October 12; Take Over Work From Your Manager
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Ten: Deciding 12 October

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,

“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said,

“Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

Take Over Work From Your Manager

Volunteer

“Never volunteer” is the ancient Army truism. The reasoning is simple: you won’t get paid more. Competence will only increase your workload. You won’t get any more rank. Keep low. Keep quiet.

dog_tags_yoestThe old military maxim demands that the soldier does not step up and do anything extra because you are not likely to get any more stripes or immediate promotions. So keep a low profile and do no more outside of your assigned duties. You can’t get hammered if you don’t get noticed. No mistakes are made if nothing is moving.

This is, of course, a lie.

Every school semester, Your Business Professor will instruct the students that each attendee will introduce themselves to the class. I give them a few minutes to collect their thoughts.

Then I ask for volunteers. I wait. And wait. And I know to outwait them because no student has ever jumped in and immediately volunteered.

And so one brave soul will eventually volunteer to go first. This is after realizing that a long, silent, boring class will follow unless somebody says something. Because it won’t be the professor who is patiently awaiting.

As soon as the student is recognized and speaks, I interrupt. Rudely. But with a smile. I go into didactic mode and launch a lecture. (Sometimes I create my own “teachable moments.” This is something best left to us professionals.)

I congratulate and compliment the heroic pupil. My message is to “Always Volunteer.” Especially in a forum where everyone will be required to participate.   Because everyone will have a speaking part, speak up and go first. This has several advantages.

  • No one is paying any attention to the First Person. The rest of the class is rehearsing their lines that they now know they will have to give.
  • The standard for acceptable performance is low. No one can be critical of the early speakers—who are likely to be forgotten as the others drone on. Let’s call it the First Mover Advantage.
  • The followers will take the early cues and add and expand on previous speakers.
  • Finally, remember: no one is listening to the first guy any way. He will be quickly forgotten by everyone. Except me. He will get an ‘A’ in the class and he doesn’t know it yet. I can make things like that happen. I am the boss.

Dr. Henry Mintzberg in his book Management, quotes Jonathan Gosling, University of Exeter, U.K., who touches on standing up,

The best way to predict who will take initiative and serve as a leader is to see what young people do at school.

Participating in sports, school clubs and volunteering in the community are all strongly correlated with activism in later life. Strengthening our youth organizations is a real and proven way of growing leadership…[Management: It’s Not What You Think, Henry Mintzberg, et al, American Management Association, 2010]

Volunteers are natural leaders. Always volunteer.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8

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18 Responses

  1. Isabella says:

    Growing up I was always encouraged to volunteer, so it was odd to hear about this Army truism, “never volunteer.” It seems almost like a head game, much like the head game of who will talk first in class. Yes it is easier to just keep low and keep quiet, but the one that stands up and shows competence and takes upon themselves the responsibility of others is the one that you want to stand next to on the battle field and during that final class presentation. That person has the nerve to take a stand and make a difference.

    I do not think the Army is actually supporting this idea of “never volunteering” in fact I think it is quite the opposite. As I said before, I think this truism is a head game, used to weed out the people that will keep their head down. Nothing extraordinary will be expected of these people, they are the conformers who will take orders and only take orders never trying to be more or attain more. There is nothing wrong with these people, they’ve simply fallen victim to conformity. The people that speak up, take initiative, and volunteer are the extraordinary people. Those are the people that are often found in leadership positions in the Army.

    It is simple; volunteering is more than sports, clubs, and giving back to the community. It develops a person’s morals and induces hard work. It incites personal growth and teaches humility. A person, who volunteers, is a person who knows his or her limits, and that is a key factor in leadership and success.

  2. jack says:

    Isabella, you are exactly right — this should read that ‘some in the Army say’ rather to imply that this is military doctrine.

    Well done,
    Jack

  3. Robert Walsh says:

    Volunteering should play a major role in everyone’s life. Whether it be helping out at your local church or choosing to speak first in class, volunteering is a behavior that can benefit an individual throughout one’s entire life. As it stated in the article, people that volunteer demonstrate qualities of leadership. These are the people that others look up to in their community.
    Volunteering can also establish great connections and give you the chance to meet people who share similar qualities. You never know, there is a chance of meeting someone who can land you a job. The great thing about potentially meeting someone like that while volunteering is that his or her first impression of you is that you are an individual who serves others.
    The portion of the article that discusses the benefits of speaking first in a class is something to take note of. I believe that having the confidence to present a project or an idea to fellow students or co-workers before anyone else can show one’s strong personality. By becoming comfortable speaking before anyone else in a room can cause someone to become a natural leader. By showing these leadership skills through volunteering will enable an individual to be promoted faster or, “rise up the ranks” quicker than someone who doesn’t.

