Sara: Jason Young, welcome to the Growing as Grown-Ups podcast, we are so excited to have you with us today. So we have known you for a number of years. You came through our program back in, I don't know, like 2014 maybe? 2015?
Jason: Yeah, somewhere around there.
Sara: Back a number of years ago and your life has kind of pivoted a little bit. You've gone a little more specialized in some things and so we wanted to bring you on today to just pull some of your wisdom out on the things that you have learned on how do you lead people who are not direct reports, people who don't have to follow you, right? That’s a terrible way to think of leadership as people who have to follow you but that's what you've really done with your professional career over these years. And so that is what we want to talk about today. But let me just throw out kind of a starter question, because I've found that everybody defines this word differently. So how do you, Dr. Young, how do you define "leadership"?
Jason: On one hand, I don't know. On the other hand, I think I do know. It's interesting, this is a long answer to your question, but I'm fascinated by how many different definitions and why people define it and the way that they do. So, on one hand, I don't know, because there are there are so many. Yeah, on the other hand, I think, you know, leadership might be described as a few things and again, these aren't -- I didn't come up with these. You know, I do think leadership is this ability to influence - not influence people to get them to do what you want them to do but I think leadership is influenced to help them SEE the more that they could become, to SEE the more that they could do. Things along that line. I think leadership really is one of the key characteristics of a leader - how are they able to demonstrate empathy, which feels like a super soft word, you know, but it's an intentional effort to like, feel and understand people and take into consideration where they are in life, their experience, all of those types of things, which requires a leader to slow down in order to do that. So for me, I don't know that I could come up with some probably decent definition, but I see it as more as descriptors of somebody who influences people to help them see they could be and do more. A leader is somebody who approaches people with great empathy, and then I think a leader, in addition, is somebody who puts intentional effort on caring for their own life and I don't mean selfishly -- but kind of do -- on an emotional health, mental health, physical boundaries. You know, not available 24 hours a day, which sometimes is a struggle for me, let's be honest. So I think these are maybe some things that leaders do and maybe that can be created into some super cute definition of leadership. I just don't know, I mean, I want to be like a lot of these other leaders and have a definition, but I think mine would be more of describing what I just described.
Sara: Yeah, what they do. I love that. I think that's a great way to look at it. So when you think about the things that leaders do that you believe characterizes good leaders, is there somebody that comes to mind that you think of as a role model for you of a good leader?
Jason: Yeah, I think there's probably a couple and I mean, I won't go on about but all of them and I think that they do a lot of things well, but if I had to pick one thing well that they do, I think of Andy Stanley and I think the item, the thing that I can speak about personally -- I reported to him for a bit while I was working at Northpoint Ministries -- the thing that impressed me is that he has an ability to trust you with responsibility and I think that is what a great leader does, is they don't have to control everything, they don't have to micromanage everything. They're clear, they have expectations, but they give it to you and they trust you to deliver and if you don't, there's a conversation; if you do, there's a celebration. But I think he does that well. I think there are leaders from a distance that do things well, I think. Another guy that used to be a boss, he's not as known as Andy is Chris Green. You probably know him maybe through the Lyceum and but I think he's another guy that is super encouraging and gives you the space to think and create and do and if it doesn't, we retool and move forward. But I think it's also one of those things that he asks you about you, you know? I know he values doing, but he asks you about you and he asks you about your family and so we're friends to this day. So I think just if I were to give two quick examples, Andy and Chris.
Sara: Yeah, that's awesome. They are both really admirable people, so I love that you picked out them as your examples. Now, maybe a little more of a personal question. Do you have any sort of leadership lessons that you have learned in your life that you would want to share with other people? But maybe it's a lesson you learned the hard way, something that you did that didn't work out, or a failed leading attempt at anything?
Jason: Yeah. So, yeah, there are two -- maybe we have time for one -- I think back up years ago, I thought, because I have an opinion, that opinion always has to be expressed and what I learned is that that is not helpful, and you're like, "Well, golly, how long did it take you to learn that?" Probably too long, but I think as leaders, what I didn't pay attention to, Sara, is I spent more time talking than I did listening and what I realized is that other people treated me the same way and I didn't like it and why I couldn't put two and two together is just beyond me. And I think the more I, I don't know, grew, I really worked hard and kind of on my own emotional intelligence and just navigating some of those spaces and it really occurred to me that I talk more than I listen, so I need to grow in that. And every time I think of something, an opinion or a perspective or insight, I actually don't always have to share it because what it eventually did is it alienated people or you might not get invited to meetings or you become -- people see you as a know-it-all or arrogant. I'm like, "Why would they do that? Oh, well, you're right. I would too if I did that." So I think that is a thing as a leader I learned is to listen more than talk. I don't always have to share everything. Ask questions. I can always wish I had said something, but if I said it, I can't take it back and so it's just navigating. Maybe it comes down -- maybe the denominator about all those things is making wiser decisions as a leader and remembering that every single one of those decisions, it does have an emotional impact on somebody else.
