This next step may seem a contradiction to the Crowd Theory. Generally, in a public setting, people are less likely to act, if there is a crowd of people standing around. But if some form of dissent is allowed the combination of ingredients changes the mix.
The firstly, ensure that people considering to volunteer, are given the opportunity to disagree with what is going on in the organization. If dissent and disagreement are discouraged or outright denied then people are less likely to join up. It seems counter-intuitive to educate people of the need to intervene then turn around and tell them they can’t say anything against how things are run in the organization. Create an environment where it is safe to voice opinions.
If you discourage people from speaking out you will most likely have at least one person who disagrees with how you are doing things, anyway. If only one person outwardly disagrees they are often considered a trouble maker….EVEN if other people may feel they are right in disagreeing. Not a pleasant experience for your organization.
If two people will step up to dissent then it is often considered a conspiracy. However, if more than two step up to disagree it is considered a coalition. Funny how that works.
What does that say about how to structure your organization. If there is even a hint of an effort to hold down dissent, your organization will have outbreaks of troublemakers and co-conspirators. I believe that, as a leader it is your job to encourage dissent and support the people who do disagree with how things are done. Ask the questions that are needed that create a safe place for people to voice their opinions. Even though you have an executive or Board of Directors, when big decisions are about to be made, make the effort to bring the information to your membership.
Questions you can ask are:
How long has everyone been thinking of this?
How important is it that we stop and spend more time discussing this? What does everyone think of this?
What other suggestions do members have on how to deal with this?
How is this following our vision, our mission?
How do I go about facilitating the wish of our membership to voice their concerns and opinions?
How much information does everyone need to feel comfortable voicing their opinions on this and supporting it?
If you think people will be more likely to speak privately to you allow that avenue. I often have people email me privately about their opinions but I insist that they consider some way of coming up with a solution. I take great pains to validate their concerns and thank them for speaking up because it can be a difficult choice.
At the very least I ask, privately, if there are others who feel this way. I will often poll the membership on my own. If I find like minded people I quietly encourage them to join up with others who voice similar concerns. I will take the time to ask they consider what some possible solutions might be.
When the next meeting occurs I bring up issues and suggestions. Often a cohesive group has formed around the new suggestions and they are willing to present what they have worked on. Sometimes they aren’t and in that case I make the presentation myself, while keeping the dissenters anonymous.
As I have come to support this type of dissent, in our organization, a bit of magic has sprouted new growth. We have people coming up with solutions to things they disagree with. We have membership coming to Executive meetings and stepping up to speaking their minds. I guess, in a way, I’m fostering this type of interaction even here in this blog. How often does that happen in your organization?
Take a look at the questions listed above? What is your opinion of these?
What sorts of suggestions for other questions does everyone have?