Yesterday we had a great day of training for all of our Volunteer Maryland Coordinators. We were able to cover some great topics such as in-kind donations, volunteer orientations, and public speaking. But one day isn’t enough time to cover all of the topics that Volunteer Maryland Coordinators wanted to know about. Some of the questions I heard revolved around a central theme of working relationships. So I wanted to take a moment to review some of the information we covered at Pre-Service Training.
I was trying to think of a good metaphor to talk about working relationships, and I thought, you know, I really like cheese. How is dealing with people like dealing with cheese? We deal with people every day of our lives, and they form as central a part of most people’s lives as cheese does to mine. And as there are many kinds of cheese, there are many kinds of people. And just like how you prefer Gouda to Gloucester, people have different preferences of how they deal with their supervisors and their volunteers.
When you think of communication styles, you have a good idea of what kind you prefer. But what if, like we discussed in training, your boss has a totally different style? Or maybe you like to communicate with your volunteers in a certain way, but you find it doesn’t work all that well. Here we can take lessons from the humble cheese. I may not prefer pungent cheese, but I can learn to appreciate its lovelier qualities. In the same way, your boss might be short on the compliments and heavy on the constructive criticism; but what may help you is learning to appreciate your boss’s forthrightness with you, or knowing that when they give a compliment you know you’ve earned it. In the same way, you might want to try offering your volunteers a different cheese – maybe they find your communications to be too roundabout, or maybe they need more personal attention.
Working with other people will be a constant, and for many people it may even be the most important part of their job. Be creative in your approaches to dealing with people – don’t give up on relationships as unworkable, but try new tactics. Try modifying your approach or try modifying your attitude. You may have your personal style that you like best, but much like cheese, it is always rewarding to try something new.