Did You Really Mean What You Said?
By Lori Gotlieb
Strong communication skills will make all the difference between a positive relationship with your volunteers and the negativity that can grow like weeds in your garden of volunteers.
Leaders of volunteers, whether paid or not, must carefully consider the kind of culture they want for their organizations and reflect that culture in their interactions with their members and volunteers.
Too often, we talk about wanting to be better communicators but we are not actually being that change we want to see others be.
Communications is an area that is constantly misused and misunderstood. We communicate in so many different ways to so many different audiences.
In the world of technology, communication is so important because our words are translated through the eyes of the receiver.
The ability to understand your communication style and is an important tool to help you to understand and work with others. We all have preferred communication styles, but we need to be able to adapt to our situations and the people that we are working with.
A key element of good communication is active listening and the ability to read the room.
Here are some key areas that you need to focus on.
Listen to your audience and find ways to get feedback. Remember that your messages intent is not always how your audience understands it. It is important to check in and get feedback you’re your volunteers on a regular basis
- Engage others in your communication strategy and test out the message before you send it out
- Create timelines throughout the year to solicit opinions, ideas, feedback and evaluation
- Learn from your history and evaluate the impact of your messages. For example, once a volunteer has finished their assignment or their tenure as a committee member, have a representative reach out for feedback on their experience. This is not only a gesture of recognition but also shows that you are interested in learning from others experiences
Provide opportunities for your volunteers to learn about team building, communicating, conflict resolution and volunteer engagement best practices….this is a team effort and there is no “I” in team
So what happens if you don’t focus on communication in your interactions with volunteers and members?
This is what can happen:
- Poor performance and poor attendance
- Misinterpretation of information which leads to gossip
- Power struggles and cliques start to form
- Safety at risk both personal, informational and reputational
- Loss of potentially dynamic volunteers who do not want to get involved
- Low morale
Need I go on……
There are so many consequences to poor communication.
Take the time to demonstrate commitment to positive communication between your volunteers.
Strategize and build in tools and resources to ensure that all volunteers have the appropriate information. Build in training when you meet as a group on the soft skills best practices.
Understand the uniqueness of each generation and how they interpret information.
Build and share tools to ensure that they feel that your organization is supporting a positive, teamwork environment that respects both individual input and the needs of the whole. This could be performance management system and/or feedback and survey forms.
Empower your volunteers to be the best and show them the way….it starts at the top.
We need to be aware of what works and what does not. We need to motivate others to be their best and we need to ensure that they have the tools to do this.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw