Joining Forces to Get Stuff Done
Let’s start this out by saying that I’m very much an individual wood-piler. I like to get stuff done, to feed my introvert tendencies, and be accountable to myself. Dirty hands are a great thing! After all, if you’re like me, you feel a great sense of satisfaction when you make that connection, drive that nail, or lift up someone in need.
That said, we woodpilers can’t afford to miss out on the leverage that partnering with others gives us. It’s the old efficiency trick – if you and I can each specialize in certain complementary tasks, we can each get better at them and get more done overall than if we had to do everything ourselves.
ORGANIZATIONS ARE LEVERAGE
There was a time when I was working with an agency’s staff on their strategic plan and the value of organizations became a point of contention. We were framing up administrative objectives for the agency such as organizational structure, fundraising, human resources, and so on. One staff member was having a hard time getting beyond the idea that everything in their work (not just hers as a client advocate) needed to focus solely on the client; all that other “stuff” just took energy away from serving the client at a very high level.
In a sense, she was right. If we aren’t focusing on client outcomes, we aren’t likely to achieve them. What would be the point of all the work if it didn’t make a meaningful difference to those who need it?
What she was failing to understand, however, was just how important it is to have a strong organization behind her, allowing her to do her work sustainably. And that she had a role in making sure that the organization was strong, as well.
Even if her only role is to provide direct service to clients (and she’s the best in the world at it), someone needs to do the bookkeeping, fundraising, facility maintenance, recruiting, and so much more. Otherwise she has no support to give, no roof to meet under, licenses to operate, or even a paycheck to take home. She also needs to do her part to support everyone else by completing reports, filling out timesheets, doing outreach, and helping with the annual fundraiser.
No one member can be the best in the world at all those tasks. How great can the organization be if each member is the best at their particular specialty, giving others the room and support to be the best at their own thing. Together, the big picture becomes easy to do.
Sometimes, as a whole, the group will need to focus additional resources at an individual area that needs a boost to make sure it’s operating effectively. It’s not necessarily taking away from what you do, it’s making sure the team is operating at its peak.
GREAT RESULTS ARE BUILT
Let’s say you decide to join a committee that is hosting a big community holiday festival. The goal is set: your group wants to have a fun, huge event that draws thousands of people. You want them to have a great, memorable time, so you decide it needs great live music, a parade, some food, and lots of activity that energizes your downtown.
Perfect! Now what? Well, the committee could take the route of focusing solely on serving the members of the public by showing up, serving hot chocolate, leading the parade, and turning up the music! As individual volunteers, you’d get a great sense of satisfaction, people would have fun, all would turn out great, right?
Well, not exactly. You see, you can’t get to that point of an event with thousands of people without a whole lot of activity, by a lot of people, well beforehand.
First of all, how are people going to know about your event if you don’t have a way of getting the word out? How do parade goers know where and when to bring their floats? Who is making the hot chocolate? Do you have the right band for the event, and what do they need to be successful (way more to that than you’d think!)? Do you have the proper permits and safety measures in place to make sure everyone can have a good time without incident? All of this “stuff” can take a lot of time and planning, but is absolutely critical to the event’s success.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. You have a committee! That can make it so much easier because all of you can work together, making the most of each other’s strengths, to get the job done fairly efficiently and very effectively. As long as the vision catches fire among the group, you’ll be able to move ahead, hand in hand.
EVERYONE HAS A ROLE
Now lets talk about your woodpile. What is your role in the organization? Are you experienced enough to be the chair, responsible for making sure all members have the resources they need to do their jobs?
Maybe you’re going to recruit a bunch of volunteers, land the sponsorships the event needs, or work with the City to get the proper paperwork lined up. The point is, each of those tasks are absolutely necessary in order for your individual attendees, or clients, to have the outcomes you are looking for.
The same goes for an agency that provides services. Not only are there different staff and volunteer roles within the organization, but there can be organizations within the organization. A board of directors has a different role than the staff leadership team, which may be different than the direct services team. Breaking those responsibilities down can help clarify your individual role, too.
Yeah, sometimes you’ll have to stretch your comfort zone a bit. Maybe you’ve never recruited sponsors before, but you love getting out and talking to people about how great this event is going to be. You can figure out the mechanics of the role with the help of other committee members or previous work that has been done in that area.
The lucky part is that you’ve found something that requires a big element of your personal strengths, like talking to people, even if you don’t know the details. That’s where pitching in as a part of team starts.
Tell us in the comment below – when was a time that a lack of clarity in roles or teamwork threatened what you were trying to do? How did you correct it?
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