27 Best Practices of High Performing Volunteer Organizations
Unless you've been in a coma your entire life, chances are good that, at some time in your life (maybe now?) you've been a volunteer for a non-profit organization.
That's the good news.
The not-so-good news is that many volunteer organizations, without even knowing it, sabotage the value their volunteers bring to the table and you, as a result, may have backed off, gone south, or found yourself grumbling to the other volunteers.
I've recently done some informal research on the subject and have identified 27 "best practices" high performing volunteer organizations abide by. Take a peek. Then, volunteer to share the list with the leaders of whatever volunteer organizations you would like to see succeed at a higher level. Can do?
1. Clearly (and often) communicate the vision.
2. Provide clearly written job descriptions.
3. Take the time to authentically welcome volunteers and orient them to their new role.
4. Ensure that volunteers know exactly what's expected of them.
5. Start new volunteers off small. Don't scare them off with too huge of a commitment too soon.
6. Keep the workloads manageable.
7. Communicate progress being made on a regular basis. Volunteers need to see that their efforts are having impact.
8. When there are setbacks or breakdowns, learn from them -- and share your learnings with others.
9. Be prepared so you don't waste people's time.
10. Create a trusting environment that ensures open communication, teamwork, and respect for diversity.
11. Keep everyone on your team informed of the inevitable changes (i.e. direction, policy, timelines, goals, personnel etc.)
12. Provide opportunities for volunteers to switch to different roles they might find more enjoyable.
13. Give and receive feedback (both formally and informally).
14. Provide opportunities for volunteers to learn and grow.
15. Honor your commitments (and if, for any reason, you cannot -- renegotiate them with volunteers).
16. Give volunteers the opportunity to take breaks from the project.
17. Make sure volunteers know they can say "no" if they are overextended or overwhelmed.
18. Enthusiastically acknowledge successes, especially "small wins").
19. Be kind and respectful in all your interactions.
20. Do your best to make sure everyone is enjoying the process of participating.
21. Respond to input, questions, and feedback as soon as possible. Don't leave people hanging.
22. Build some interpersonal "chat time" into your meetings and conference calls.
23. Teach volunteers, in leadership positions, how to delegate.
24. Even when you are stressed or behind deadline, take the time to make sure your emails have a feeling of warmth to them.
25. Fill out Project Briefs on all projects you are inviting volunteer participation -- and share them with volunteers.
25. Conduct exit interviews whenever a volunteer ends their participation or is asked to step aside.
26. Share your learnings from the exit interviews with other managers.
27. Follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.December 22, 2015
How to Spark Massive Employee Engagement in 90 Minutes or Less
Since 1987, I have been working as an innovation provocateur for a wide variety of forward thinking organizations.
Bottom line, I help people wake up, get out of the box, and originate bold, new ideas to meet their ambitious business goals. Along the way, I've discovered quite a few methods to spark the innovation mindset -- even in the most conventional of thinkers.
But of all the methods I've discovered, much to my surprise, there is one that has proven itself to be the most powerful -- and that is storytelling. Yes, storytelling, the humane communication of memorable narratives that engage, energize, and inspire positive behavior change.
All my clients, no matter what their industry, want the same thing. They want their people to be "on top of their game" -- to be as creative, collaborative, and committed as possible.
Towards that end, they spend millions of dollars each year training their employees. And while these educational efforts do have some value, they often ignore a fundamental reality: that within each and every person they are trying so hard to "tool up" is an untapped, naturally occurring, business growth intelligence that does not need to be taught, only awakened.
Often referred to as tacit knowledge, this little understood resource is omnipresent in your organization, but hiding in the unexpressed stories of the people who actually do the work.
What if your organization could find a simple way to activate this hidden resource?
What if your people had a dependable way to share what they really know with each other? Not just data and information, but insight and wisdom. Not just their best practices, but the best of their best practices. What really matters -- the hard to measure mojo of what really makes a difference on the job: Focus. Trust. Courage. Creativity. Purpose. Resilience. Adaptability. Intrinsic motivation. Perseverance. Collaboration. Integrity. Passion. And commitment.
The secret sauce. The missing piece. What gets people out of bed in the morning. If that's not in place, all the hot talk about innovation is nothing more than wasted breath.
This is precisely what my keynote is all about -- a simple way, via the transformative power of storytelling, to increase employee engagement, spark a culture of innovation, and quicken the communication of your company's collective brilliance.December 21, 2015
A Sneak Peak at a Book Likely to Spark a Renaissance of Storytelling
Good news! The LOOK INSIDE feature has just been enabled on my Storytelling at Work Amazon page which means you can get a sneak preview of the book and decide if you want to buy it.
