Have you ever been part of a volunteer organization? Webster's dictionary defines a volunteer as someone who offers to do something without being forced to or without getting paid to do it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 25% of Americans between 2009 and 2010 volunteered for at least 1 day. As a leader of a volunteer group you may only have an individual work with you just once! This means you must be extremely efficient so as not to waste time with limited resources i.e. the volunteers. Even though the workplace employs most of its workforce for more than one day a year, there are still many tactics that can be implemented that will improve the atmosphere and efficiency in your company.
How does a leader delegate, encourage and empower a team of volunteers?
When you are in command, command.
I always liked this line from the movie MIDWAY. Be deliberate, confident, and determined as a leader. Collect the necessary information to make a decision and make it. Do not dwell. It's acceptable to leave some items to a vote, however not all decisions should be made this way. If you are deciding what color t-shits to order, put it to a vote. If you are deciding which supplier to get a widget from, have a short informative discussion and make it clear you, will make a decision and when. You ARE the leader, so lead.
Assign tasks to the entire team (including yourself) with a solid deadlines. If you have weekly meetings (and you should) make sure each person has 3 items to report back for the following week. Be sure to check up with them, not check on them, midway through the week to offer any additional information or support. Be clear about what the task is, what information is needed or what is to be completed by which date. Make sure to inform any other parties that may need to be involved. Immediately, not tomorrow or the next day. NOW.
Assign tasks appropriately
Don't give the "new guy" the most critical task without being completely sure they are capable of completing it. Don't assign someone a task that is completely out of their interest range. Don't overload and more importantly don't under load your team. If a person completes a task early, give them another task. Especially if another team member is falling behind. Get them some support.
This sounds like something you would do for your dog. Don't treat your team like a pet, but be sure to make it known that they are doing a great job. Keep them aware that they are an important part of the team and that their support is truly appreciated. Additionally as important, when someone makes a mistake, you don't need to embarrass them but make your team aware of what the mistake was, why it happened, what can be learned from it, and what will be done to make sure it never happens again. Foster an environment in which mistakes may happen as long as no one makes the same mistake twice. Your team will appreciate being in the loop on what's happening and mistakes won't be duplicated.
Leave room for fun
No organization is worth being a part of if it's not enjoyable. A volunteer organization has to be something that a person enjoys being a part of. It is important to have some fun while you complete your teams objective. Maybe it's away from the project completely on a weekend going camping or an impromptu 3 legged race in the lobby. Whatever it is your team will work more efficiently if they enjoy the atmosphere and the people around them.
As the leader of any team you should strive to lead the people you are working with as volunteers rather than employees. In the book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey explains, "employees come to work late, leave early, and steal while they are there." When you have a team that possesses a volunteer like atmosphere, they will work smarter (not harder), complete tasks more efficiently, radiate with true passion, and promote those qualities to those around them. Imagine what you could do with a team of just 5 highly motivated, passionate, organized and driven people. Now imagine this scenario with your entire company. What wouldn't be possible?