I’ve worked on and led many community projects, from dances to exhibitions, conventions and clubs. Knowing that I was going to be the bunny in charge, I’d prepared an agenda for our first committee meeting. If you ever find yourself placed in charge of a project like this, there are two things that will save your bacon, organised vision and communication.
It’s a leader’s job to have a firm idea of the finished product, not in every detail but a general concept of how it should look. I’d done this with the survey, it gave me my ‘brief’, I just had to turn it into reality. I thought about the steps I went through to build my own dimensions. First I built the shells of structures, unadorned, just to get the locations and sizes right. I then go back and start filling in details, bringing the bare structures to life with decoration and furnishings. Last, I do outdoor things like the gardens. This formed my building plan for the guild hall. Knowing what I had to build and the steps to build it made my ‘organised vision’.
The most valuable tool in a project like this is communication. At our first committee meeting, I followed my agenda and explained how I imagined the committee working, what the dimension would look like when finished and the guidelines I expected them to work under. I shared my vision so we all knew where we were heading.
The other important elements in communication are asking and listening. When asking for stuff to be done, I always try to request, not order. What’s the difference? ‘Get me 20 wooden tiles, please’ is a polite order. ‘Hey George, I’m building the mahogany room now and need 20 mahogany bookcases, can we organise that?’ is asking. I’ve made it a request so my volunteer may refuse if they need to, I’ve explained what I need it for so they have a sense of why I’ve asked them and I’ve treated them like an equal partner, which they are. Asking shows I respect them, ordering … well, who likes to be ordered?
One of the great joys about working with others is that I don’t have sole responsibility for the end product. The committee will have their own ideas and solutions to problems if I’m willing to listen. Ask for feedback and listen to what your volunteers and guild have to say, often their ideas will spark other creative ideas which will add to the richness of the design. Listening and incorporating their ideas when appropriate, or listening and explaining why their ideas don’t fit does the same thing, it lets the volunteer know they are a valued part of the process and helps keep them motivated. Our guild leader, Erik, wanted an officer’s room (with maps) for meetings in the tower at the top of the hall. He also had the idea for the life leaf platform floor. Officer Ktar really, really wanted a barkeep, muttering something about dwarves and ale. That suggestion turned into the ‘Harry Potter’ portraits. Together, their ideas shaped one of the best areas in the dimension.
Communication is easier with the right tools. Inside Rift, we have mail and the guild wall for communication and many guilds will also have a website with forums to make communication even easier. We ended up with our own forum section where we could post updates on materials needed and how the build was progressing. Guild members could also leave suggestions and pictures of what they’d like to see in the guild hall. Teamspeak was invaluable. Talking to people directly allows greater accuracy in communication.
Get communications right and the guild will feel a part of the process, regardless of who is doing the building. I was rewarded with a little stream of people coming into the guild hall after the evening’s activities to see what I had built that day. Members went farming for materials with great enthusiasm, to the point that my biggest problem now is what to do with the left over mats.
If you’d like more information about leading volunteers this post from the blog, Ministry Best Practices, gives six great tips on managing volunteers. Organised religion may or may not be your thing but they deal with volunteers in every aspect of their job. These tips are excellent and reflect what I have learned about leading people over the years.