BY STACY RAFFO, COMMUNITY COACHING PROGRAMS ASSOCIATE, THE HUB
More than 20 people are participating in The Hub’s year-long Community Coaching Fellowship to support them in becoming better leaders – and cheerleaders – in supporting communities to spark positive change for their areas. Recently, we brought the fellows together for a day of in-depth learning, and we want to share some of our top takeaways to support everyone in becoming more impactful leaders.
If you find yourself taking the lead on community projects (or have a desire to do so!) or are serving in leadership roles with community volunteers or groups, these tips are for you:
1 // Set ground rules at the outset of a meeting or project
It’s important for everyone on your team to be operating with the same basic parameters, to understand how you’ll reach decisions and to address differences of opinion. Here are a few of the ground rules that we have found helpful. Create a way for everyone to get involved in choosing the best ones that fit for your group and make sure to leave space for people to bring their own ideas.
- Keep the tone positive, even when addressing challenges
- Pair concerns and challenges with ideas for solutions
- Step forward, step back – contribute to conversations, and also be sure you’re making space for others to contribute as well
- Leave your personal agendas at the door and be mindful of the greater good of the community
- Respect differences – whether it’s a difference of opinion, a different perspective on the world, a different idea for a solution to address a challenge – everyone brings value to the conversation
- Be inclusive – work to ensure you’re including everyone who wants to be included and you’re keeping the door open for others to join – and transparent (don’t work behind closed doors)
- Look forward, not back – history can hold important lessons for us, and also we need to build with an eye toward a new and different future
- HAVE FUN!! (Arguably *the most important* when engaging in volunteer work!)
2 // Be available and show up
If you’re leading a team, trust and relationship building is at the foundation of everything you do. Being present, available, and showing up for others is one of the best ways to do this. Show up when you say you will and follow through on your promises.
The Hub’s Executive Director, Stephanie Tyree, shared this quote on building trust, “Gain trust by the thimbleful; lose it by the bucketful.”
Once your team knows that you are going to keep showing up and doing what you committed to do, their trust in you will grow. This will lead to more successful projects, partnerships and collaborations.
3 // Set goals and keep moving forward
Your role as a community or team leader is to help keep your group on track and also to help them see the big picture. Having clearly defined goals will keep your team moving forward. Support your team in determining what are achievable goals in the immediate, medium and long-term. Break down objectives and tasks to keep momentum moving – and don’t forget to celebrate small wins along the way.
As you progress, drive forward discussions, decisionmaking and action by remembering to continually ask clarifying questions. This allows everyone to have a voice in the discussion and ownership in the accomplishments.
4 // Engage new people and keep up support for the people you have
There are always more people in your community that can contribute to your team’s goals and projects, keep trying to engage those people. Continue to ask people what they are passionate about, when you find their passion, let them utilize it in a way that benefits your project. Some people may not be interested in attending a regular meeting, but they are more than willing to be in the work with you through volunteering on a project, donating an item, or something else.
Being respectful and inclusive of differing ideas and opinions, and being a cheerleader for other team members, building them up and letting them “own” and lead projects, tasks and responsibilities can help to keep people involved for the long term.
Reach out to other community leaders from around West Virginia as well, determine what has been successful in their community, learn how you can adapt or replicate it in your community. Learn how they have engaged and embraced new ideas and people, what their best tools and tips are and how you can incorporate them into your work. People like to be asked for their advice and opinions, and it never hurts to try to reach out.
5 // Be patient and embrace the hiccups and failures
Creating positive changes in your community takes time, there isn’t a switch or magic fix. Building up a community-based team can be an art, not a science. There is not a road map or guide that is a one size fits all approach. You will try something that doesn’t work, and it’s OK to embrace that failure as an opportunity to learn. Keep trying new things and remember there isn’t a defined finish line.
Quick Tips to Improve Your Leadership Skills
- Identify leadership potential in others and embrace it
- Listen to needs
- Be inclusive and welcoming of new ideas
- Reflect what people say back to them
- Be flexible and adaptive!
- Serve as a connector and a motivator
- Bring your knowledge and skills to the table, but allow others to bring theirs as well
- Be compassionate
- Read the energy in the room and pump it up when it’s needed
- Celebrate small wins along the way