Sara: Wow, Jason, those are great and there's all these questions are running through my head now that I'm like, I want to ask you follow questions, but I want to get to the meat of what you are really here to talk about, which is this idea of leading volunteers and so will you just give us a little bit of background from your perspective on how you got to the point that this is something that you are so passionate about?
Jason: Yeah. So, you know, a lot of my work has been in a church background and by default, you have volunteers and so whether I start out very, very beginning, I worked with students and you had volunteers that help you lead students to other areas where I really have spent most of my career and most of my time and what I'm passionate about is volunteers who were on the front lines, who helped create experiences for the guest. And by guest, I mean, really anybody that comes into your building first time or 100th time, they're a guest in my mind and so I think in working with those individuals, I learned that they are way more than, in my early career, I'd credited them to be and I need to invest in them way more than just getting them to, quote, "do something" on a Saturday or Sunday service. So, yeah, most of it in church world and maybe your listeners, some are in church world, some are nonprofits, some schools. If you volunteer at a school and you have other volunteers -- volunteers are in a lot of places and how you lead them is very interesting, especially if you're trying to lead them the same way that you do a paid person. There could be some challenges.
Sara: So go further with that. What is the same and what is different when you're leading somebody who you are paying, they kind of have to be there, they're assigned to you versus somebody who is choosing to follow you?
Jason: Yeah, so, you know, the number one thing people will usually say about volunteers, the difference is, "Well, one's paid, and one's not," and that is absolutely true. What's interesting about that, though, I didn't learn this until years after leading volunteers and then leading paid staff members, paid staff members are actually somewhat volunteers, too, because they could leave. If they wanted to. So there is a little bit of like similarities and the differences. So the one thing, yes, they're paid, so the expectations are different. The -- well, I say that the way maybe you handle the expectations in that individual are different. The types of communication you have, you feel like you have a greater weight in that money is attached to it. So I'm sitting down and thinking, "OK, if I don't get paid, I've got a wife and two kids. They've got to eat, we've got to pay mortgage, we got--" So I might not say something I really want to say because I don't want to jeopardize, so there is a little bit of a you maybe process -- not all employees -- but you process a little bit differently. When I think about a volunteer I would say this, a volunteer is not there to do what I want them to do, paid or not. Volunteer, not paid, right? Let's go with that. They're not there to achieve Jason's agenda. They're not there to achieve your agenda, even though you are the paid person. That is not why they are there. However, that is very normal. I have a job, I get paid for expectations, I manage those. One of the ways to manage those, I need people, a volunteer comes in. We're going to do A, B, C, you're going to help me do it, we're going to call it a day. I'm going to be great, the leader is going to like me, my boss is going to reward me, I'm going to get a raise and I'm, you know, all this. Silly example but pretty normal. But if you think about a volunteer differently even from the moment, even before they're on your team, that's where things change. So instead of going, "Well, I have an agenda; I need you on my team," what I think sometimes we miss in the life of a volunteer is, you do know volunteers have needs too, and so I think it's slowing down long enough to go, "I'm actually here to help you," and not going to focus on the other way around. As the primary, yes, we do help each other, but I think sometimes we forget that the volunteer has needs. You know, what motivates somebody to volunteer? Why did they want to volunteer with you? You know, there's all these types of questions so long answer to saying the difference in a paid person and a volunteer, yes, is money. That's a no-brainer but I think it's -- you could still care about somebody the same. You can still reward somebody, it may not be monetarily, but it could be other ways. You still -- you can have expectations. And so, again, the employee volunteers to show up every day, yes, there's money attached, but they could leave, you know and so I think we may talk about this a little bit more, but I think there's some ways that you can interview a volunteer, onboard a volunteer, train a volunteer, coach a volunteer -- and to me, those are two different things -- develop a volunteer, remove a volunteer. I think there are stages that all of those have to be part of the plan if you want to create the best volunteer culture, which should be the goal. Not to have the most, but to have the healthiest volunteer culture.