The Storytelling at Work blog
Why I Wrote the Book
How to Create an Idea Factory
One reason why most BIG IDEAS don't manifest is because the idea originators don't have a team of allies on board to help them develop and execute their ideas. Idea originators either try to do everything themselves or spend so much time trying to enroll people on the fly that the idea loses momentum and eventually evaporates. Bottom line, conceiving the baby is easy. Delivering the the baby is not. Let's take a brief look at how you can change that...
But what if each of us who comes up with a potentially game-changing idea already had a team of collaborators in place -- people who were poised and ready to respond with enthusiasm, skill, and clarity?
This is not a new idea. There are examples in many other domains: Swat Teams, Firefighters, and Emergency Rooms, just to name a few.
These are people who are there when you need them. They are skilled. They know their roles. They are team players. And they are committed -- even when tired, cranky, and under-appreciated.
YOU need something similar every time you come up with a big idea. OK. Maybe not every time -- but at least sometimes.
Below is a list of the kinds of people I want in my Idea Factory (or, as one friend renamed it, my "Opportunity Incubator").
1.Brainstorm Buddy to help develop the idea, give feedback, share insights, and keep me on my game.
2. Researcher to gather information, best practices, and resources.
3. Finance Person to do projections, budgets, and help build the business case.
4. Marketing Maven to help me sell the idea -- in house and out there in the "real world."
5. Writer to create proposals, business cases, and other support materials.
Five people. That's it. On call. Part time.
1. The Big Idea comes to you.
2. You write a brief and email it to your Fab Five
3. On a conference call, you present the idea -- and get feedback.
4. You make specific requests to each member of the team.
5. You stay in close touch with all Idea Factory cohorts -- making sure to share info, progress, changes, and successes.
Or... are you ready to start your own idea factory?
PS: These do not have to be paid positions. I'm talking about inviting your friends or colleagues who are "in the zone" and would love to be involved in some cool projects with you. Go for it!
Why Did I Write My New Book?
In the past few weeks, quite a few people have asked me for the "elevator speech" about my book. I get it. These days, if you can't deliver your message in 60 seconds or less you're screwed. So here goes. Consider this my elevator speech (though the building you are riding in is a hundred stories high).
I wrote Storytelling at Work because I wanted to do everything in my power to unleash what I have come to realize is one of the biggest untapped resources on planet Earth -- and that is the collective insight and wisdom of human beings everywhere. No matter what our education, culture, or profession, each of us has a storehouse of brilliance inside of us -- a deep knowing (hiding in our stories) that, when expressed, has the power to uplift, inspire, and transform.
I'm not talking about the rote communication of book learning. Nor am I talking about the transmission of data, facts, and information. I'm talking about the communication of the very best of what human beings have to share with each other.
Look at it this way: If you want to transport water to a thirsty person, you need a container -- a cup, a bottle, or canteen. If you want to transport wisdom, you also need a container. And the best, most available, container we have is story.
This wisdom conveyance phenomenon has been going on since the beginning of time. It's how our species is wired. It started with cave paintings. It continued around the tribal fire. And it eventually found its way into the wisdom teachings of every civilization on earth.
In modern day business, this storytelling phenomenon has morphed into various, more commercialized forms, all considered to be ways of furthering an organization's success -- branding, advertising campaigns, leadership pep talks, and the sharing of "best practices."
Fine. No problem. But what I'm inviting people to share is not just new ways to sell products, convince others to work harder, or "continuously improve". I'm inviting people to dig deeper and share their "tacit knowledge" with each other -- the harder to express stuff about what they've really learned about themselves, life, and what it means to be a human being -- on or off the job. The juicy stuff. About adaptability. About resilience. About risk taking, courage, creativity, trust, failure, perseverance, passion, intuition, humor, commitment and whatever else they've experienced that is truly meaningful to them.
Without the expression of this wisdom, work can never be more than a job and life can never be more than thanking God for Friday.December 15, 2015
The Joe Belinsky Factor Revealed
See this guy? His name is Joe Belinsky and for many years he worked in a tire company -- Goodyear Tire to be more exact. I learned something from Joe about TIME that is actually quite cosmic, though it took me seven years to figure it out. The story of what I learned was was just published today in the Huffington Post. A four-minute read.December 14, 2015
The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool
A two-year analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials has revealed that it was the structure of the content -- not the content itself -- that was the biggest predictor of its success. And the structure that was most linked to Superbowl ad success? Stories. This Harvard Business Review article elaborates on why storytelling is such a powerful communication tool.
Storytelling at Work
Our new blog on storytelling
Awesome quotes on storytelling
NEW POLL: What Is the Real Value of Storytelling in Business?
