Partnerships between staff and volunteers have the potential to be powerful, productive, and prosperous. And, we also know that they can be taxing, tiring, and totally not worth the effort. What makes a real partnership?
A real partnership is one in which both parties bring something to table, share in the work, and make a tangible contribution to the outcome. Partnerships do not have to be 50/50 in order to be productive. There are many ways to divide and conquer the work. But, ultimately, both parties need to understand their roles, know the rules of engagement, and share the same vision for success.
Think of a project in which you partnered with someone else and it didn’t go as well as you would have liked. Whether the project failed or it was successful, but simply wasn’t an easy road to get there, chances are more than likely that one of the following vital steps was overlooked or shortchanged. Here are the three important topics to discuss and address with any potential partner before solidifying the working relationship.
- Clear Roles
- What are our primary responsibilities as a team and as individuals?
- What special skills and talents do each of us bring to the table?
- Rules of Engagement
- What is the most effective way for us to communicate?
- How often will we check in and share progress?
- How will we handle it if our agreements aren’t met?
- Vision for Success
- What is our vision for success?
- How will we measure success?
- When and how will we evaluate and learn from our successes and challenges?
- How and with whom will we share our learnings and successes?
Next time you launch a partnership, take the time to discuss and come to agreement around each of these three vital issues as part of your preparation. By addressing these, you and your partner are setting yourselves up for a successful partnership.
Imagine that you have an exciting role and responsibilities to share with a committed volunteer.
Imagine that you want to find just the right person for the job.
Where do you begin?
Ensuring that you find the right person is not just about finding someone with the right skills. It also depends on finding the individual who has the motivation to do the work and the right fit with you. Very likely, you or another staff or volunteer already knows the perfect person for the job. But how do you find him or her?
Here’s a handy checklist of considerations to help you identify individuals with leadership potential – whether they know it or not!
Volunteers who are ready to move up and move the organization forward often:
- Express aspirations
- Take initiative
- Ask great questions
- Offer solutions
- Problem solve well
- Follow through
- Care about meeting and evaluating results to make sure they’re on target
- Take on progressive responsibility—and handle it well
- Improve after feedback
Use this list to help you identify a current volunteer, donor, program participant, or advocate who may be your perfect partner. Share the checklist with colleagues and other volunteer leaders so that they can be on the look-out for future partners as well.
Once you have a list of possible volunteers, reach out individually to let them know how much you value their insights, their commitment, and/or their suggestions, and discuss the opportunities for leadership roles. Remember to be specific about what inspired you to contact each of them. In doing so, you’ve not only stacked the deck so that you have a great pool of candidates to choose from, but you’ve also personally connected with individuals who have already shown that they care about the organization… which can only inspire them to build their support, whether they become your partner at this point or not. It’s a win-win.
Want to learn more from Beth about creating Powerful Partnerships between professionals and volunteers? Visit her at Maven Class
When I was eight years old, my mother was interviewed on the local news in New York City for her impressive track-record of asking for – and getting – what she wanted from customer service. It didn’t matter whether it was a product, service or something else – once my mom had decided that something wasn’t quite right, she didn’t stop until she righted that wrong. And 9 times out of 10, she got what she asked for.
The word that the reporter used to describe her was “tenacious”, meaning “tending to keep a firm hold of something; clinging or adhering closely” or “not readily relinquishing a position, principle, or course of action; determined.” She liked that word a lot. (He also described her as “comely” – meaning “pleasant to look at; attractive” – which she also appreciated.)
Whether you’re a professional or volunteer leader, being tenacious is part of the job. Sticking to a mission, a vision, a set of values or a course of action is critical to overcoming obstacles. Of course, you might need to course-correct or consider new factors as they arise in order to be context-savvy, relationship-aware, flexible and resilient, but being able to say “I said I would do it”, “I did it” and “what’s next?” are hallmarks of the kind of leader that others want to follow.
So, how tenacious are you in getting done what you’ve committed to?
