How Can I Help?

I’m reading Great on the Job, by Jodi Glickman. Early in the book, the author asserts that asking “How can I help?” may cause more problems than it solves.

How can that be? I was wondering that too, at first. It’s simple if you think about it. Lets say you have a group of tasks that you need help with. It doesn’t even matter what they are, or when you need them. Now, add in an e-mail from me that says, “How can I help?”

Do you send me the first task on the list? Do you send me something simple that I can’t screw up? How do you decide? How do you even start to figure it out?

This question comes up in my mind because of my work in Toastmasters. There is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of potential volunteers out there. The trick is trying to match the needs with the skillsets, which I’m sure is a common problem in any volunteer organization, and even in the corporate settings.

So what is the solution? I think that it comes in two parts. First, you have to be able to define your need. I say that, knowing that even well polished job descriptions coupled with accurate and truthful resumés don’t often lead to good matches in the corporate settings. However, you can’t let the difficulty of doing the job right paralyze you from doing the job, right?

Second, you want to get your volunteer pool to shift gears and start providing you with ideas on how they can help, not just offers of help. As an example, I recently had one volunteer step back due to some scheduling issues. Before I had a chance to look for a replacement, I received a request from another member to step in and help with an important task that was needed in the short term (next two weeks). That was far better that 6 “How can I help?” messages.

What’s my strategy? I’ve been working with our team to put together specific needs, much like job descriptions. This can work in your small business or Toastmasters club too. Define the job and see who fits the bill. If you can’t find anyone, change the description and see if you get the right experience to at least cover a portion of the job.

How do you get them used to volunteering for specific tasks? You have to be specific.

What is the job?
What is the importance? To whom?
What is time requirements?
What are the travel and communication requirements?
Who do they report to?
What defines success?

There are probably other questions, but answer those above and you’ll likely have a description someone can understand and decide on.

I recently tried this in our TM District, sending a brief description to 101 Club VPs of Membership. I receive about 7 positive responses, and ended up with 4 volunteers for jobs we had never filled before. So far so good – and more will be coming.

If you’re like me and you have tasks that need to be done, whether in a volunteer organization or a small business, take the time to outline your need first. Then you can answer the folks who ask the tough question, “How can I help?”

 

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