Engaging the Unengaged

By: Shelly Joines

Who wants extra work on their plate? Who wants to spend “free time” on a project that seemingly has nothing to do with their regular job function? Or even worse, who wants to step outside of their comfort zone and work on something that highlights their professional weaknesses?

Did you raise your hand? Not likely, as human nature is to stay in the comfort zone.

With my position of Corporate Program Manager, it falls within my role to seek out volunteers or occasionally assign different people small projects that support the overall office.  When I need to e-mail or visit with staff to ask for assistance, I may hear the same *boo* and *hisses* you hear when a call for volunteers goes out to association members:

Whether it’s staff or association volunteers, the typical response is:

“I’m swamped and don’t have extra time.”

“That’s really not my strong point.”

“I have NO idea where to start since I don’t have experience.”

Here are some solutions to overcome this universal challenge:

  • watchOvercome the “time” argument. Ensure you provide clear expectations on the actual project, task or service endeavor. Provide if possible the number of hours a week, month or year that it will require to meet the objective. And identify if the assignment has an expiration date.
  • Overcome the “Not My Strong Point” argument. We all have professional weaknesses! To help, when communicating the opportunities, outline “prerequsites” of knowledge that may be necessary. Most people make assumptions on what is required. Clearly outline any knowledge or skills that are needed to mitigate concerns.
  • Overcome the “I Don’t Know Where to Start” argument. There is always a 1st person that has to take the lead or get something started. However, in most aspects of association management, there is some precedent or historical reference. If available, provide an outline, standard operating procedure (if one exists) or simple timeline. Having simple tools for reference reduces anxiety for the individual.

Utilizing these simple practices when reaching out for “new hands on deck” should result in higher overall engagement.

2016 Shelly Joines

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