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Leadership Lesson: After Building Some Trust, Make Direct Invitations

by Tom Johnson on Jun 7, 2007
categories: technical-writing

Iwo Jima Flag Raising photoI learned a great leadership lesson today. For a couple of weeks a few of us were complaining that no one wanted to do the STC competition this year because it's too much work. And so often in the chapter we feel short on volunteers. You have to twist people's arms to get them to do anything, it seems.

Not really. Mark Hanigan e-mailed me saying, "I would bet that there are quite a few people who would volunteer to take on roles if you call them as the Suncoast president and ask!"

I decided to try Mark's advice. In one night I e-mailed about 10 people inviting them to accept various positions in the chapter. Would you believe that about 75% of the people accepted? This blew my mind.

Here's the method for recruiting people:

  1. Recognize that your role as a leader is to inspire, coordinate, delegate, call, assign, manage -- not necessarily to do the work. If you find yourself doing everything, you're taking away opportunities from members.
  2. Build trust with the members by getting to know them. Find out their interests and strengths. People don't respond well to calls from strangers. Even a five-minute hello goes a long way.
  3. Explain the position, its basic duties, and then extend a direct invitation to the person to accept the position.

Of course there's another phase to this after they accept, but just getting commitment is a big hurdle.

Previously when I needed help, I often sent an e-mail to our chapter listserv asking for help. Almost no one ever responds to those calls (well, I did. But then again, it was something I was interested in: webmaster).

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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