These days, there is a lot of talk about the value of storytelling in business. Good question! That's what we're trying to figure out from savvy people like YOU! Simply click this link to respond. It will take you less than four minutes (and we'll be happy to share the results with you).December 09, 2015
A Selection of My Storytelling Articles in The Huffington Post
If you are interested in storytelling -- especially why storytelling is such a powerful tool for organizations to increase employee engagement and foster a dynamic culture of innovation, you have come to the right place.
Below is a selection of Huffington Post articles by Mitch Ditkoff (that's me, folks) for your edification and enjoyment -- quick-hitting posts that will help you get your arms around this most important topic and further understand why storytelling, in business (and everywhere else), is such a big deal.December 08, 2015
What You Can Learn from the FedEx Logo in Five Seconds
During the past two years, I've asked more than a thousand people what they see when they look at the FedEx logo. 80% say "letters" or "colors" or "shapes" or "the word "FedEx." The other 20% tell me they see an arrow -- a white arrow.
When I ask the baffled 80% if they see the arrow, most of them shake their heads and shrug. Only when I point to the arrow (in between the second "E" and the "x") do they see it -- a moment that is usually followed by their favorite exclamation of surprise and a chuckle.
This little phenomenon, methinks, is a great metaphor for what it really takes to innovate. There's something right in front of our eyes and we just can't seem to see it.
It's been there for a very long time, but for us it doesn't exist. In fact, if someone were to ask us if it existed, our answer would be an emphatic "no" -- not because it doesn't exist, but because we can't see it.
This explains a lot of things. Cognitive psychologists boil it down to just three words: "Motivation affects perception." In other words, we see what we're primed to see and miss the rest.
Shakespeare had a more poetic way of referring to this phenomenon. He called it "rose-colored glasses."
Think about it. When you're driving through a town and you're hungry, you see the restaurants. If you're running out of gas, you see the gas stations. If someone close to you is dying, you see the funeral homes. And so it goes.
Our entire work life has become a kind of oversized FedEx logo -- full of colors, shapes, and letters -- but all too often we miss the white arrow. What we need, is a background/foreground shift -- the ability to see what we never knew was there.
Good teachers have a knack for helping their students make this kind of shift. Good coaches, too. They have, it seems to me, a kind of X-ray vision. They see what their students (or their players) can't see and help them discover it on their own.
Simply put, they know how to prime the experience of tuning into the seemingly invisible -- the omnipresent opportunities to innovate that are non-obvious. That's the challenge before us all these days -- to go beyond our blind spots, limiting assumptions, and habits of thought in order to see bold new possibilities.
One simple way to do this is to start paying more attention to stories that move you, especially your own. Embedded in your stories is the "white arrow", the hidden code of what you are really learning. The more you tell your stories and the more you reflect on what they really mean, the more the white arrow will become visible -- to you and everyone else who gets a chance to listen to your stories.December 07, 2015
Awesome Storytelling Quotes
December 06, 2015
Looking for a Book About the Power of Storytelling to Open Minds, Spark Innovation, and Inspire Action?
December 05, 2015
I'll Have the Salman Rushdie
December 04, 2015
Win a Free Copy of My New Book
In the spirit of the holiday season, fun, and getting the word out about my new book on the power of personal storytelling, I am launching the first annual "WHY I SHOULD WIN A FREE COPY OF MITCH DITKOFF'S NEW BOOK" contest.
The rules are simple: In 50 words or less, tell me why you think you should win a free copy of my book. That's it. Winners will be selected from the following seven categories of responses: 1) Funniest; 2) Most Dramatic; 3) Most Unlikely to Have Been Submitted by Donald Trump; 4) Lamest; 5) Most Shakespearean; 6) Most Likely to Increase Sales of the Book Without Mitch Having to Spend Any Money; 7) Most Likely to Lead to World Peace.
Contest ends 3:33 pm on December 10th. All submissions can be left below in the comments box below or emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 03, 2015
Why Tell Stories?
In the last 60 seconds, here's what happened:
168 million emails were sent, 700,000 Google searches were launched, and 60 hours of YouTube videos were uploaded, not to mention all the spam, banner ads, phone calls, Facebook posts, tweets, texts, and telemarketing calls that found their way to your doorstep.
A whopping 90% of all data in the world has been generated in the past two years alone. Think about this: Before the dawn of civilization, approximately 5 exabytes of information had been created. Now, that much information is created every two days!
The common term for this head-spinning phenomenon is "information overload" -- the inability to absorb and process all of the information we are exposed to.
And while the gory statistics change every nanosecond, the results are the same -- leading to what is increasingly being referred to as "Information Fatigue Syndrome" (IFS) -- a condition whose symptoms include poor concentration, depression, burnout, hostility, compulsive checking of social media, and falling into trance-like states.
