“I haven’t seen my 4-H Agent at the Fair this week. I’m pretty certain he does absolutely nothing!”
I’m not quite sure what it is in human nature that makes us think the worst of others sometimes. Whether it’s clients who don’t believe you are doing enough, or maybe you’ve made certain assumptions about co-workers who you don’t interact with on a regular basis. Either way, it’s a real issue.
As I see it, there are two solutions- communications and effective remote leadership skills.
Communications: Do your 4-H families know what you do? I mean, do they REALLY know what you do? Those fun pages you turned in last week (POW/ROA), have you shared that with them? What about your job description? Your reporting requirements? When acclimating new 4-H volunteers and families be open with them about all the facets of your job and what they can reasonably expect of you. Most (not all) people really are reasonable when they understand the big picture.
For instance, when I explain my position to new agents I am very open with the fact that 60% of my job is focused on working with the district, and of that it is divided amongst 17 counties, subtract time for routine items like reporting, filing paperwork, putting out fires, and occasional “thinking time.”. I won’t bore you with an exact equation, but I think it helps provide a framework for developing reasonable expectations.
Remote Leadership: Leading people you don’t interact with on a regular basis is tricky, and quite frankly much more difficult. In these instances effective communication is essential. Based on 12 Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Employees there are a few strategies I suggest you might employ:
- Set more short (less long) term goals. Perhaps this means you work with a new club leader to set a goal for his or her first quarter of the 4-H year, and then check in each time the seasons change as opposed to signing off on their plan of action for the year and waited the full year to check back in.
- Check in, often. We all complain about too many emails, but sometimes we wonder what’s going on when we don’t hear from someone in awhile. Go ahead and send those emails, both as a group and also to INDIVIDUALS. Picking up the phone and checking in takes more time, but is important for building relationships with those you don’t see regularly.
- Get to know people personally. I strongly believe 90% of our job is about relationships. Take time to find out client’s interests, hobbies, etc. and bring those up in conversation.
- Be clear about your main objectives for the 4-H program for the coming year. If you have one overall goal (i.e. increase participation in County Events this year) tell people! Often! Every time you see them! Every time you email them! This does wonders for building team camaraderie.
- Realize that nothing is the same as face time. You need to plan for such face time with all of your clients on a regular basis. Be strategic about it. Ask where they would most like to see you, when they need the most help, what you can do for them.
Check out more on remote leadership at Remote Leadership Institute.