Sara: That touches on something that I love about the work of yours that I've seen is that I think too many times I've been a volunteer where I am just some little piece that they're trying to move around to get something done, right? And it's like, "OK, I'm -- whatever you need me to do, I'll do it," but (15:45) for you to flip it around and say we need to pay attention to the volunteers as people with needs, with values, with reasons, with motivations, and how do we make this experience meaningful to them and still get the work done, right? And so I'm wondering for you, like, how do you find that balance where, in so many cases, volunteers are there because there is so much to be done that the staff can't handle it, that the work needs to be done, and I need to find people to choose to be there and work hard, and still feel valued, like where's the balance and how do you do the part that gets more overlooked, which is the human side of it?
Jason: Yeah. Well, I'm not going to tell you I'm great at any or all of it, but I do work hard in it and on it. So for me it's super intentional. I think both are needed, but it depends on which one you lead with, you know, with the person -- and look people, if you're listening to this, people are not dumb. They can quickly assess what you -- who you are and what you want from them and how, if you're using them or not. In fact, I've had -- there's been opportunities for me and I will sense from somebody "you just want to use me." So, Sara, back up years ago. So I've been doing this 20 plus years. I remember right when I started, I didn't know, but I had goals and objectives, and I'm pretty driven and I used volunteers to get things done and now that I look back, I'm like "Oh, why would I ever do that?" and when my eyes were open it's like, OK, it took a lot of effort. And so, yes, do volunteers help you get things done? Yes, if a volunteer is great, they're going to want to do. So the doing is, I'm not saying the doing is not important, it's very important. What I am saying is, don't -- you have to prevent people from feeling used and that is not always, mostly not on them to figure out that's on you, the leader to figure out. And so how do you do that? I think you can, again, start in the very beginning. So how do we bring people on the team? What do we do? How do we make decisions? Training? For me, training is "what do we do in the first 90 days to help you be successful?" then development starts on day 91. We're going to help you for a bigger picture but when you're here on this team, I used to give this wooden plaque to all of our leaders and it was the word "beyond". It was a way for them to know Jason's heart is "Jason's going to invest in me beyond what I can do," quote, "for him." So I'm going to help you in your personal life, because when you're in a board meeting on Tuesday and you're the CEO of a company or you're a mechanic and on Thursday you're with a customer, how can we help in our training, not just so you're great on your volunteer role, but that you can be great at your job on Monday or Tuesday? You're at home as a mom or dad. If you're a single parent, you've got to make decisions. There's something that we helped in our training, that we gave in our training to help you in your everyday life. When that happens, that person feels that you care about them and what do you think they want to do? They want to do better and be better, well, that makes the work better, you know? I will tell you this, Sara. It takes an enormous amount of time. It takes a -- it takes resources so if you're a leader listening to this and you're not willing to resource it, that's going to be a real problem. You say, "Well, I don't have a lot of resources. I think evaluating the resources that you do have and allocating it appropriately tells the volunteer, that tells the team around you, whether it's another person or one hundred people, "This is important, these people are important. This is what we're going to do." So I think having a plan -- I think I wrote a book, The Volunteer Effect, last, gosh, I don't even remember when it came out last year. I should remember the pandemic has shocked me. My advice: don't release two books in a pandemic. So it was a real challenge, but in one of them, they talked about how to have -- having a plan, and I think as the leader has a plan for the volunteer and the leader has a plan for themselves, and I think investing in them beyond the role with time, money, conversations, be interested genuinely in their personal life and this is -- I'm going to say this is not super popular, because I get flak for this maybe more than anything on the volunteer space, I don't think all volunteers should stay on your team.
Sara: Ooh. All right, tell me more.
Jason: Yeah. So this is tough, because if you work in a nonprofit or a church or wherever you may have volunteers, your supervisor or the CEO or senior pastor or whatever, they may say, "Hey, whoever comes in, they've got to be on your team," and what happens is you get stuck with some real challenges, and if you're a volunteer somewhere listening to this, paid staff people talk about volunteers and we talk about primarily the ones who are a real challenge and sometimes the ones who are a real challenge, don't even know that there are a real challenge, which is part of the problem.
