group management, leader motivation, how to motivate yourself as a group leader

Getting unstuck from mental quicksand: How to motivate yourself as a group leader

Or, enough about them. Let’s talk about you!

Much has been written about how leaders can motivate their people. Much of the writing has to do with corporate environments and work teams. But our blog isn’t for corporate leadership development. It’s about a different kind of leadership. Our focus is on groups that have voluntarily formed in order to give their time and energy to a shared passion or common goal.  We’re talking car clubs, community gardens, quarantine homeschool pods, church choirs, adult intramural soccer teams, community action groups, etc. How do leaders of these types of groups reconnect to motivation, that fickle creature, when they’d frankly rather take the day/week/month off from leading?

After all, somebody has to harness the groups energy and lead. You’ve become that somebody. Congratulations! Ostensibly, this was a positive and broadly supported group decision, and you were enthusiastic to take up the mantle. You had the time to give, and you had some great ideas about how you could support and inspire the group in getting things done well.

Reluctant group leader ISO reasons not to quit

What may have seemed like a great idea on day 1 is now totally dragging you down, sucking you dry, and leaving you with nothing but resentment and a proclivity toward procrastination and avoidance. Things that technically only take 30 seconds, like firing off an email with the last meeting minutes to the members who were absent, have shifted from simple clerical chores to monumentally frustrating and obnoxious mental roadblocks. You’re all of a sudden pushing a boulder endlessly uphill, and that boulder is not a rock but the group you once loved and championed. You might feel guilty about being checked out, but too lethargic to do much about it. Oof. Fantastic. What now, you ask yourself. Or us. Ask us!

1. Learn how to delegate

The key here isn’t really just how leaders should delegate, but how leaders could delegate really WELL. The Harvard Business Review talks about it in terms of a shift from “doing” to “leading.” The first priority of the on-the-brink, pushed-to-the-edge, on-the-verge-of-a-total-freakout leader should become this. How can you do less busy work? How can you put to good work the skills of the members of your group?

Everyone loves and respects a leader who is willing and able to get in the mix of group “doing” and get their hands dirty. It’s an admirable way to be and there is nothing inherently wrong with it…UNLESS it’s making you a worse leader than you could be. Which is why you might be reading this right now.

When it comes to delegating big tasks, first think through your membership roster. Is Jim a professional photographer and you need someone to document the upcoming event? No brainer. Take the time to personally recognize member’s specific qualifications and strengths. The people in your group are there because they want to be involved, and most people are flattered to be recognized for their unique gifts. Approach the qualified people, give them the context of what the project is and why you’re asking them, give them a reasonable expectation of what would be required of them from a time and energy standpoint, and of course be gracious if they say no thanks.When it comes to the less exciting tasks- who’s in charge of bagels next time? Who’s going to stand in the parking lot for 15 min before the meeting and remind people not to take up the spaces for the next door yoga studio? you get the picture- here’s an easy way to address that. Don’t message the group asking for volunteers. Instead, ask a small handful of people personally to see if they are able or willing to assist. Of course make sure that you’re asking different people each time. If there is a consistent chore that always needs attention (coffee at every meeting, for example) set up a rotating list so that everyone can share the burden. If you’re a Groupizy user, this is a great way to make use of the List and Calendar functions.

2. Focus on preventative maintenance

In the words of politician, inventor, and OG storm chaser extraordinaire Ben Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” At Groupizy, we know that groups often live or die based NOT on per-capita enthusiasm group members have for the cause, but really on how efficient and streamlined they are able to stay. For leaders, an inefficient group management process means ad nauseam paper shuffling, redundant email forwarding, and being the go-between in a hellish and never-ending game of telephone. All of those activities are yours to keep if you like them, but we sincerely question your soundness of mind if you say you do.

Why put yourself in the position of being absolutely essential when being heavily involved is good enough? Get your documents uploaded to an online repository so that nobody ever needs to ask you for the contact list, the minutes, or the PDF of the flyer they’re trying to get ahold of. Crowd-source decision making by using a survey tool that easily syncs with your online group communication platform. Put someone else in charge of being the groups online admin. Need suggestions for what technology to use? We have ideas, but urge leaders to do their own research PROACTIVELY. Do not wait until 6 of your fingers are given over to keeping the dam from collapsing.

3. Remember your ‘why’

This falls into the attitude adjustment category. The taking your medicine category. The don’t-wanna-take-the-time-but-know-it-is-critical category. In reality, this step might be one of the most important on this list, so don’t let your eyes glaze over just yet. Motivation, at the end of the day, is a feeling that comes and goes with the wind. It’s not fair to expect that you (or the other very successful people out there) are living in a constant state of free-flowing motivation. After you’ve exhausted the above steps, here’s what’s next.

Sit down and consider why you got involved in the first place. What brought you into this current role and why did you think you had something to offer? What have been the unexpected blessings and challenges of your involvement? Have their been any rough patches (other than this current one) where you were forced to learn, grow, or entirely redirect focus after things didn’t go well? If you were to vanish, what shape would the group be left in? Would the initiatives that you came in ready to tackle have been handled to your liking? Is there anything that you still want to accomplish that you haven’t had the bandwidth to get to?

Who knows what your answers will be or what light this will shed. It could be the catalyst for succession planning for the next capable leader, or it could be the reflective journey that reminds you that you still have good work to do here. That’s an inside job!

4. Be honest with yourself

If your deep dive has brought you to the conclusion that someone else in the group is, at this point, better suited to your role than you are, that’s ok! No need to rake yourself over the coals for not staying Westwood Avenue Book Club President until your final, dying day. The ultimate “do less” solution  and sanity saver is to bow out with grace BEFORE you have a meltdown. Return to being a group member. Get out of the hot seat. There are ways to do this well too.

Happy Grouping, 

The Team at Groupeasy

Leave a Comment