Tag Archives: Planning

Leading a team of volunteers

My Dad was sharing his volunteer leadership experience of over 40 years with me. I asked his advice while we were together at IABC’s World Conference in San Diego this month.  I am entering a new leadership role and welcomed his guidance.

I welcome your experience on creating a great volunteer team. Please share your comments and links at the end of this post.

By Tudor Williams, ABC, MC, IABC Fellow

Some years ago, the leader of a political advance team said to me “How do you fire a volunteer?” As the public affairs and media relations guy on the team, my response is you don’t – especially in the rough and tumble of politics. The key to success is to critically select the team you need from the volunteers available at the outset and recruit from your personal and professional network if talent is not available. If you develop your team with care, you will never need to fire a volunteer.

Recently I was the leader of a team of volunteer business professionals. As I served my apprenticeship on the board of directors and then as a junior member of the executive, I decided that, if I was to successfully lead this organization, I needed to have the right talent in the right places.

Learn the various motivations, skills and talents of your volunteers as you get to know and work with each person. In the year prior to assuming the chief executive role, I self examined my personal vision for the organization and what I felt I could contribute. Then I defined the type of support I would need to accomplish a succession plan for future years and long term success.

First, I recruited my vice chair – the person who best complemented my leadership skills and vision. Together we examined what talents and skills we needed on the executive team. If we were going to achieve our goals and make a significant contribution to the business community, we need the right team. Then we aligned existing talent on the board with what we needed. The search was out for what we did not have.

I sat down with every board member, new and old, individually before we assumed our term of office. We defined aspirations and expectations of each other. I took that feedback and outlined my expectations for each member. It was equally important for me to ask what they would need from me to succeed.

The board entered its term of office sharing the vision, knowing our objectives, and knowing their individual role in determining the outcomes of the year. You want a team of volunteers that enjoys what it does, procures results and delivers high levels of volunteer satisfaction, do you homework early.

You can follow Tudor on Twitter @tudorwilliams


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Building Effective Consulting Practices – Leveraging team while maintaining the benefits of unique approaches

Like all good leadership, good consulting starts by being a great listener. All assignments start with a discovery phase where we learn about our client’s business, the people involved and the nature of the problem that we will address. This process may be intuitive and discussion oriented. The discovery may lead to more discovery and adjusted plans.

This discovery process is most effective when a systematic approach is intentionally used. The credibility of a tested and tried approach assures the client of professionalism and comfort of past results achieved.

As a consultant, we have a methodology to approach each unique challenge. We balance our questions with diverse probing. With my partners we use the Tekara Integrated Model to build our understanding of the root cause of the problems. We then design our processes with an evidence based approach.

Tekara Integrated Model

This process lends itself to qualitative methods. It involves client meetings, interviews and focus groups. Our interview protocols are unique to each consultant. They are influenced by the integrated model. The result of the listening has produced effective processes and happy clients. The limitation is the shared knowledge across consultant practices and the ability to explore continuous improvements to improve our collective practice.

Qualitative processes are effective when all the stakeholders for the engagement can be involved. They also provide good indicator information to understand the root cause of the problems being addressed. The limitation is the ability to scale the process across an organization or across a diverse group of stakeholders.
Quantitative processes are more scalable. The most scalable involvement tactic in an organizational context is a survey. Surveys provide a predominance of opinion and can be used as bench mark measures to compare pre and post assignment successes.

Social media tools are now offering new opportunities; however, social media data does not have tested and validated methodologies. This does not enable generalizing results back to the larger population. As a result, the counts and comments must still be viewed as qualitative data. With good context, still valuable but limited in terms of interpretation.

As a team, the survey can speak to what we value and enable a consistent set of organizational diagnostic tools. Over time we can refine our processes and compare our results.

The cost is clear. To become more consistent with our approach, while maintaining unique solutions, we have to become  more similar and then allow the situation to create the leadership intervention.

For this process to be useful, it must create new opportunities and improve client results.

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Filed under Leadership, Management, Planning

I Trust Nothing – You Probably Don’t Either

I was creating a presentation yesterday and came across a problem that I was not expecting. I had just created a series of slides about a coffee company that did a great job of aligning their brand statements with actual behaviour. They had noticed that the majority of customers were using disposable cups and through a great communications program they changed that to achieve 60% travel mug usage in their coffee stores. At the end of this case study I wanted to highlight the point that our behaviour is equal – if not exceedingly more important – when constructing our communication programs. We need to check our performance and enable our brands to align with what we do.

So here was the problem: what image speaks to the reliability or confidence that is created through aligning behaviours and messages? We used to think of Toyota but now what icon do we have?  As a society where are the big images that we instantly recognize as trusted?

The best my group of colleagues and I could come up with was Apple. Are we one corporate failure away from losing trust? Is it even possible, given our human failings, to build iconic images of trust in our media saturated transparent world?  It is possible that we may pay a price for knowing too much and sharing the good and bad sides of everything? Trust is a commodity that we seek to earn and maintain but are we able to achieve consistency and reliability as well? We may have to define trust as honesty about who we are and not the infallibility we may hope to achieve. Trust may really be about managing expectations.

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Filed under Communication, Management

Got stuck in the box – the answer may be outside

The team

My life teaches me about leadership when I am paying attention. I was on a team this past weekend competing in a local version of the television show The Amazing Race – The Amazing Hunt, Surrey style.

I was reminded of a sound leadership insight; the goal makes all the difference. Our team finished 11 out of 12 groups. Our big failing, we got stuck in one phase of the race by choosing the wrong goal.

Here is how we got into this mess. Keen and eager we ran for the first check point after our very bright Captain figured out the first clue. Being one of the first teams to figure out the clue we did not have a lasting impact on where we placed in the end. Slow and steady, with a clear sense of direction was going to win this race.

