If you have ever been a leader you have probably made this mistake. I know I have. I know other people that have and are doing it right now. The vacuum comes when you have a brilliant idea (or you think you do) and you tell your team to implement it without looking at the downstream affects.
I will use an example from my work life. Recently we have combined with another group that does the same work that my group does only for another portfolio in the company. To assist in the process management (my area) it was decided to add an email for the group. Two of us would manage it. My boss said “It’s just email. It should be easy.” Oh, so not.
When you add something to an existing process (again my area, Masters degree is Organization and Process Management) there are always downstream effects. My colleague (the other person monitoring the email with me) and I had to decide how we would manage the box, who would have access, how would we distribute the mail, how would we categorize the mail, and how would we educate our entire organization to the fact there even was an email box. So the decision to add this mailbox without talking to the people that actually do the work, makes for unhappy or at least frustrated workers. We figured it out but it took a couple meetings, management buy in, and now we are testing to see how our theory worked. And I get paid for this.
Now imagine how I would have felt if I was an unpaid volunteer and you sprung something like this one me. Your brilliant idea just made at least 15 to 20 hours more work for me. I would be, say mostly annoyed with you. In fact if it was a big enough issue, I might just walk away from the job and the organization.
Leaders, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we need to make a change and a decision. Instead of dictating changes, how about a conversation with the people who actually do the work. That’s right. Talk to the people that you lead and find out what is possible and what is not. Just because you think it can be done, does not mean it actually can be done. What is the return on investment? Is it worth the man hours that have to go in to making the change? Is it the hill you want to die on if it can’t happen?
The people that actually do the work are your best resources. Listen to them. Ask them questions. Set expectations before you start the work. Do the homework and get out of the vacuum, because you may just suck the life out of your volunteers.