One Does Not Simply Delegate – A Guide to Getting the Help You Need (for CLTRD Board and Committee Heads 2019)
When managing league work as a leader of a roller derby league, it’s very tempting to use strategies that are tried and true in professional environments, or a non-profit volunteer or casual environment. However, roller derby leagues work a bit different for the following reasons:
- Except in very rare cases, roller derby league work is not paid, therefore it is secondary to people’s professional life and will automatically suffer deficiencies in time and resources available
- Anyone who is not strictly a volunteer in derby is doing league work as a secondary aspect of their league participation, which means the work automatically suffers further deficiencies in priority and resources.
Between skaters and officials paid work (or family, or other) priorities, and the primary participation of our league (skating, officiating), league work sits firmly as the tertiary priority (at best) for anyone involved.
Not only do people have less time and resources to give, but they will typically not suffer any real consequences if they don’t do the work. Often, people who are denied their skating eligibility due to neglected league work have checked out of the league anyway. People must be directly motivated to complete league work.
What does this mean?
- Delegation is not simply getting “butts in committee seats”
- We must not assume that just because someone has a role with a job description written down somewhere, that they can use that information to successfully do the job
- Our role as leaders is to set up the work so that it’s very accessible for people with a tertiary interest in league work (that’s almost everyone!)
- Instead of delegating out, we need to bring delegates IN and have a centralized approach to managing league work
How to implement good delegation for your pillar or committee:
Make a written, very clear list of what you want and need in order for your pillar to work at it’s very best. Do not be shy and restrict yourself to the bare minimum. Your list should include things you want (technologies, supplies, contacts, resources) and people (e.g. a right-hand person, a well-spoken communicator, someone who loves planning events, etc.).
Tip: When making a list of the people you need, make a list of the attributes of the kind of person who would enjoy/do well at the job. (e.g. I need someone who is meticulous with and loves calendars and routinely reviews the calendar for “fun”, who is likely to quickly catch inconsistencies or errors)
Also: Estimate the –time- needed to achieve your goals, so you can set correct expectations of the time requirements you’ll be asking of your volunteers
Make a strategic plan of what your year is going to look like with league work. This is not just a timeline of events coming up, rather it must take into account everything else going on in the league that may affect the work, and what milestones you want to achieve during the year (e.g. Have 60 boutable skaters by year end, have 10 additional sponsors, have high and steady attendance through end of season, etc.)
Recruit your team and ask for resources to fulfill your wish list. Do not be afraid to directly approach people you want on your team to ask if they would like to work with you. Ask new people if the work sounds interesting and paint a picture for why your committee will be fulfilling and interesting work.
Rule of Thumb: Never use guilt tactics, punitive threats, or begging as a strategy to recruit help. If you are tempted to use these strategies, you need to re-tool your strategic plan and/or ask the VP for help with triage of your committee. People will come running do the most tedious, thankless work for you if you frame it in a positive light, emphasize how they will benefit from the work, and show them that it’s well organized and clearly defined and maybe even fun!
Formally wrap up and evaluate the work. This is one of the most neglected elements of volunteer organizing. Volunteers should know exactly what constitutes a completed job, and they should receive feedback on how it went, and given an opportunity to evaluate what went well and what lessons were learned. When work trails off or ends in chaos, volunteers may leave with the impression that league work is a compounding, messy ordeal that is more than they bargained for. When work has a definite end point and sense of completion, it really boosts morale and trust among volunteers, who also need to budget their own time and priorities to fit in league work.
Recruit NEW volunteers rather than burning out the active volunteers
Our league has a tendency to run newer skaters and promising volunteers into the ground. We have taken for granted people who have a high drive to volunteer with the league. This happens because leadership does not always invest the time to recruit and train newer people who are perfectly capable, but are not necessarily waving their hand saying “Pick Me!”. It also creates the self-fulfilling prophecy that “only 20% of the league does 80% of the work”
Here are some committee-killing and volunteer repelling habits which you may recognize:
- Over-utilization: Attempt to recruit someone who already has an established job in one committee to do a high-volume job in an unrelated committee
- Hitting up the wrong people: Recommending or attempting to recruit former committee or pillar heads, or people who previously did the job, but are no longer part of the committee (especially if they were burned out)
- Substitution: Doing a job yourself that should have been delegated out, but it’s “faster” or “easier” to complete the job yourself than include someone new and provide guidance
- Enabling: Allowing people to over-commit to committee jobs without stepping in to recruit new people to do the jobs and spread out the work
- Waiting until last minute: Not planning their resource needs in time to find qualified and appropriate volunteers, resulting in substitution (see above) or compounding work
The idea that it’s faster and easier to do something yourself rather than train someone is an illusion and a myth. Any time saved now will become compounded work later, especially when committees get transferred from one head to another, or if someone burns out and leaves.
Tips for good delegation habits
- Immediately provide orientation to your new recruit(s). Even if you don’t have an entire plan laid out, at least provide an outline (in writing) of what to expect, a list of where to find resources or more info, and copy them on e-mails, even if they aren’t participating in the specific work yet
- When assigning work, provide your volunteers (in writing, if possible):
- Exactly what the project is
- When does it start and when does it END
- A list of milestones or tasks to complete (that can be tracked by the volunteer)
- Who to contact if they get stuck, lost, or need to bail for whatever reason
- Periodically check in with your volunteers! Ask them if they need help, if they have questions, and what they have completed so far
- If you are hearing a lot of silence or something is not getting done after you’ve delegated the job, you need to intervene quickly. Either the person needs more direction, or they can’t complete the job and need someone to cover. Unpaid volunteers are often reluctant to speak up if they are struggling, so it’s up to you to stay on top of it
- Your volunteer is only responsible for exactly what they agreed to do. If you need to add more to their plate, ASK first. Do not push more responsibilities their way without consent, or the quality of work will decline and they won’t want to work with you anymore
- Remember to thank the volunteer for their work, and recap what they did well, and share “lessons learned” with them.
Thank you for reading. May you have a super productive season with lots of teamwork and zero burnout!