The competition

Instead we were quick, off and running down the street rushing to finish the race. A phone number of a store was the next clue. We did not hear the message on the stores voice mail correctly and we thought it was a metaphor, “Praying for a game.” Turns out, the name was “Craving for a game”. This was a store in the local mall. Eventually, we caught on by following other teams. Not much for leadership yet. We were following and that even took awhile. We were too smart by half and that continued.

The next mistake was the big one that ensured we would finish in the back of the pack. Our Captain was kicking-butt and did the clue puzzle in record time. Our next clue was a logo and it stated “Where can you find this logo in Surrey Central….” We thought we were in Surrey Central Mall. We looked in every sports store, restaurant and toy outlet we could find.  No logo.

Trying to catch up

Where was this logo in the mall? Finally, we stopped running into other teams. At our wits end, but determined we went to customer service to see if they could help. They said “I don’t think you will find that in the mall, but the mall is called Central City and the area around the mall is called Surrey Central.” Woops!  One hour after the rest of the teams left the mall we ran to a place that we all knew and eliminated in seconds after receiving our clue, the training facility for a professional football team that was next door.

Knowing we were done

We eliminated options too early and needed to understand our situation better before acting. How often are we working hard when we have created artificial barriers to our success? This sure made me nervous, where at work or in life am I doing this? Am I not getting closer to a goal because of my own perceptions or presumptions? I have to figure out if I have a ‘customer service’ that can state the obvious and get me back on course. How about you?

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Filed under Decisions, Leadership

Being an effective leader – Fair does not need to be equal

Many parents I know try to treat their children the same. Christmas presents should cost the same and if one child has a hockey lesson the other should get equal opportunity in another pursuit. This seems only fair. Is this common sense cultural norm good for our kids, our work teams and our organizations?

I have a few clients that use the survey question “The same rules are applied to everyone equally.” The result of a negative finding is a dialogue that ends with “Of course they are not applied to everyone equally, the situations are different.” The result is managers become more aware of how they do not treat everyone equally. Frontline employees regularly agree that rules should be applied differently. They recognize that we are all different and our collective goal is the point. We are not trying to achieve equality unless it is a means to our end.

I have coached football for eleven years at a high school in Vancouver. We coach football. That does not change. Our offense and defense have minor changes each year. Our team is trained with incremental improvements in content and style. Our boys are the same age and in the same school setting. This year, I was reminded once again that the individual players change everything. Creating a high level of performance changes every year with the players. As coaches, we need to get to know our players as individuals and as a group.

Kendra watching the post game prayer.

We have the same team rules for everyone. These rules are simple and universal. They cover the obvious things (i.e. don’t be late). Some rules are never used and others have to be frequently applied. When applying rules we must ask ourselves, what is best for this person and what is best for the team? Our goal is to transfer our discipline to their intrinsic motivation. We desire every player to submit to the rules so that our team can function and perform. To get there, our players are on individual journeys and this requires a variety of interventions to progress. Our principles and rules do not change; however our ability to achieve growth collectively depends on our ability to apply the rules with wisdom and grace.

The process our team takes to be self determined has multiple stages. We seek to create a community around the common goal of winning a championship. We start soon after the ending of the previous season with off-season training sessions. Before we get to training camp the next year we have two off site events, one is a tournament and one is a football camp. These activities work on football skills and build personal relationships.

When fall camp starts we have a two day retreat where we facilitate a team charter. This charter is created by the players to determine who and how they want to operate for the season. At the end of this session we have a ceremony to celebrate the official formation of our team. This year we had each player sign an axe handle as a commitment to themselves and each other. At the end of the regular season, the handle was awarded to the player that most resembled the attitudes and behaviours the players decided they wanted to achieve.

Charter created by the players during unity camp

Rules are the norms we aim to follow. We need to work together so we can perform. The rules are not the purpose and should only act to facilitate our growth and protect our ability to operate. At work we need a process that enables employees to intrinsically apply rules. Fairness comes from our responsibility to each other and our collective goals. Applying rules need to facilitate individual and collective success. How are you preparing your people to do this?

Tony Dungy in his biography talks about having to treat his players differently. It is a good read and has some memorable quotes.

The first step toward creating an improved future is developing the ability to envision it. VISION will ignite the fire of passion that fuels our commitment to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to achieve excellence. Only VISION allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. VISION has no boundaries and knows no limits. Our VISION is what we become in life.

Tony Dungy


Filed under Leadership

Video Blog Series on Employee Research

Today, I am launching a video blog series on the evolution of employee research. This series will highlight significant historical milestones, thought leaders, practitioners, and market demands. I will explore issues like the confusion in the use of terms like employee engagement and the choice of research practices. These issues can be traced back to events, fads and conflicting ideas. I look forward to your insights and conversations arising from this series.


What other events, fads or conflicting ideas can be captured in this discussion?

The next post will be the first video blog. I will introduce scientific and humanistic management.

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Filed under Employee Surveys

How to make good decisions

The most useful tool in my tool box has been a decision making framework. This is a tool that clarifies my context, balances my thought process and identifies available resources. A framework has been my most useful tool because it helps me make better decisions. When I am planning for TWI Surveys, scoping out a project for a client or getting ready for a new baby, I run through the framework.

Below is a simplified planning model I use. Planning can and should be more complex than this model, but I find a simplified model helpful in making quick assessments. If it is a big decision more complexity can be added.

Here is the challenge. Can you make this model better without making it more complex?


Here are some other resources for making decisions:

The case for making decisions
The Decision Making Pocket Book

Where decisions can be life or death:

The US Air Force framework
The US Naval War College framework

Engineers have great models:

MIT IS&T Decision Making Framework
Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

If you use a decision making model please share it and how it has helped you.

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Filed under Communications, Leadership