  4. Aubrey Gierlatowicz says:

    As a kid I never liked the idea of volunteering and being first in class. It would make me nervous and I felt like being the last one to present would take away my nerves. Little did I know it made my nerves so much worse. Everyone before me did so well, which made me feel like mine would be awful. In these cases I felt I needed to expand my point in order to do extra well. But, time and time again I would hide in the back hoping my name wouldn’t be called on. Quickly I began to realize that I needed to volunteer first first to get it over with. It was always a struggle to get anyone to go first anyway and with me going first there would be no expectations which this article pointed out. When I started doing that my nerves subsided.
    It is true in saying that no one pays attention to the first person. I was so nervous of my presentation that it was hard for me to listen to anyones, even if I tried. My mind would race as I began re-reading my notes. So, now when I have the opportunity to go first I can actually listen to what others have to say and not be caught up in my own thoughts. It is also true that followers have to expand on others thoughts. You can not just reiterate others points, it has to be tailored to you specifically. And unfortunately people before you have the same ideas. So, then you sit there wondering what you can say differently.
    In saying this, going first builds your confidents and makes you feel comfortable in situations when your asked to do something. You will quickly realize what you are capable of doing and start pushing yourself. Sometimes being uncomfortable is the way to build your comfort in a situation.

  5. Paige Melley says:

    Trying to stay under the radar will get you nowhere. Whether it is being the first to introduce yourself, joining a club or activity, or taking an extra step to be involved in a class discussion you will benefit. You never know how the volunteering will help you or who is listening. My Business Professor brought up some good points about how being the first person does not matter to anyone in the class except the professor and the one speaking and that was something I have never really considered.

    An argument can be made by simply saying, “I am going to submit my assignments like everyone else and just get through the semester with minimal contact with my professor or classmates.” That might work for some but that mentality will not lead you to success.In fact, it will probably make your grade lower in reality because you are essentially a nobody to your professor.

    Although the classroom is just one example, not volunteering will do more harm than good in your academic and professional career. Be smart, be outgoing, volunteer even when it is hard. These things will bring you recognition and the leadership skills that will get you far in life.

  6. Devon O'Toole says:

    The idea of volunteering is one that I have always tried to take advantage of. Whether it is at school, at work, or at home, I am making a constant effort to better myself for the good. Volunteering is a way to stand out in every setting and to go from being “that kid in the back of the room” to “the student who was the first to take the chance and stand out.”

    I love the idea of being the first to volunteer is like “the first mover advantage” because in a sense you get a chance to try it first. You can make mistakes and have errors because no one has done anything yet to prove you wrong. Volunteering is about being selfless and stepping out of your comfort zone. In a business setting, employers will look to you first because you were not afraid to make a mistake and grow from it. This helps you develop a sense of work ethic that creates productivity, happiness, and strong morals.

    Volunteering is always something that should be a part of life. In some cases you are helping others and in others you are helping yourself for your future and beyond.

  7. Claire says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I think that many times we sit around waiting for things to happen in our lives instead of taking the initiative and volunteering ourselves. It may be hard for us to take that first step, but it will really benefit us in the end. I really liked your points about the advantages of speaking up first. Even though it may be hard to take the first step, but our classmates will be busy figuring out their speeches to pay so much attention to us and it will make the Professor really recognize us as a leader. I think this is a great message for anywhere- especially the workplace. We will be shown as leaders in the workplace if we volunteer, it will help us gain recognition and many lasting. We will not be seen as a follower but a leader. Lastly, we should always go the extra mile, participate in extra curriculurs, volunteer, seek out your professors, bosses and others because it will truly help us succeed and bring us recognition from everyone.

  8. Sam Galvin says:

    It is easy to stay under the radar and do the minimum. But leaders are not born out of doing the least expected. For college students, all it takes is to start a conversation with a professor or peer that can make a huge difference in the long run. It doesn’t hurt you to volunteer and put yourself out there. Take a look at the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. You will find that most, if not all, volunteered or stepped up in some way to take on more responsibility and put themselves out there.

    Did they ever expect themselves to become CEOs? No. But because they were the type of person to volunteer and take initiative. These are the qualities of a true leader. These also are not qualities one would be born with. So you can work towards attaining them throughout your academic and professional career, as I expect many executives do.

    So start volunteering yourself earlier. Whether it be speaking to the class, running an errand for a professor, or taking on a leadership position. It will all pay off in some way. Start small and in time, you will be volunteering for an opportunity that could be life changing.