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I was cranky, weepy and surly (sounds like some bizarro Disney dwarfs) and I just KNEW it was going to be a bad day. Everything I considered, said or touched went through a filter of bad energy. I just knew that I was far from at my best, and that there could be consequences to my decisions and actions if I didn’t do something about it. And “making myself feel better” just wasn’t an option.
So what did I do that made an awful day better?
I decided that for the entire day, I wouldn’t make any decisions. I mean, I decided what to have for lunch and what outfit to put on – minor issues – but I decided that any decision that could have lasting impact, big or small, would have to wait. Throughout the day, whenever I had a moment of wrestling with “Should I do A or B?” or “Do I lodge a complaint?” or “Do I say yes or no?” I remembered that I had made my only big decision of the day: not to decide anything.
Let me tell you, when I woke up on the RIGHT side of the bed the very next day, I was very relieved that I had no messes to clean up, relationships to repair or decisions to un-decide.
Having a bad day, my friends? Decide not to decide. It was one of the BEST decisions I made!
During a year-end coaching call, I was thrilled to celebrate one particular client’s 2015 victories: a long-awaited promotion, carving out more quality time on weekends to spend with his family, and a new exercise habit.
“Mazel tov!” I said to my client.
“And how do you think you did on your goal of making time for planning in your new role?”
He replied: “Yeah…that one didn’t happen.”
“Any chance,” I offered with a smile, “you mean that you didn’t do what it takes to make it happen?”
He smiled back, somewhat sheepishly. “Yes. I guess I mean that.”
“And what do you want for 2016?” I asked.
“To do what it takes rather than waiting for it to happen.” He responded.
And so we began…
Of course, as we all know, doing what it takes to set aside time for something that feels important (rather than urgent) is easier said than done. Somehow, I can always find the time to read the new Entertainment Weekly and binge-watch “Making a Murderer” and yet, finding the time I need to write my new book or get my office organized seems not to “happen”. Why? Because “hoping it will happen” won’t get it done. Making the time to do it AND setting four types of boundaries to honor that time will.
In her research paper, “Positive Psychology and Work-Life Integration: The Mutually Satisfying Relationship”, The University of Pennsylvania’s Katharine E. Comtois suggests that we need to set the following boundaries in our work and lives in order to focus on what matters most:
- Temporal – Being clear about what you will do and won’t do, and when.
- Physical – Setting a specific place and space for certain tasks and activities.
- Behavioral – Acting consistently in ways that are designed to get you what you want.
- Communicative – Letting people know your priorities and expectations, and sharing how they can help or might hinder the process.
In January 2015, I decided that I was no longer going to travel more than 25% of the time, which would effectively cut my travel schedule in half. It was something that I wanted, but wasn’t “happening”. Of course it wasn’t happening – I hadn’t set any boundaries to support it. With that aha! top of mind, here are the boundaries that I created:
- Temporal – I will be from home no more than 7 nights a month, period.
- Physical – Any activity that I could do virtually rather than in-person, I did (like webinars for teams and organizations when on-site facilitation wasn’t needed).
- Behavioral – I actively sought out work opportunities that kept me sleeping in my own bed, which lead to a great teaching gig at Wharton Business School.
- Communicative – I told my clients, “I’ve used up all of my business travel for March and April, but I can travel to you in May. Would that work for you?” (And if it didn’t, I was happy to refer someone else!)
I couldn’t be prouder of how the boundaries I set – and continue to honor. I also found that setting these boundaries felt scary (what will happen to my business? Who will I be disappointing?) and living by them feels exceptionally safe and satisfying.
Here are some questions to help you strategize how you can use boundaries to stay focused on shifting what you “hope” will happen to actually and practically making it happen:
- How can you leverage other people to support you in honoring your boundaries?
- What technology can you rely on to help you set and keep boundaries?
- What decisions do you need to make that honor your values? (These can include decisions about what to do and what to stop doing).
- What habits can you implement that make honoring your boundaries automatic?
- Where can you create a physical boundary to separate the different roles you have?
- How can you use tangible items (like different phones or email addresses) to separate your work, life, self and community domains?
