Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How do you forge greater team work & improve moral of volunteers?

Q. How do you forge greater team work & improve moral of volunteers of an organisation, many of which are rather older than your normal ‘corporate’ workforce and therefore may not understand the modern team-building techniques?

Some may remember a question I asked a few weeks ago about a Theater I am a member of. Taking the challenges a step further, one issue identified was the falling number of active members – the front line and back line staff to include box office, stage hands and actors. It was widely felt their efforts were unappreciated and that the Theater was not working as ‘one’.

How can you encourage better team work, bearing in mind the demographics are wide, with some youngsters but many members being of retirement age?

A. In your earlier question you describe this as a rather old organization, still run by the "builders" (founders?).

Our motivations, values, hopes, aspirations etc. all change over time and meanwhile so does the culture around us. Teamwork and high morale emerge from shared motivations and values manifesting work that is appreciated. From your story we can only guess how aligned the "builders" are with today's culture and how much of the participant's motivations and values are shared. Creating complete alignments are improbable in the short term.

I suggest therefore you focus on a succession of small wins for everyone, to demonstrate there are areas of alignment that can be build upon and that the older generations can trust the younger one. I'm sure its a lot easier to install an impressive website than it is to put on comparably impressive production. Resist the temptation to be superb in all areas and craft the productions around known competencies. Only stretch the team as their confidence builds.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you are asking these questions which in themselves are acts of leadership, there has to be a leadership crisis. Morale and teamwork vanish in its absence. Let these early, small wins be vehicles for people to exercise leadership in their domains of expertise - identifying the leaders as those who know how to push the envelope far enough for originality but not so far that people get left behind.

What a wonderful project. Good luck with it!

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