Do you know the difference between love and service?

A big part of leadership is understanding the difference between brand loyalty and service. "I love that idea."  "I love what you all do."  "I love the impact you're making."

We have to be careful to recognize that love does equal service.  And this might be our biggest challenge in the digital age.  People can easily love something with no actual support of anything, at least not doing anything to make a difference.  There is a new word for these folks, "Slacktivist."  The average organization or team simply doesn't have the numbers to actually cause a stir through slacktivist, check out this inforgraphic from the kind folks at sortable.com.


In order to lead well we have to read between lines with people who say they "love" a cause and those who actually want to serve.  But we can't ignore slacktivist!  How do we identify people who actually want to serve?

1.  Personally impacted - People affected by the cause are more likely to serve.  Their experience can be a training enhancement.  Once they discover the why's behind what they experienced they can become powerful change agents.

2.  Life change - Some people are sick and tired of being sick and tired.  This is my own personal story with debt.  I eventually ran out of patience with feeling like my financial success was in someone else's hands.  As I started to listen to Dave Ramsey I was hearing the way I wanted life to be financially.  This is an opportunity to harness as leaders and to be looking for in potential volunteers.  People can reach a place where they want to stop thinking only about themselves and begin to want to serve.

3.  Gone hunting - I've found that people who are looking to get involved stick around.  I know this seems like a no brainer but sometimes leaders fail to follow up with those who want to be found when great people are hunting for opportunities to serve.  If someone reaches out to you across a social media channel or email make sure you follow up!

I really like working with motivated people who are eager to serve.  Fans are great but if we try to rely on them the mission they love will eventually fall short because no one is working.  This might change but for now leaders need to distinguish between potential laborers and not just fans.

Do you think I'm missing anything?  Is there anything else you would add to this list?  Do you have any suggestions how to identify possible servants instead of slacktivist?  Please leave a comment below!




Are you creating volunteers or drones?

I have two things weighing on my brain right now but they deal with the same subject: Volunteers.  In early February I am traveling to Colorado to help with a training event around recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers.  I can tell already that I am going to get as much out of it as anyone taking the class.  I also became a basketball coach to my son's first and second grade  (church league) team by default.  This was one of those moments where all the parents held their cards close until 12 hours out from the first practice and I stood up like a man in a cape and said, "Fine, I'll do it."  (Do superhero costumes come with lots of X's in front of the L?)  Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to coach but I enjoy the freedom of yelling at someone like coaching high school football.  Yelling doesn't work well with first and second graders. I have to be honest about the coaching experience, I feel like I'm a drone.  Do you know what a drone is?  It's one of those unmanned flying planes the military uses to watch people.  Here's one:

No one who works with a volunteer force takes volunteers for granted, at least I hope not.  But I struggle with the line between having a system where volunteers are trained around core principles and then they act creatively or a system that removes creativity and enforces a standard, sort of like a drone that is there to keep watch?  I was trained to coach in about and hour and I was handed a book, which has instructions for everything.  I was told, just do the practices in the book.  There was an also an app!  The app has everything the book does including instructional videos.  I don't even have to think!  I just do what the book or app tells me to do.  In addition, after my frist practice there was an email to the coaches with a bunch of "dont's".    But is that really helpful to volunteers?  Or am I just missing it, is this the experience the modern volunteer wants to have?

To me, these are the experiences I want for volunteers:

1.  They feel trained.

2.  They are celebrated for being creative.

3.  They increase in ownership and input.

4.  They have freedom to live out a calling under the umbrella of the mission.

I really need your input on this one!  What experience do you think the modern volunteer is looking for?  What do you want to experience as a volunteer?  Your thoughts will be so helpful here.  Please comment below!




Is it time for you to fire that volunteer?

I'm not sure if you know this but it's actually a myth that you can't fire a volunteer. You very much can. And you should. If you can go four years leading a volunteer team and not have to fire anyone you are either the world's greatest trainer or your spine is missing.

I've had to fire more volunteers than I have fingers and toes and I've learned a few things through the years. I've watched tears fall into coffee. I've also experienced backlashes and blame. Regardless of the situation I don't think firing a volunteer has ever been easy.

Here are some reasons I've asked volunteers to step away (notice the kind, gentle language).