- What do you need to communicate to your stakeholders to establish boundary expectations?
- What can you plan (like a massage or vacation) so that you can take a short-term break from managing boundaries?
- Where will you allow for “fuzzy” boundaries?
- How will you handle boundary violations when they occur (because they will)?
Feel free to share any responses with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear them!
Are you committed to make Work-Life Integration a priority for 2016? Get a head start by downloading our insightful, informative and inspirational one-hour webinar here.
By all accounts, 2015 has been a satisfying year for me, personally and professionally. In addition to taking a wonderful family vacation to Israel, getting two kids off to high school, and cutting my work-related travel in half, I accomplished three goals that, as part of our family tradition, warranted a Carvel ice cream cake:
- I began teaching Management Communication at Wharton Business School.
- I was published in Harvard Business Review.
- I lost 25 lbs. (Trust me: I get the irony of celebrating this goal with cake).
What do all three have in common? Yes, they’re all impressive – but that’s not what I mean. And yes, they’re all the result of hard work – and that’s not what I mean either. What these three things have in common for me is that within 24 hours of reaching each of these goals, I thought to myself, “Now what?”
I gave myself a day (and probably only a few hours, if I’m being honest) to enjoy the achievement, and then had a sudden dip in interest, motivation and satisfaction as my mind began to scramble for what new goal I was supposed to be setting next. What could I do to get the next buzz? How could I top myself? What would make me happy next?
And all of a sudden, it hit me: The only thing that would “make me happy next” was slowing down my goal-driven behavior long enough to actually experience being happy. I knew what yearning felt like, and what accomplishing felt like, and what adrenaline felt like, but I had very little experience living with what just being satisfied felt like. For a professional coach who helps clients discover and lean into what’s already working well in their lives, and for a seasoned mom who teaches her kids to be grateful for what they have rather than always wanting more, I realized that I was out of alignment with my own integrity.
Eleanor Roosevelt said,
Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well lived.
My goal for 2016 (scratch goal, replace with plan) isn’t to want more, do more or have more.
It’s simply to be happy with what I already, blessedly have.
“I can’t wait to hear what I did wrong!”
“You’re frustrated with my performance? Do tell.”
“I’m failing to meet expectations plus I have a work habit that drives you crazy? Details, please!”
-Said nobody ever
Let’s face it: Getting feedback is hard. And so is giving it. But what’s even trickier is giving feedback to someone who is defensive, in denial or determined NOT to hear it.
So what do you do?
Send them a signing telegram?
None of the above — but you DO have to deal with it, and I’m thrilled to share my tactics and strategies for doing exactly that, published in Harvard Business Review “When Your Employee Doesn’t Take Feedback”.
One of my favorite rituals when my twins were babies was to give them their nightly bath. I loved the one-on-one (-on-one) time with them, playing and splashing and just being together. Over time, they advanced from baths to showers, and from needing my help to wanting complete privacy, thank you very much!
But one bath-time ritual that my daughter Sophie didn’t seem to outgrow during her tween years was keeping me company in the bathroom when I took a shower. Each evening after work, I would hop in the shower and pull the curtain closed, and then hear Sophie sneak into the bathroom, close the lid of the toilet, sit down and say, “So let’s talk.”
I was torn: I missed the privacy of being alone with my thoughts and my loofah, and I also appreciated the opportunity to have some deep conversations with my growing girl. But one day, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked her,
“Sophie, why do you always want to talk to me when I’m in the shower?”
Her answer caught me with my pants down:
“Because it’s the only time I know you won’t check your phone while you’re talking to me. It’s the only time I have your complete attention.”
There was no shower long enough or hot enough to wash off the sting of that pointed and painful observation.
Ever since then, I’ve started:
Paying a lot more attention to paying attention!
I realized that I did it consistently with my clients (who pay for my complete attention), but I didn’t do it consistently for my family, who are, in fact, the reason that I even have clients. And it’s still hard – every day. There are a million things competing for my attention, between emails, calls, dinner, errands, the expected and the unexpected interruptions. But I am well aware that because of how hard it is to give someone your complete attention these days, it is a more precious gift to give and to receive than ever before.
