Catch Them Doing the Right Things

In part five of our discussion on Recruiting and Training Volunteers,  we’re going to discuss how on the job coaching can radically help your volunteers to succeed.  We’ve looked at Seven Crucial Questions for Recruiting VolunteersFour Steps to Pick the Best Possible Volunteers,  Seven Keys to a Great Ask, and Test Drives Save Lives.

If you lead other people, you know well the pressure to provide them great training to help them succeed.  You might fall in the camp that hosts regular training meetings to give them all the info you can.  Maybe you do an annual training retreat with them.  Or possibly, you’ll fall into the camp that I was president of for many years, where you know they need training, you feel inadequate to figure it out, so you kind of quietly ignore it and hope they figure it out on their own.  (That last plan rarely worked out the way I hoped.  Not sure why.)

I’d like to encourage you to consider the idea of on the job coaching.  When I talk about coaching, I mean the process of helping someone improve while standing next to them.  We’ve discussed how pastors are called Biblically to train other people to do ministry.  This process can go a long way in helping your volunteers not just do ministry, but understand what God has for them, and allows them to take the ministry further than you know how to take it.

There is an old, and excellent, model of training that goes something like:

  • You watch – I do
  • You do – I do
  • You do – I watch

For our discussion, I’d add two more elements to that plan:

  • You do it on your own, and make the calls.
  • You train someone else to do it as well.

The coaching we are discussing leans into this process.  When done well, it can produce far better results than training meetings / retreats can on their own.  I would contend that if you can develop a coaching system that works well, you can then use your meetings to develop community and a sense of team instead of skill training.  Those meetings are always more fun, and better attended.

So, what are some of the keys to coaching well?

  1. Catch people doing the right things.  When someone is doing what they are supposed to do, and doing it well, make a point to speak to them about it, in the moment.  Tell them what they did well (skill), why it matters that they did it well (values), and how it’s going to impact others (vision).
  2. Make a regular point of praising people publicly.  Don’t be over the top, but praise people in front of their peers when they do something well.  You want to do everything you can to correct someone privately, and praise them publicly.
  3. Debrief often.  Be available and intentional to grab a volunteer after they serve to debrief with them in the moment.  Ask lots of questions about how they sense it went, what worked, what didn’t, what can be improved for next time.  When you combine this with the first step, the debrief can become a turbo charged catalyst for growth.
  4. Multiple small conversations are better than one large discussion.  The more often you see coaching as your role, and invest in it, the fewer large meetings you have to have.  It provides you and your team the chance to keep shorter lists, be aware of what is working well, and keep open communication.
  5. Be specific and clear.  When you praise someone, be specific and clear on all of the details.  When you discuss improvements, be specific and clear.  You might avoid an uncomfortable emotion with a vague discussion, but the other person will assume the worst many times about why you’re being vague.  A lack of specificity and clarity can be so destructive.

Coaching on the job requires you to build enough margin into your schedule to be present with people, and available to make these steps work.  That alone can be one of the biggest challenges.  Getting over that hump requires each of us to come to a clearer understanding of what our job really is.  Are you there to do ministry for other people, or to train everyone to do ministry well?

What else would you add?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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