Treating Everyone Like a Volunteer

I started playing guitar in a rock band when I was 15 years old.  After one round of an apprentice band, where I learned “how to make it happen” from others, I started my own band.  I quickly learned that being the leader of a band was a different responsibility.  I not only had to handle the nuts and bolts issues of what songs and how they are arranged , I also had to continually deal with every players’ respective issues and problems.  I quickly found that I needed to be nice as I could to everyone, thank them for their contributions and make sure their egos were stroked.  To not do so created a risk that any one of the other players may fall off the table without notice.

One I had figured out the secret sauce, the bands started working.  It took a great deal of patience on my part; a skill I guess was underdeveloped prior to then.  It was my first real management experience. I was 16 years old.  It was a lesson I have never forgotten.  Twelve years later, after earning two degrees in business and serving my corporate apprenticeship, I became a manager of people in a Fortune 500 company.  My band experience came with me.

It became clear to me that all of us as employees require quite a bit more than just a salary and a health plan to become self-actualized.  We need the same courtesies, reassurances and belief in the success that is coming that my band mates needed.

Years later I saw a presentation by the business author Tom Peters. He spoke on the topic “Treat Everyone Like a Volunteer.”  That’s it, I thought, that’s what I have been doing.  Address the situation as if the employees were not even getting paid.  Show them how exciting the project you are putting them on is.  Defer to their way of solving problems unless it costs you time, money or quality.  Point out what great and valuable skills they are learning and work hard to get your employees to work as a team  Thank them for their efforts at every opportunity.

A coach or manager’s goal is to inspire extraordinary performance.  To motivate employees to do more than they thought they could.  To arouse a high level of creativity.

It always seemed to me an easy and obvious lesson.  It’s also one that some managers have never gotten.  I see evidence of that all the time.  I’ve actually heard the phrase “They should be happy to have jobs.” I’ve personally had managers (thankfully not for long) that didn’t get it.  That’s sad, given that this is a strategy that takes so little to execute.  Basic human respect and courtesies go a long, long way to earning an employee’s devotion and enthusiasm.

If this has never occurred to you, give it a try.  If you feel it’s part of your style, step up. There’s no real cost and you’re likely to see results almost immediately.  Don’t wait.  Start today!

Have you known managers that don’t get it?  What things have you done as a manager to inspire your team?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

One thought on “Treating Everyone Like a Volunteer

  1. Pingback: The Idiocy of Getting Older « The Idiots Guide to the Universe

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