This describes the mindset of many, if not all, of the people you are attempting to influence on a day-to-day basis, be they customers, clients, friends, voters, volunteers, children, or your mother-in-law.
If you are committed to delivering a meaningful, memorable message to another human being, the burning question you need to be asking is this: "How can I cut through all of the background noise so my message can heard and remembered?"
Fear not. It's possible. According to neuroscientists, psychologists, theologians, sociologists, advertisers, linguists, and marketers, the answer is a simple one: storytelling.
Storytelling is the most effective, time-tested way to transmit meaning from one human being to another. It's been going on since the beginning of time when our first ancestors stood around the tribal fire. It's how civilizations pass on their wisdom to the next generation. It's how religions pass on the sacred teachings of their faith. And it's how parents, via the telling of fairy tales, transmit the values they want to impart to their children.
Here are just a few of the reasons why storytelling is so powerful:
It quickly establishes trust and connection between the speaker and listener.
It increases receptivity, captures attention, engages emotions, and allows the receiver to participate, cognitively, in the narrative.
It communicates values, not just skills, decreases teaching time, builds community, ignites five more regions of the brain than mere fact giving, helps people make sense of their world, shapes perceptions via the subconscious mind, reframes frustration, paradox, and suffering, changes behavior, and provides a dependable way for people to remember, retrieve, and retell a meaningful message.
Think about a message you want to communicate to someone today. How might you do that via story, instead of overloading them with more information, statistics, and pep talks?
This is bleeping brilliant. Not only WHAT its says, but HOW it's presented. Two minutes on what it takes to really do creative work. Inspiring. Truthful. And in your face like a fresh arctic wind off a lake you've been waiting too long to sail on...
December 02, 2015
The Storytelling at Work Podcast
Will Sherlin, of The Innovation Engine Podcast, interviews Mitch Ditkoff, author of the newly published Storytelling at Work.
December 01, 2015
50 Quotes on the Power of Ideas
1. "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." - Albert Einstein
2. "If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself." - Rollo May
3. "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." - Oscar Wilde
4. "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck
5. "The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away." - Linus Pauling
6. "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo
7. "Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them." - Alfred North Whitehead
8. "A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow." - Ovid
9. "All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea." - Napoleon Hill
10. "You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." - Lee Iacocca
11. "No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
12. "Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged." - Thomas Edison
13. "It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas."
- Charles Peguy
14. "Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have." - Emile Chartier
15. "I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it." - Samuel Goldwyn
16. "An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself." - Charles Dickens
17. "Everyone is in love with their own ideas." - Carl Jung
18. "Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?" - Albert Einstein
19. "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
20. "The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time." - Henry Ford
21. "Everything begins with an idea." - Earl Nightengale
22. "Capital isn't that important in business. Experience isn't that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas." - Harvey Firestone
23. "A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one." - Mary Kay Ash
24. "We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us."- Friedrich Nietzche
25. "I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas." - Albert Einstein
26. "A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind." - Antoine St. Exupery
27. "If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it." - Charles Kettering
28. "Right now it's only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea." - Woody Allen
29. "Just because you're a musician doesn't mean all your ideas are about music. So every once in a while I get an idea about plumbing, I get an idea about city government, and they come the way they come." - Jerry Garcia
30. "I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." - Pablo Picasso
31. "New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can't be done; 2) It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing; 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!" - Arthur C. Clarke
32. "Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are just produced." - Alfred North Whitehead
33. "Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas." - Paula Poundstone
34. "You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing." - Warren Buffet
35. "If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied." - Alfred Noble
36. "Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life. Think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. That is way great spiritual giants are produced." - Swami Vivekananda
37. "Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money." - William J. Cameron
38. "No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered."
- Winston Churchill
39. "If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it." - Thomas Mann
40. "The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself." - Bernard Baruch
41. "You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea." - Medgar Evers
42. "After years of telling corporate citizens to 'trust the system', many companies must relearn instead to trust their people and encourage them to use neglected creative capacities in order to tap the most potent economic stimulus of all: idea power." - Rosabeth Moss Kanter
43. "The man with a new idea is a crank -- until the idea succeeds." - Mark Twain
44. "To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, requires a lot of discipline." - Steve Jobs
45. "An idea is salvation by imagination." - Frank Lloyd Wright
46. "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." - John Cage
47. "The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the
transmission of ideas of enthusiasm." - Thomas Watson
48. "The new idea either finds a champion or it dies. No ordinary involvement with a new idea provides the energy required to cope with the indifference and resistance that change provokes." - Tom Peters
49. "Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys." - Sam Walton
50. "Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward: they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game." - GoetheCreativity and the Play Instinct