Engaged. Involved. Connected. We often use words like these to describe what we want from our employees, board members, and/or volunteers. We have all seen the power of people who are connected to our organization. They do more, stretch more, and give more—they are always “on” for us. We’ve also seen the impact when people lose their connection to our organizations. They do less, barely meet minimum expectations, and give little to nothing—they flicker “on” and “off” until they finally fade away.
Our role as leaders is to ensure our employees, board members, and volunteers get connected and stay connected to our organization. But we can’t force connectivity. In fact, we may even have to consider that it’s not about connecting them to us, but about connecting us to them. That may seem like a contrived distinction, but our experience suggests it’s powerful.
Think about it this way. Our organizations are like power strips. We are offering numerous services, activities, and products to our consumers. Those individuals “plug in” to us to get what they need. They are the recipients of our power. In contrast, our employees, board members, and volunteers are power sources. They’re the electrical outlet we “plug in” to harness the energy that powers our services, activities, and products.
So, where do our employees, board members, and volunteers get their power? From their personal beliefs, values, and interests. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure that we honor these things if we want to get the most “energy” from these individuals.
Here’s a simple example. Becky and David were recently working with a board of directors for a wonderful non-profit organization. To launch our time together, we asked the board members why they chose to say “yes” to the organization’s invitation to join the board. At the core, each of them believed in giving back to the community—many of them referenced how blessed they are and how they want to return that blessing to others. That was the power source! But they could give their power to any number of community organizations, which we pointed out before asking the next question, “what’s different about this organization that made you want to say ‘yes’ to it specifically?” That’s when they identified the unique ways the organization impacts the community—in other words, this organization is a great power strip.
When we invite people to share their “why” first, we can identify their power, their energy. And then, we can ask if our organization can tap into that power source, citing the unique ways we will use their energy. When we recognize that people are our power source, we work to stay engaged, involved, and connected to them and the source of their power. And we all stay “plugged in” to the energy needed to support our consumers.
What’s Next? Choose 2-3 people this week and ask them “why” they chose to be involved in your work. Listen for the deeply held values and beliefs that rest underneath the surface.