get side tracked with anything else.

I work daily to stay in my strength areas and try not to get pulled into other areas where I’m not the best.  In the nonprofit world there are lots of grants that can be applied for by organizations doing good work in their community.  Grants can be a great source of funding if a nonprofit is willing to go through the hard work of creating proposals, budgets and arguments of why they need the money.  Applying for grants takes a tremendous amount of patience, time, administrative strength, and a left-brained, focused, strong person who can think logically.  And that’s not me.  I’m a very right-brained, creative person who loves people and likes to be a leader.

As a result, all of the fundraising we do for A Day of Hope reflects my strengths of being a creative, relational person.  Sitting in an office by myself on a computer applying for a grant does not fit my strengths.  What fits my strengths is having a vision for what we can do and working with people to creatively get there.  This means we mostly do local events to raise funds and gather food for our work.  It also means I use my love for people to build relationships that result in direct donations from individuals and companies.

In 2009, we did car washes twice a month for six months because they directly fit my strengths.  When leading a car wash, I’m able to envision the goal of the event (we were there to raise funds and awareness for our cause), communicate that envision (by having 10 – 20 volunteers come every time), and create the event (actually piece it all together and make it happen).

I also led our Charity Food Bag Drop which was an amazing event where we collect food from homes in our local city to use for A Day of Hope.  We distributed over 10,000 paper grocery bags to homes asking them to donate nonperishable food that we could use in our baskets.

It has been hard work to develop and find my own personal strengths.  I have slowly made progress little bit by little bit, and that has been reflected in how we are run, the events we do, and the activities we take part in.

When I posted chapter two of my book, A Day of Hope here on this blog in February, it was popular among readers and web search traffic.  As a benefit to you, as a Learning Leadership reader, I'm going to post chapter three of my book here on the blog for you to read, free.

Enjoy!

Passion
Discover and Deploy Your Strengths

When you look at your strengths as a leader there are two areas to examine: discovering and deploying. 

In this chapter I’ll walk you through both of them.  I will share my personal story of discovering and deploying my strengths as well as give some examples of what that might look like for you.  It’s important to remember that your ability to serve people depends on your ability to do both of these.

It takes time and effort to both discover your strengths and then to deploy them in your work every day.  My own journey in this is still a work in progress.  I’m still learning and growing every day.  And it’s nice to know that there are still ways that I can improve.

My journey to discovering my own strengths mostly came from my quiet time in the morning and seeking feedback from others.  Almost every morning I wake up at 4:00 AM to take time to pray, write, think, and reflect.  Most of the time I have a pad of paper, my journal, and a pen to write down ideas and experiences I’ve had.

In addition to thinking on my own, I often ask others what they feel my strengths are.  I simply ask, “What do you think I do well and what could I improve at?”  I also pay close attention to see what people compliment me on.  When people give you compliments on something you’ve done or a character quality you have, it’s a good indicator that you’re probably good in that area, and you might possess a strength there.

If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself very confused when it comes to discovering your strengths.  I remember many times thinking, “I’m confused.  I’m not sure what the heck I’m good at.  Will I ever figure this out?”  After hours and hours and months and months, I’ve slowly begun to gain some clarity about what my strengths are.  As I think about my own personal strengths, I believe they are:

  • Visioning – Seeing the future of what God wants me to create and do to further His kingdom,
  • Thinking – Generating ideas and concepts that will help that vision become reality,
  • Communicating – Communicating that vision and ideas to a group of people either in writing or speaking, and
  • Creating – Making daily progress on that vision by creating new things and new services to help people.

Those are the four areas I feel are strengths for me. They are areas that come pretty naturally to me, I love to do them, and I’m better than most people at them. 

There are lots of great strengths based books and tests out there to use with this stuff.  You can do the DISC testing, Myers-Briggs, and many others.  Most of my own strengths discovery and deployment has been through my own self-discovery.  The good news is that what you’re about to read is real, it’s practical, and it has been used before. 

Like much of this book, my personal experience might not be the best for you.  So read it, evaluate it, and create your own personal process to discover your own strengths.  But for now, let me get started and share with you what I think the process might look like.

By far my favorite talk at the Catalyst West Leadership Conference was Andy Stanley.  Man, so many of the talks he gives feel as if the talk was developed exclusively for me.

Here's a few thoughts from Andy:

Only do what only you can do – This is something I could take a
week just to think and chew on.  What is it that only you can do at
your organization?  I know there are things I've been doing in my life
that I can have someone else do.  It's natural for us as leaders to want
to do everything.  We most likely have high energy, want to help
people, and want to make it happen.  We also have a tendency to think we
can do tasks and run projects more effectively than others.  As
effective leaders we need to only do what only we can do.

When I do things I don't do well, things don't go well – As a
leader, we're given strengths and weaknesses for a reason.  We need to
focus on utilizing our strengths for the greater good, and we need to do
everything possible to avoid our weaknesses.  And when we do tasks and
projects that are in our weak areas, things don't go well.  The result
is most likely going to be weak.

My fully developed strengths are worth more to my organization than my marginally improved weaknesses – It's a fact of life that we all have strengths and weaknesses.  And it's up to us as leaders to discover what our strengths are, then we need to find ways to focus on those strengths.  We should do nothing else but focus on those strengths to develop them, improve them and make them better.  We're going to improve much faster with our strengths than we will ever improve our weaknesses.