When I work with just one business owner, I am always eager to get started, confident that together we can forge a great path forward for them and their business — one that is full of juicy, enticing, I-can’t-wait-to-get-out-of-bed goals.When I work with a group, however…
I spent a day recently with a wonderful group of volunteers, the board of a non-profit group in the Midwest. I’ve worked with them every year for the past three years. After several conversations with their incoming president, I arrived on the scene to spend seven hours with the whole nine-member board. We had a full agenda, meant to inform all the members of their responsibilities and point them toward all the resources they’d need to do their job. Then we’d spend the afternoon making ambitious plans for the coming year, plans that are consistent with their mission and their resources.
I know some of the people from their past board service. Others were new to me. All of them were recruited by a skilled nominating committee to assemble a board that would be great for the group. What could go wrong?
Well, group dynamics can be unpredictable. Group expectations are harder to manage than individual expectations, without a doubt. Each person comes with his or her own set of goals, wishes, fears, desires, limitations, and all the rest. One person is content to let the leader determine the process, another has a burning desire to know where they’re headed, no matter what it takes. One wants to think big, another insists that realism must rule the day. One wants the group to stay the size it is and serve the members it already has, another wants to reach out to those not yet in the group.
Should I worry about whether the “magic” will happen? Will this group find goals that everyone can share? Will they find a way to speak to everyone’s needs?
I shouldn’t worry. They always come through with goals that are ambitious, realistic, and fun, and this group was no exception. While strategic planning for groups is more complicated than planning for individual businesses, the dynamics are the same. Everyone wants a goal that will propel them toward a satisfying end.
The individual board members contributed to goals that would meet the group’s objectives. Everyone signed on to projects they were able to support, in amounts they were able to commit. It was great.
Strategic planning for individuals and groups shares many characteristics, provided that the group is filled with people who want to see the group succeed. And if all goes well, then every member’s business will benefit from what they learn as a group. Those on the board will find that their businesses succeed in part thanks to what they’ve learned on the board.
Does your volunteer service help your business? What have you learned from volunteering? Has the time investment been worth it? Share your experience here by leaving a comment.