Gathering commitment from the “voluntold”

Have you ever heard of the word “voluntold”?  It’s a combination of volunteer and told.  It typically means your boss ordered you to serve on a committee that you never would have chosen to serve with if you were given the choice. lists the definition as:

1. (v.) When one has been volunteered for something by another person. Often against their wishes or desires.

Sadly, too many committees are developed from the masses of “voluntold” members.  It’s not surprising that these committees of conscripts rarely achieve an ounce of the impact a team of true volunteers accomplishes.

The other day I began to wonder, “Is it possible to take a committee of ‘voluntold’ members and turn them into a team of committed volunteers?”

Could you take a bunch of individuals waiting for the meeting time to run out  and transform them into a team willing to share tasking and push forward toward a common goal?

What if you pushed them to admit their past decision and choose their future ones.  What if you asked:

  • Did you come here today because you wanted to or because your boss told you?  Are you a volunteer or were you “voluntold”?
  • If you came because your boss told you, are you curious about the opportunity you have as a member of this team?
  • If you came because your boss told you, but you aren’t curious about the opportunity, are you willing to go back to your boss and encourage him or her to assign someone else to the team?
  • Do you think this team can accomplish a great deal if you can each commit to this opportunity?
  • Are you willing to act on that commitment and take an action away from today’s meeting?

I believe it is possible to gather commitment from the “voluntold” and it can be as simple as asking them a few questions about why they are here, whether or not they want to stay and what they will do to show their commitment.

Try it and see how you do.  I’ll love to hear if your experiment was successful.  We may be on to something here.

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