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Volunteer and Staff Empowerment Creates a Stronger Organization

Volunteer and Staff Empowerment Creates a Stronger Organization

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to a local Society of Association Executives. At the end of the conference, the hotel's general manager and I were talking a bit. While I was overall pleased with the audience's reaction to my speech, what he had to say really made me think.

He told me that he loved what I was speaking about, how once you empower your staff (both paid and volunteer), they take ownership over their jobs. They essentially become the boss of their own area, which means they have more personal pride in their work and how it gets done. He had his own personal experiences with self-empowerment on the job, causing him to have such a strong reaction to my talk.

But isn't it true? Don't we tend to have more passion and more commitment when we feel like we are our own boss? When we feel responsible for our outcomes, like any "boss" is, we put in a little more effort. When we know that we have been trusted to do something and do it well, we pay more attention to the detail, not letting anything fall through the cracks.

This is also what happens when we trust and value our staff and volunteers enough to self-empower them in their individual positions. They develop greater pride in their duties. This ultimately transfers into a greater drive to not only handle their responsibilities but to handle them with expert care. When they feel valued and respected, they are more willing to go that extra mile.

And they will likely do it with a smile on their faces.


Encouraging Initiative in Your Association

Creating this type of organization-wide environment is not always easy, but it often starts with having an open-door policy. It involves giving your staff and volunteers the opportunity to share their ideas, opinions, thoughts, and concerns about their duties regularly. This way, you know exactly what is working and, perhaps more importantly, what isn't. It also means giving them the latitude they need to make some decisions when it comes to their respective duties so they can handle some of these issues on their own.

To put this type of time, value, and trust in the people you have chosen to help grow your organization, association, or business not only empowers them, but it also engages them. This is critical as one Gallup poll has found that only 13 percent of workers are engaged worldwide, creating what they call a "worldwide employee engagement crisis."

Disengagement is important because it can keep you from reaching your true potential. It can affect your bottom line and make it difficult to do whatever it is you have set out to do.

Compare that to an organization in which paid staff and volunteers feel engaged, empowered, and valued, and you tend to see higher levels of enthusiasm. They also exhibit more confidence, as they are inspired to do the best job possible.

In addition to having open lines of communication, self-empowerment can also be achieved by making the workplace a team. When all of the staff and volunteers helping accomplish your mission feel like they are working with you versus for you, it creates an entirely different atmosphere for them. It reminds them that you are all working together for a common cause, increasing the likelihood that you will achieve it.

Empowering your staff and volunteers, giving them not only the right but the obligation to manage their own areas, can help you create a stronger, more resilient organization. This means that it can make you completely unstoppable in your mission, which is the best scenario any organization leader can ask for.



Red Katz is a dynamic, "real world" professional speaker with the unique ability to connect, motivate and inspire even the most buttoned-down of audiences in a matter of minutes. Over the last 20 years, Red has been able to leverage his natural speaking talent to find professional success as an entrepreneur, a profession in which he has built businesses, motivated large teams, raised capital and streamlined processes to exceed revenue and profit objectives dramatically. He has spent the last ten years cultivating his passion for motivating others through his active membership and leadership in organizations like Toastmasters International and The Mankind Project and has thus been able to realize his dream by delivering powerful keynote speeches for a wide variety of corporate and social organizations.



Finding ways to encourage staff and volunteers onwards towards success can be a new and intimidating change for some associations. Some innovation may be involved in finding the means to do so without sending the wrong message, such as placation or condescension rather than respect. In their webinar Perpetual Innovation: the Strategic Tradition of Successful Associations – Webinar, Donna French Dunn, CAE and Glenn Tecker discuss how your association can best manage innovation so it is less jarring and sticks.



Red Katz, Volunteers, Staff, Associations, Leadership, Professional Development, Team Building


Guest Contributor, Governance / Leadership



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