As a psychologist, I never cease to be amazed at how much I learn from other people. While my day-to-day work is in software for mental health organizations, much of my recreation time is spent bicycling.
The Horrible Hundred is a bicycling event here in central Florida that covers up to 100 miles on the hills of the Lake Wales Ridge. It is a little-known fact that there are hills in Florida. They are small by the standards of anyone who lives in hilly country. They are huge for those of us who are flatlanders. Since its inception 31 years ago, this ride has grown to include over 2000 riders covering 35, 70 and 100 mile routes. Our bicycle club, the Florida Freewheelers, organizes what has become a two day event; we provide nourishment, rest, and entertainment at the start and end and at SAG (support and gear) stops along the way.
A large, volunteer-run event can be lots of fun to participate in; it can also be a major headache if poorly run. In that way, it is not unlike any other kind of organization or company . . . with the exception that the workers are not being paid. After eight years of volunteering at this bicycling event (including six years co-leading a SAG/rest stop), I have some observations about people working together. Maybe some of them will resonate for you.
- Because we are bicyclists and spend lots of time with other bicyclists, we think we are a special and unique group. BREAKING NEWS. . . we are just like everyone else.
- Workers come in many shapes and sizes, are of many varieties and types. You can never tell when just meeting someone what type of worker they will turn out to be.
- Some people are leaders; some people are followers; some are leaders who just like to follow sometimes; some are followers who are outstanding leaders when they get the chance.
- Some people are givers; some people are self-centered takers.
- Some people work hard and harder and hardest; long, longer and longest.
Some work in spurts and only occasionally.
Others are lazy and do not work at all, but expect other people to work hard for them.
- Some people, leaders and followers, inspire others to do their best.
- Some people are kind and courteous and grateful for what others do for them, even when they are exhausted and not thinking very clearly; other people are rude most of the time.
- Some people bring grace and good cheer to whatever they do making it a joy to be around them . . . even in the most difficult situations. These are the ones who keep the rest of us coming back to work and to lead over and over again.
Rules for leaders:
- Make sure everyone feels appreciated, even if their working style is not your favorite.
- Don’t let your own style get in the way of those doing the work. Step out of the way and let them run.
- Remember that the better you prepare in advance, the easier the work will be and the better everyone will enjoy the process.
- Occasionally remind yourself that work, whether volunteer or for pay, is just part of life.
- Not everyone will like all you do . . . and that is just fine.
I know all of you work for pay and for your families and as volunteers. Many of you work in the behavioral health arena and have that slant on your observations. What are some of the things you have learned about work and workers, yourself and others, in your years of experience? Please share your comments below.