  9. Allison Alduncin says:

    In the classroom, students are given a vast number of chances to volunteer. When I enjoy a class a lot, I am always eager to volunteer first or even at all. But sometimes I feel pressure from myself to not to volunteer first all of the time and to wait for another student to speak first at the next opportunity. I perceive this pressure of resisting to volunteer as negative because it is motivated by my embarrassment that I am acting differently from my peers and thus I should speak less like them.

    Reading this article reminds me that I should tell myself that at times those peers are not volunteering because they could not be paying attention or understanding the discussion that I am actively listening to and engaging in. Although I restrict myself from always volunteering when I want to, I take advantage of the pause by gathering my thoughts and thinking about the important points of the discussion. I try to see where the discussion is going and what the professor will say to prevent saying something that will be repeated without additional insight. I pause from volunteering to do my best to say something that will be meaningful, relevant and can add another good insight to the principal points of the discussion.

  10. Brenden Amanto says:

    The article on being the first volunteer is the most meaningful and life-proving article I’ve read in a long time. Being a volunteer in life is so important because it shows how much you care about the community or activity that you are participating in. One isn’t doing it for the money they are doing it because they care and are willing to take their own time out and give back! In the classroom, it is even more important to volunteer because it shows the professor that you are a leader and that you take pride in being involved in the classroom. Also, as someone who volunteers there is not going to be a wrong answer. Although, even if there is, there will not be consequences because it is the act of giving back to the community or an organization that matters the most to them. I believe that volunteer work is extremely important in today’s society and can be a path to success when applying for a job or when searching for a way to give back. Finally, a lot of the time places that accept volunteers will often lead to full-time positions, which is a goal we all aspire to have!

  11. Zarima Greco says:

    I love this article. It shines new light towards the act of volunteering. I would consider myself an active volunteer but I wouldn’t consider myself the first to volunteer. I grew up as a very talkative child, who often got in trouble for talking too much. But as I matured I learned to respect other when talking and giving everyone a chance to share their ideas. I dislike being wrong, so I get shy in class when I am unsure if what I am going to say is right. As a junior in college, I have grown to learn that it is okay to be wrong and taking the risk is the hardest part. I believe that networking and communicating is all the act of volunteering yourself. The adult world is not going to be handed to us, we must go out to seek it and take action. We can not sit in silence and wait for the teacher to make things happen. The business world is a fast pace industry and doing the minimum will not cut it.
    My parents encouraged me to get an internship and guided me, but it was my job to apply, interview and speak for myself. Here I am now, working 20 hours a week.

  12. Bernardo Guillamon says:

    This article outlines the importance of volunteering first. I like this article a lot because many people do not volunteer to go first but volunteering to go first says a lot about a person. It displays courage, that someone is willing to step up and be the first to go, not fear what others think and say about them. I agree that in class, when the first person volunteers, everyone is rehearsing their lines of what they are gonna say and building off what the first person said. No one gives the first volunteer much criticism because everyone in the room is unsure of the task at hand and it takes enough courage to volunteer first, so it definitely has its benefits. A benefit of volunteering first in the workplace is that it shows your boss and peers that you care and are driven. A boss likes someone who will step-up to a challenge, someone willing to do what has to be done and not have to ask and assign. Volunteering helps yourself grow. It teaches one to learn how to be independent. Sitting back and letting things come to you won’t happen for very long, once you go into the real world you have to go out and find things on your own, volunteering to go first is a good way for one to learn to become independent and do things on their own.

  13. Zachery Tashjy says:

    Being the first to do something always comes with its advantages; however, there are many risks. In my MGT 475 class last semester, taught by Professor Smith, we went over the possible strengths and weaknesses of first mover advantages. The obvious first advantage is being able to be the first to market, and drowning out competition by possibly buying out suppliers to move your products, and only your products. Thus, you will have a sustained competitive advantage. However, say you are the first mover, and your product tanks. Then you are stuck under contract with suppliers, supplying you a bad product, which is costing you even more money than the product just tanking alone. Comparing this to volunteering, volunteering always comes with its advantages. You are helping people, and you are doing it usually for a good cause; therefore, it’s a win-win right? Unfortunately, this can be wrong.

    In the article it states, “The standard for acceptable performance is low. No one can be critical of the early speakers…”. This is the problem with volunteering. People won’t bat an eye for the person saying he/she volunteers time every day to the local food bank. You follow that person to the food bank one day, inspired by his/her volunteer work; however, you are disappointed to find out that his/her “volunteering” consists of sitting in the kitchen surfing the web on his/her phone. I am in no way saying that volunteering is a bad thing, in fact it is a great thing! However, while I feel that one should always volunteer whenever they can, it is paramount that the individual does a satisfactory job. Otherwise, it would probably be best if the individual did not volunteer at all.