  • Disinterested - Listen. If you don't want to be here I'm confused why you volunteered? Stop waisting your time and stop wasting the time of the other people on this team who want to make a mark!
  • Dissension - You know the saying, "The captain goes down with the ship"? Yeah, that doesn't fly here. Long before the ship goes down the problem is going overboard.
  • Decision making - This is one you have to be very careful on. There is not one of us who doesn't make a bad decision in a year. Maybe more. Every issue has a three strike policy when it's been confronted. After the third time I know someone has chosen themselves over the team.

So how does this firing go down? Here are some tips:

1. Go public - Public places are good for a firing. More than anything, it keeps my tone correct. I still want to care for the person and not just get rid of a problem.

2. See what you see - Be confident in what you've seen and share it. If you've done the process right it's not the first time the topic has been addressed with the specific volunteer. But the worst thing you can do is be vague and leave a volunteer feeling like everything is wrong instead of addressing the issue that couldn't be resolved.

3. 1 on 1 - Don't bring a friend. Don't bring a co-leader. Don't bring your mom. Don't ever bring a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. If you are the leader BE THE LEADER. Make it a private conversation because the person deserves that regardless of how you emotionally feel at the time.

4. Identify gifts - Continue to be a leader and talk about where their gifts might be leading them. When you have to fire a volunteer more than likely they were in the wrong seat to begin with and then things just went bad. Restoration is the goal for them, help them find a place where they get to really chase life.

I wish I could tell you that letting a volunteer go is easy or can become easy, but that's not true. The critical part of leadership in the midst of the firing is still having a heart to serve. We don't want to tear people down in order to make ourselves feel better as leaders.

What would you add to either of these lists? Please share your thoughts about firing volunteers by leaving a comment below!

GPS can destroy you

Everyday you share the road with a very scary person.  I like to call this person "GPS Guy."  Oh, you've seen them. They are the people who have a GPS system mounted on the front window of their car, right in the middle of the window!

I'm not a hater of GPS systems, because I've been in situations where they were incredibly helpful.  But on the flip side, I've also had nightmare experiences with a GPS.  The problem with a GPS is that it always wants to take you the shortest route to your destination, regardless of how treacherous or painful that route might be.  For example, recently a GPS system sent my team and I on a winding backroad that went up and down hills like a roller coaster. For awhile. In a Ford Excursion. At night!  Almost everyone was ill by the time we reached our destination, and if I had followed my gut when I heard, "Turn right on highway FF in 500 ft," and connected to a major highway just 10 minutes further instead, we would have all been better off.

What scares me about "GPS Guy" is that they are so focused on the directions they are given that they lose sight of everyone else on the road and those in the car with them!  As leaders we have to be very careful about simply looking for someone above us to give us directions.  Since I'm a Kansas City guy, let's use Garmin for instance.  You're behind the wheel and your team is in your vehicle.  Everyone wants to get to the same destination; you, your team, and Garmin wants you to get there.  But is Garmin actually in the car?  They can see you on the map they designed after you report your location, but they can't see the condition of the road or the condition of  your team in the vehicle.   I know, you've paid Garmin, so you feel like you need to listen, but what is God telling you?  Leaders have to understand that the "Garmins" in your life just want you to arrive quickly because it compliments their product.

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I want to ask you, is your leadership dependent upon the "Garmin" in your life giving you directions at every turn?  You've got to realize that that's not leading, it's following. Your team in the vehicle with you is trusting you behind the wheel.  You can't afford to see them as victims of "Garmin," they are volunteers!  They need you to drive, not "Garmin"!  You see the road!  You see the condition of the people in the vehicle!  For the sake of everyone in the vehicle, including yourself, DRIVE for the love of everything holy!

We also need to make sure that we aren't being the "Garmin" in someone else's life.  Just because I know how to get back to my house from this Starbucks I'm sitting in, doesn't mean the same directions would work from any other Starbucks location.  If you are going to help people lead, you have to go sit in THEIR car and drive through THEIR neighborhood and stop talking about your car, your streets, and where you turned.  I graduated from college 10 years ago and the road that I drove into campus doesn't even exist anymore.  If I told a current student how to get to campus I would crash them into the history department.  I'm sure the college would fold soon after.