Returning to my volunteer experience, the next year I volunteered to be the onsite coordinator for the setup. I met with the organizer the day before to understand what needed to be done. Although fewer volunteers showed up (I wonder why?), the setup was completed in about half the time. As far as I could tell, each volunteer went home with a feeling of accomplishment.
Remember that your first priority, as the leader, must be thinking and planning two or three steps ahead of what is actually being done right now!
As you communicate plans and expectations, clarify – I call it "chalking the field" – is paramount. During busy periods everyone is in a hurry, often stressed, and sometimes exhausted. Each of these increases the likelihood of a communication failure; that what you said is not remembered completely or correctly.
Here are a couple ideas to ensure clarity of communications:
• Whenever possible, especially when the communication includes numbers or directions, have the details written down so you can leave a copy for later reference. When employees are unsure about details, they are much more comfortable looking at the reference than calling you.
• When communicating verbally, ask employees to take notes. Not only does taking notes provide a reference, it greatly increases retention. Everyone should always have access to a place to take notes; it can be a mobile device or simply a small notebook.
• When communicating specifics – directions, quantities, locations, etc. – the less you rely on memory, the fewer the problems.
• As always with "chalking the field," explaining why increases both acceptance and retention?
Taking a little extra time to be clear will reduce mistakes, lessen frustration, and ultimately save time.
Perceptiveness and empathy
As the leader, you need to continually take the emotional "temperature" of your dedicated workforce. Your employees will likely work harder and longer than is good for their emotional or physical health.
Here are some ideas and things to look for:
• Look for telltale signs that emotional stress is growing: easily frustrated, quick to get angry, reduced enthusiasm, anything that is out of character. When these signs appear, the person needs a pick-me-up: a break, a task change or encouragement.
• Look for the telltale signs of physical stress: any of the above emotional signs, increased frequency of errors, moving more slowly, resistance to directions, lethargy. You need to move quickly to ensure that this person gets some rest. At this point, the person in an accident waiting to happen.