guiding leaders of volunteers to feed the passion of those who choose to serve
Leaders who embrace Otherliness will find the guiding words of grace, peace, forgiveness and acceptance valuable mantras when redirecting the passion of volunteers. Seeing through the lens created by these four words helps leaders put the work of volunteers in a light-filled context. Leaders see even more of the good when the path of Otherliness is chosen.
Grace is defined as the love and mercy offered to others because we desire for them to have it, not because of anything they have done to earn it. Leaders can choose to apply grace. Volunteer Coordinator Jeanne from Texas notes:
“It's tough when you have to let go of a volunteer. On one hand, you are so grateful someone chose to give their spare time to help your organization. But when their help is no longer helpful, they need to be . . . let's call it redirected. Obviously, they are there for a reason.
They chose your organization, and their passion to help should be acknowledged.”
Show compassion, kindness and care to others not because the volunteer has earned it, but because of the leader’s desire for them to have it. Offer grace freely to volunteers—to the high performers and to those who require additional support.
Peace is described as harmony created by an absence of conflict, hostility and retribution; quiet tranquility caused by an absence of disturbance. Peace is also a choice. Some leaders are prone to confront every minor situation with the goal of making it better. Sometimes, peace is the more favorable option. Assume good intent on the part of others. Choosing to not say something allows the leader to pick their battles. Not every hill has to be died upon.
Forgiveness is best defined as an intentional, voluntary change of feelings regarding an offense. A Missouri Volunteer Coordinator shares her take on a volunteer situation:
“I just had an e-mail regarding a volunteer who left in a snit about eight months ago and now wants back. Basing her future performance on past behavior, I am going to have to say no. Volunteers are ambassadors for this organization. By refusing to listen to staff and complaining in front of other patrons, she abused her position. Her duties have been taken over by someone else. She is no longer needed in that capacity.”
In the world of paid professionals, “the best predictor of future performance is past performance” is a commonly held belief. The truth in the ideology of human behavior is indisputable . . . to a point. But what about a person’s capacity to change? Bill Treasurer, the author of the book Leaders Open Doors, calls this strategic forgiveness:
“The essence of a second chance is strategic forgiveness. This is not the forgiveness in the spiritual sense; it is the forgiveness of an opportunistic nature. It is the kind of forgiveness that, after weighing all the factors and grievances, recognizes that the person who gets a second chance often becomes deeply loyal and committed to walking on a nobler path. By giving someone a second chance, an open-door leader creates the opportunity for a conversion experience, allowing for healthier and more productive choices. There is a risk of getting burned by giving a second chance, but the opportunities outweigh the risk if you successfully convert someone from destructive behavior to constructive behavior.”
People can change if others around them allow the space and support they require to grow from the mistakes of their past. By being forgiving, a leader can demonstrably be the one who shows faith in a volunteer as they adopt new and better ways in the future. This trust may be repaid by the volunteer’s heightened performance and dedication to the cause.
Acceptance is an assent to the reality of a situation without attempt to change it. Sometimes it is what it is. Leaders can acknowledge the wabi-sabi-esque existence that volunteer work sometimes yields—leaders can choose to embrace in a Zen-like way volunteer effort that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. Leaders accept with gratitude the gifts that are offered. Volunteerism should be less about immaculate work and more about results that make an impact. What comes from the head, heart and hands of a volunteer is about progress, not perfection.
Otherliness leaders begin by looking within. They ask themselves the question “What more can I do to support those around me as they seek fulfillment through volunteer service?” A healthy dose of grace, peace, forgiveness and acceptance keeps the leader centered on the most important thing—others.