In a recent New York Times article, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” the author cites that the costs of dividing your attention with people you care about include empathy, connection, and trust. And while technology is surely a factor in what makes this challenging, what is also a factor is our willingness to settle for less than someone’s complete and undivided attention. We need to learn to ask for what we need from others in our personal and workplace relationships to feel heard, connected and respected and we need to stop making excuses for ourselves for why it’s ok to not be fully present for another human being with real and immediate needs and challenges.
In the 7th and 8th cohorts of the Jewish Coaching Academy that I facilitated last week (email me for 2016 dates), we discussed 10 behaviors that let someone know that you were committed to being fully present for them. They include:
- Close the door.
- Turn off all electronic distractions.
- Put your cell phone completely outside of your line of vision.
- Let other people know that you’re going to be occupied, and for how long.
- Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign up and honor it.
- Create a time buffer before your conversation so you can clear your head from your previous work or interaction.
- Make a list of what you need to do after this conversation so that you can be fully present now.
- Notice when distracting thoughts come into your head, and then send them away without judgment.
- Let the other person know if something is interfering with your ability to be fully present, and then do your best anyway.
- Tell the other person “You have my complete attention”.
How do I know these work? Because I use them with my clients, my friends and my family and they thank me for not just being there for them, but for really, fully being there for them. And I also know these work because I now, blissfully, shower alone.
As you may know, I didn’t grow up with either a formal or informal Jewish education. I didn’t go to Hebrew school or celebrate the High Holidays. Until I was a teenager, I thought that Snow White ate the forbidden fruit. I am largely self-taught – a living version of “Everything I Wanted to Know About Jewish Living I Learned after Age 18.” And I am still constantly learning, evolving and growing.
This year, on Yom Kippur, I learned that:
- I am fine without caffeine until about 3 pm, and then I start to lose my mind.
- I am inclined to replace the three meals I skipped with ten meals worth of noodle pudding, bagels and ice cream.
- I am guilty of a sin that I never realized was one, until I read the prayer book closely: the sin of clever cynicism.
What does it mean to be cynical? First of all, it’s not the same as skepticism. Where skeptics are open to having their thinking changed with new and compelling evidence, cynics aren’t. Cynics are distrusting or disparaging of others’ motives; they are contemptuous or pessimistic. The clever part? Thinking they’re being funny about it – especially if most people around them are cynical too. (Tweet this!)
How many of you have seen the famous New Yorker magazine cartoon of a businessman on the phone with the caption: “No, Thursday’s out. How about never—is never good for you?” It’s clever. It’s cynical. And it’s the kind of language and attitude that now permeates far too many of our conversations, whether we’re talking about our community-based organizations (“ ‘They’ know how to find me, especially if I haven’t made my annual pledge yet”), to our colleagues (“Looks like no good deed goes unpunished around here”), family (“I’d agree with you but then we’d both be wrong.”) or politics (too many examples to name!).
I’m cleverly cynical far too often to pretend that the prayer book was written just for other people. I also know that I am not alone in making snarky remarks that demonstrate a mistrust of others’ motives, and then wait for the nods and smiles of my peers that make me feel like what I said was smart and socially acceptable. The sad part is that it IS socially acceptable to be cleverly cynical. (Tweet this!) And whether you are cleverly cynical yourself or just tolerating it by suffering in silence, you’re in it with me.
I don’t know if I can change the clever cynicism of the political landscape or even the organizations that I consult with. But I can change my own outlook. Here are three things I am committed to doing:
- Be more compassionate. When I operate under the assumption that people are doing the best they can with what they have, I cut people more slack, and feel empathetic about their challenges. Lord knows, that’s what I would want people to do for me.
- Be more “pronoid.” Paranoia is when we believe that people are out to harm us, whereas pronoia is when we believe that people are conspiring to make good things happen for us. (Tweet this!) If I have to make something up, I’m choosing that perspective!
