Love your volunteers

Something Michael Fullan said in his latest book, The Six Secrets of Change (our Page to Practice™ for the month of September), has stayed with me long after I finished reading it: “One of the best ways you love your employees is by creating the conditions for them to succeed.” Anyone who has felt frustrated or unhappy at their job because they didn’t know what was expected of them, or didn’t have the necessary resources to accomplish what is expected of them, can relate to this quote. More often than not, whether I’m volunteering for the PTA at my kids’ school or for the Obama campaign, I have felt underutilized – and, as a result, underappreciated. When people commit to volunteering their time, they want to feel needed. And one of the best ways I know to help people feel needed is to let them know that their contribution is making a difference – to the organization and to the greater purpose it serves.

When you give people the tools they need to succeed, they are happier and more productive.

So, it’s no surprise that Love Your Employees is the first of Fullan’s six “secrets” to helping your organization survive and thrive in today’s challenging environment. According to Fullan, companies that do not understand Secret One do not prosper as much as those that do. And the companies he cites as examples are prospering, despite the tough economy: Costco, IKEA, Southwest, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, just to name a few. What struck me most about this list is that these are also the companies where I like to shop. It’s a pleasure to give your business to a company that treats its customers as if they matter. When employers Love Their Employees, they create a culture where everyone in the company is involved in meaningful pursuits that transcend the bottom line. For nonprofits and other organizations that rely on volunteers, that message seems even more critical.

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