  14. Morgan Druce says:

    Volunteering is extremely important as it exhibits initiative, especially as a first impression. By being the first person to contribute your own ideas to a discussion, you set the tone for the entire conversation – creating precedent for not only yourself, but also your peers. In this regard, it often does not even matter if you are right or wrong, because the act of volunteering to go first automatically sets you apart from everyone else in the room. This is especially important when you are trying to establish your personal character among a large group of people.

    This article reminded me that volunteering is not just about performing a service without pay, but also being comfortable enough to put myself out there and step out of my comfort zone. As my internship begins tomorrow and the planned agenda includes icebreaker type of games, I plan to benefit from the “First Mover Advantage.” I think that in doing so; this will help to set the tone for the rest of my internship experience. As I will be in a setting with 30 other interns, I think that by setting myself out from the beginning, it will allow me to build a strong reputation with those superior to me.

  15. Gregory Holodak says:

    I love the idea that the first volunteer is never actually heard by the students around them. Volunteering first seems like such a big deal in the moment, but your insight is spot on. I always end up thinking of something to say rather than listening to the first volunteer. If students are able to keep this message in mind and volunteer for things, not only will their grades improve, but the class discussion will as well. This will lead to an all around better class experience and an increase in the education that students receive from the class. Such a simple idea can create a snowball effect like that and have a large and lasting impact. The message is important to understand and motivating for future instances. As someone who does not like going out of their way to be the first to raise their hand in class, the message really hits home and gives me motivation to be a more eager student in the future. I will certainly be sure to volunteer much more often.

  16. Anna Lucius says:

    Volunteering has always been a passion of mine, just not necessarily in the classroom. Through my years in high school I would often find myself donating my time to those who were in need. This form of volunteering came natural to me and I was comfortable with it. However, if you were to ask me if I like to volunteer in the classroom, specially be the first to speak up, I would say no. Like so many, I am intimidated by the crowd to be the first to speak up. Fear of being wrong or looking stupid, crosses my mind so I back away from volunteering. But is there a clear difference between volunteering inside and outside of the classroom?
    Examining it more clearly, no, there should not be a difference. Either way, one is putting them self out on a line, being a ‘heroic’ one by offering up something. Because, as you have pointed out, for the first volunteer in the classroom, no one will remember them since they are rehearsing their lines. All in all, I think that it is important to keep in mind that volunteering is a good thing. It improves confidence, it shows the teacher that you are engaged and that you care and it is a good way to practice for a job one day. Also, it doesn’t hurt to be the first one if you may or may not receive an A. Always volunteer, always be the next man up to take the challenge.

  17. Dan Cannon says:

    It is impossible for someone to find themselves in a position to lead if they never volunteer and take action themselves. After all a leader is most often looked to as a person who steps up and does something which often inconveniences their personal lives.
    I think having the motto of always volunteer is something that could help a person get further in life than they otherwise could. Pending extreme circumstances, you really have nothing to lose by putting yourself out there. I enjoyed your example of how being the first one to step up in a classroom introduction can go a long way with making a strong impression. I believe it is the first people who step up and do something that really get the credit for doing so, even if 30 other people stand up behind them and do the exact same thing. This is because doing something first takes courage, you don’t have previous performances to base your actions off of, so what you do truly requires bravery and some original thought. I think this is why people who go on to become very successful have a past history of being the first to volunteer. This is because they have made a habit of being brave and thinking on their feet, so when they come across a situation which requires such skills in life, they are able to rise to the challenge which ultimately leads to their success.

  18. Jack Murphy says:

    Growing up playing sports all of my life, I was always encouraged to volunteer and be the first one by my coaches. Being the first volunteer taught me a couple of things. First, it taught me that it shows bravery and dedication to your coaches and teachers. Showing them that you are eager to volunteer and even if you fail you are willing to learn. Second, it showed me that this is how you become a leader and get better. If you’re always volunteering, your peers around you look up to you as a leader and as someone who knows what they’re doing. Volunteering made me want to look like I knew what I was doing which translated into making me better at the sport. You have to put yourself out there to get noticed and even if you look stupid – at least you’re showing everyone that you had the courage to at least try. Being that I’ve taken two of Professor Yoest’s classes in the past, it is in fact true that he loves volunteers and does make the whole class wait until someone volunteers. At the time, I thought it was kind of a ridiculous practice, although over the semester I saw myself and others volunteering more than I or they would have if Professor Yoest didn’t implement this method.

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