- Call people on their clever cynicism – gently but directly. When I hear a remark, I’ll ask, “What did you mean by that?” and see if I can help coach someone to get to the heart of their message AND to put a little more heart into their message.
Will it work? The clever cynic in me would surely have SOME quip to make about it. But the kinder, gentler, less cynical me would just smile and say, “I hope so. I have faith.”
To Your Success without the Tsuris,
p.s. Despite a late start, I am clearly now an “ambassador” for Jewish living, learning and life – the same kind of ambassador you want your staff and volunteers to be for your organization! Want to learn more about how to do that? Join us for our upcoming webinar “How to Be an Ambassador for Your Organization” on Thursday October 8th at 1 pm Eastern – and bring everyone on your team to learn with us!
Having a positive workplace doesn’t mean waking up to your alarm clock playing Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” song every morning, nor does it mean greeting your colleagues with a “welcome to Disneyworld!” smile every day. This is not always perceived positive, and in fact, it can be downright annoying. However, when your work culture isn’t positive, it has a direct affect on your physical and emotional life. Cultivating a positive workplace requires first understanding that without it, work becomes meaningless, motivation drops and engagement disappears.
Positivity allows for creativity, big picture thinking and openness to new ideas, which leads to a successful organization.
I first learned about positive thinking as a child from my father who created a very special bedtime ritual (which I’ve adopted with my girls years later). Every night, my father would ask me “Noa, what kind of dream would you like to have tonight?” In most cases, my answer was to live in a candy store! At that point, my dad would pretend that there was an invisible zipper on my forehead which he would slowly unzip, and whisper my dream to my subconscious. Then he would hurry to zip up the invisible zipper so the dream wouldn’t escape and I would close my eyes and immediately immerse myself in thoughts of my candy store and everything that I get to do there and then I would fall into a sweet sleep.
So what do dreams of endless candy have to do with having a positive mindset at work? I learned that being able to “choose” my dreams as a child developed into having the ability to choose my thoughts as well as my moods as an adult. Positivity is, in fact, both a mindset and a skillset. We can all cultivate positivity through the choices we make, the perspectives we choose, the behaviors we engage in, the conversations we have, as well as those who choose not to engage in.
While it is much easier to have a positive outlook when times are good, it’s even more important to focus on positive thinking when things go wrong. Many of us have serious and urgent problems. We experience disappointments, heartaches, rejections, and stress on a daily basis. While we don’t want to pretend that our problems aren’t real , “sugar coat” them or withdraw into denial, we can still approach solutions in a positive manner.
Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness explains that stress is an inevitable part of work. It can be obstacle to growth but it can also be the fuel for it.
His suggestion to working stress in a positive manner is to make a list of all the stresses you’re under and place them in two groups – the ones you can control (unfinished tasks, inbox) and those you can’t control (the stock market, politics in Iran). You then are being asked to choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it. This is what signals your brain to shift to a positive, productive mind-set.
Most people believe that success preceded happiness. “Once we reach our campaign target, then I’ll be happy”, or “Once I lose 10 pounds, then I’ll be happy”. However success is a moving target – as soon as we hit our target, we raise it again and the happiness that results from success is gone.
Similarly to training our muscles at the gym, recent research on neuroplasticity, shows that it is not so different than training our brain to be more positive.
Here are a few things that we all can do each day to help our brain cultivate more positivity in our work and life:
- Writing down three things we are grateful for.
- Acknowledging someone else for doing/being good.
- Exercise for 10-30 minutes.
- Meditate anywhere for two minutes.
- Describe in a journal the most meaningful experience of the past 24 hours in a journal.
Even by choosing one of the above as a new habit and repeat it for three weeks, will show improvement in your levels of positive and engagement.
Growing up in the 1970s, neither my dad or I knew anything about “positive psychology” and the “happiness factor”, but somehow, we knew how to apply these principles.
As you are gearing up for a new day at work, remember that you can’t have a positive work environment with a negative mind. Training your brain to look for the positive outcomes in each situation and your positive contribution to taking one step towards solution will help you enormously in cultivating a positive day.