Are most volunteer managers introverts or extroverts? Does it matter? Is an extrovert a better leader and better able to influence people? Is an introvert more empathetic and better able to get the best out of volunteers? Should we care?
Sometimes, we need to take an honest look at our personality tendencies in order to understand why we do what we do and how we can become better at our jobs. And by being better at our jobs, I mean not just better for volunteers and our organizations, but also better for our own emotional health so we don’t get stuck in an emotional rut. Understanding our own motivations or personalities can help us analyze our strengths while reviewing the areas that keep us from attaining our goals.
We are the hub of a complicated volunteer system, one swirling around us. How do we manage all the moving parts? Is it better to be an introvert? Or do we need to have an extrovert’s personality?
See if this sounds like you:
- You spend a lot of time carefully planning meaningful volunteer roles and carefully interviewing volunteers so you can skillfully place them where they will do the most good
- You can easily stand back and let the volunteers shine. You feel proud when viewing their accomplishments
- You spend a lot of time cheer-leading your volunteers so that they reap the enormous benefits from volunteering because you see the greatness in them
- You don’t manipulate a volunteer meeting with directives; instead you prefer to encourage volunteers to share, to feel part of something awesome and you take to heart their suggestions and concerns
- You don’t toot your own horn in front of others and usually try to deflect praise onto the volunteers
- You make sure all the volunteers are acknowledged. You run from table to table at volunteer functions, chatting with every volunteer present
- You can be lighthearted around the volunteers and enjoy joking with them and seeing them have a good time
Does this sound like you? Then you’re basically an introvert. But wait. You also exhibit extrovert behavior. So are you an extrovert? Well, more likely, you fall under the category, ambivert or outgoing introvert.
The outgoing introvert (OI) is basically an introvert who is social when circumstances call for being social. They enjoy people, especially on a deeper level. For volunteer managers, this means being a terrific host at functions, feeling comfortable with the volunteers, letting small talk beget deeper conversations, wanting to get to know volunteers on a personal level and feeling exhausted from all the emotional attention you spend on others.
Sounds like a pretty great way to be, right?
Especially when you consider how the outgoing introvert (OI) takes the time to position volunteers and volunteer programs for the future. The OIs carefully analyzes situations in order to make the best decisions not only for the organization, but for clients and volunteers.
But since the OI is primarily an introvert, here is where the frustrations can mount up.
They get overlooked…. a lot…. and they can be perceived as not moving fast enough, when in reality they are spending the necessary time to craft solid programs, ones that don’t need retooling later.
Extroverts dominate meetings, dialogue and policies. Introverts struggle to be heard, thinking that their dedication, track record and accomplishments speak as loudly as the extrovert’s voice. Sadly, it doesn’t usually work this way. And since an OI is extroverted when comfortable with the surrounding people (such as volunteers), they may not be comfortable in a staff meeting and therefore, will be less inclined to speak up.
As an introvert with outgoing tendencies, the volunteer manager is more thoughtful and plans for volunteer staying power. The OI volunteer manager pays close attention to each volunteer’s story, questions and concerns. The OI volunteer manager quietly works to enact meaningful volunteer engagement. The OI volunteer manager listens carefully, in order to formulate intersecting paths benefiting clients, volunteers and the organization. The OI volunteer manager sometimes appears awkward and shy and sometimes bold and full of fun, depending upon the circumstance.
The frustrations come in when the introverted volunteer manager side thinks no one else sees what they see. After all, isn’t it obvious to everyone how amazing every volunteer is? Can’t everyone see the beauty in volunteering? How can they not see that time and effort must be taken to assure each volunteer is properly engaged?
Explaining volunteer management is an area where tapping into the outgoing side can help. Since complaining or directing attention to one’s self is not something the introvert is comfortable with, then how can an OI volunteer manager get their points across?
By shifting focus. Think of the passion you convey when approaching new volunteers. You believe in volunteerism, and the mission, right? You convey the power of volunteering without ever feeling like the focus is on you personally, right?
Use that same mindset when speaking in front of your peers. Focus on presenting your volunteer program in the exact same way you present volunteering to prospective volunteers. View yourself as the mouthpiece for a program you know is incredible, just as you know volunteering is incredible.
The introverted volunteer manager side has to feel comfortable in a situation for the outgoing side to emerge. You view volunteers as receptive to your message and perhaps you view staff and upper management as skeptical of your message. Your comfort level can diminish when speaking at staff meetings or with senior executives.
Imagine that your peers and senior management are actually receptive, just like new volunteers and they are looking for inspiring messages, positive steps and motivating presentations from you. Staff and upper management are people too, and just like volunteers, will respond to a persuasive argument, especially when those arguments showcase how it will benefit them and the mission. With emphasis on benefit, your message will be heard.
We, volunteer managers tend to hone our communication skills with volunteers in mind. Applying these same skills to interactions with staff and upper management is really not any different. It’s our comfort level that holds us back. We view staff and upper management in a separate category, one we may not feel empowered to engage.
Speaking confidently about volunteer issues can be a big step for the OI volunteer manager. It’s about removing the personal reluctance hindering our voices and tapping into the outgoing side we use so effectively on volunteers. It’s about focusing on the points we believe deeply in and communicating those points, just as we do with volunteers.
Confidence is infectious and it grows with each usage. The OI volunteer manager skills are already there, having been sharpened by interactions with volunteers. These skills are waiting to be fully unleashed.
We are who we are, personality, tendencies, foibles and all. But, when you start to analyze how each personality trait can aid in attaining your goals, then those traits will work for you, instead of holding you back.
Whether or not you’re an extrovert, introvert or an OI, your people skills bring out the best in your volunteers. These same skills can bring out the best in you, too.