Jason: And so sometimes I think what you have to do, that's where starting at the beginning helps. It doesn't cure everything, but it sure does help because when it comes to a conversation that isn't hard. When you've talked about values in the interview and you talked about it in onboarding and you've trained -- you've done these pieces well, it makes the conversation not easier, but easier because you can talk about it from a, "Hey, remember when we talked about the values and we talked about a great attitude? Well," and then you explain whatever situation was it kind of you know, you agreed to the great attitude, like, is there like something happening that we may not know? And sometimes that was the case; I had these conversations all the time. Sometimes it was a life situation or work situation and it carried over and we talk through it. I remember one guy was having -- he kind of rebounded and was struggling with alcohol again, and he was kind of angry with other volunteers and we talked through that and, man, we just -- I just pressed in. He stayed on the team, we had great conversations. It wasn't easy, but we talked about it because we had done this process well. I think some volunteers don't need to stay on the team, especially if they're not going to -- if they're not coachable, if they're costing your team more than you can afford. If other people -- here's a great indicator: how do you know if a volunteer, if you need to have a conversation with a volunteer or maybe even remove them from your team, if other good volunteers around them are leaving your team, that is a great cue. In fact, you're too late at that point. Maybe not too late-- you're late. So you got to stay ahead of these things because again, I'm willing to make one or two volunteers really mad on a team and they're going to talk smack about me, totally fine, but I'm also willing to protect the other 37 because they didn't sign up for that and I'm not going to allow it to happen. So, again, that doesn't mean you do it instantly, which I have done before, because it was such a pretty big offense, but normally it's this process and so I think not all the volunteers should stay on the team.
Sara: Jason, I can't help but think as you're talking about all of this, how everything you're saying applies to leadership in any context, right? And maybe it's because I work primarily with organizations that have paid employees but it's like everything that you're saying about how you encourage people to lead volunteers is how I think about years ago when I worked at Starbucks, right? And how as the frontline barista at a Starbucks, like the same things that I needed from my leader and I got from my leader -- I had a really great boss there -- were just what you're saying and communicating the values in that not everybody needs to be there, not everybody is suited for the role, and so I'm just wondering, in your experience and now that you've been doing some more consulting work kind of outside of the ministry, do you see these things apply more broadly or is it really targeted just for volunteers now?
Jason: It's people. Yeah, it's people. I mean, if I'm working with a Fortune-500 or 100 client to, you know, a church or a nonprofit, I mean, people are people and, you know, there are some nuances, I think, that could be highlighted in the volunteer space that would be, you know, unlikely a little bit in the paid employee space. But I don't -- I think it might just be a different version because, again, people the common denominator – I tell people this and this is so great for me to remember: when you're on a company team and they want you to treat the client or customer or church attendee, whatever language you use, a certain way, you feel like, "Wow, leadership should treat us that way. They should model, you know, what they--" and it's like, "OK, exactly." If you lead volunteers, it's no different. If you think about a volunteer and you want them to interface with kindness, listening, empathy, hyper-responsiveness, you know, fully present all of these things -- you want them to do that, you have to do that. Now, here is probably the number one difference between a paid employee and a volunteer: the number of reps that you get and the number of reps, often you can work through things faster. So, you know, if I'm with Sara, working with Sara Monday through Friday, we may have ten opportunities that week. If I have a volunteer, that's every other week, and if they miss one because of vacation and they miss another one because they're sick, now we're week four, week six. So the reps -- and so you have to just factor that into the plan. And so that's where the coaching and the intentional effort and giving more away to leaders and empowering them and framework, all of those things really do matter. And so, again, yes. People are people, very similar issues, the nuances are slightly different but I think how you want them to treat the guest or client or customer, they need to feel that from you and it can be accidental or it's going to be delivered accidentally to the guest and then you can't correct them because you're not modeling that. And so whatever you want them to model, I mean, they -- a volunteer reproduces what they experience.
Sara: Yeah. I mean, again, same --
Jason: And same thing with an employee.
Sara: Same for employees, yeah,
Sara: The one thing that you talk about in The Volunteer Effect that I just love was this idea of creating kind of the mission for the smaller team, right? We talk a lot about organizational values, organizational mission, but you talk about the importance of, like, you want me to come help you park cars outside of a big event. Tell me why I should stand outside and do that.
