We know that Volunteer leaders need ongoing support in their roles, so how do organisations provide that support without having to be a constant problem solver and providing advice?
COACHING in emergency services: an under utilised resource for volunteer managers and volunteer support officers.
The answer is COACHING….an often misunderstood skill that has the ability to influence behaviours and transform cultures. Coaching skills are one of the most important and valuable skills I have learnt in my career, when you know how to use these skills effectively, you can assist people to reach their goals and radically change the way they look at themselves and others.
The terms coaching and mentoring are often referred to without really appreciating the difference. Understanding the difference is important, because when working alongside volunteers and their leaders you may not be exercising the most effective role and strategy moving forward.
1. Coaching: The Coach is NOT the expert
Coaching is a professional relationship to improve performance through indirect learning and development. A coach is experienced in developing behavioural change and does not need to be an expert as an operational volunteer (although the experience and understanding certainly helps). Coaching is outcome-oriented; whether it be coaching for new behaviours, skills or knowledge. It involves guiding the coachee to evaluate the situation, broaden their perspectives, and develop strategies to allow for change through a structured process.
2. Mentoring: A Mentor may share their expertise
Mentoring is a relationship between two individuals of varying experience, where the more experienced individual seeks to enhance the less experienced person’s professional growth. It is based on a mutual passing of wisdom, skills and knowledge.
As a volunteer manager or senior officer it came be exhausting spending all your time finding solutions to other people’s problems, whereas utilising coaching skills empowers decision making and increases confidence. Instead of being told what to do, Volunteer leaders gain new insight and strategies where they can see a positive outcome and put steps into place to make it happen.
Coaching - the missing link to retaining a successful volunteer workforce
Anyone that has the responsibility working with volunteer leaders at a brigade, group, unit, squadron, team etc. appreciates the ongoing support that is required. Volunteer leaders need ongoing support to recruit, retain and ensure a sustainable team. Without ongoing organisational support they can become overwhelmed, disheartened and feel as though their contribution no longer matters.