Jason: Yeah. Well, I think a lot of times, a church or non-profit will use their stage and that can be physical or digital to invite people to do something and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but I think figuring out people are different and trying to talk the language of this different audience is key. So for some doers, they just want you, "What do you want me to do?" You know, "Don't give me all the fluff." Right, it's just like execute, execute and then there's other people that, you know, they need something totally different. So, for example, if I stand on stage and, "Hey, we have an event this Friday night. We are expecting a thousand people. It looks like we're going to need 12 people in the parking lot, sign up in the back or text in," whatever. Well, I mean, OK, you have an event and you have a need, not super-inspiring, but if you said differently, you said, "This Friday night we have an opportunity to host something for our city." I'm just making it literally if you're listening, I'm making this up, but, "On Friday night, we have something we're hosting for our city and it gives us a great opportunity to want to showcase the care that we can provide. It gives for many of these thousand people, roughly 70 percent of them have never stepped foot in a church. So we get to not only showcase how we care, we get to give people an appropriate picture of how the church cares, this church cares in the community. But not only that, we get to on a basic need, we just get to see people, speak to people, acknowledge people, listen to people, remove obstacles for people, because we want to support the work that this -- let's say that this partner, whoever's sponsoring the event, or maybe it is the church, is doing and so. Oh, and by the way --" So really the task is the "by the way". "So where do you come into play? Well, maybe you'd be interested in helping us safely guide people so they can get inside our building." I mean, you say parking, but they don't -- parking is functional and I used to tell our parking team, "You're not parking cars, you're guiding people. Behind the windshield is a person that has feelings that, maybe it's a couple, this used to happen all the time. They smile when they get to church because they, God forbid, people know that they fight or their marriage is hanging by a thread or their kids are making them nuts. "OK, kids, you're going to like being in here. You're going to smile," you know, it's like, "We're going to put this on!" So when you think about people on the other side, maybe they just got the promotion they've always wanted. Maybe their family member died of COVID. Maybe they lost not only their first job but their second job. I read an article this week about Broadway, and for many in Broadway, they've lost two jobs. They lost the Broadway job and they may have had a second job as a barista, bartender, whatever it was, but they lost that because the restaurant closed. You know, so you got all of these people -- highs and lows. They just finalized their adoption of their new daughter. They just got married. I mean, there's people all over the spectrum, but when you posture yourself in such a way that that is why you're there, you get to be an opportunity to care and that changes the way people experience and so always, always think about it this way: the people before the stage, so say a physical stage in a building, the people before the stage and after the stage -- the bookend -- they really set the temperature of the experience that people will have. In either, when anything else happens on that stage, if it's good, it won't be a distraction but if it's bad, it's a distraction. And so that parking person, you are contributing. You were setting up and you were giving this Horst Schulze, the Ritz Carlton says you're given a fond farewell when people eat and remember, when people choose to do business with you or to volunteer with you, they do so because it feels right. It feels different. They make a lot -- you say, "Well, they shouldn't make decisions off feeling." You can argue it til the cows come home but more times than not, people make decisions based on feeling. That's what really the book -- that's what my second book, The Comeback Effect was: affect a guest enough, they want to come back. Volunteer Effect: effect a volunteer enough that they too want to come back and then you begin to head towards creating a culture that people want to come back to.
Sara: Yeah, I mean, I just love that and again, it's just a human, it's a human thing, right? As you've said, like, people want to know how they fit in, they want to be doing something meaningful, they want to know that they're contributing to something significant and to communicate "I don't need you to stand in a parking lot; I need you to help guide people safely so that they can come and know that they're loved," right? Like, sign me up for that. All right, I'll stand out in the rain. But again, I think about when I worked at Starbucks, right? Like, your job is to help people start their morning out with a smile on their face, right? Yes, I'm making a thousand lattes for cranky people, but can they leave with a smile on their face, right? And I think the more frontline employees that the people are leading, like they're the ones that sometimes get the most distant from kind of the leadership, the senior leadership, but they're the ones who are exhibiting the company, the face of the company, and so they need to understand that they need the values and I just think that's such a cool way to think about it. Does every person know how their role is making a difference for the customer, for -- and I love the way you say, like, how are they going to feel? Like how do you want, you know, the people you're interacting with to feel? How do you want your customers to feel? How do you want your guests to feel? And everybody can name that instead of, "Uh, I think our company value is like integrity and work hard," right? "How does that apply to my job?" I love that.
Jason: I remember this one – it was raining and the parking team was going out to work in the rain. I think it was cold, too. It was the day that it would have been perfect to call in sick.
Sara: You don't want to be in a parking lot.
Jason: No, no. You're like, "Ugh, I feel like I should be doing something else!" But what was amazing is all of the other volunteers that were on the inside knew where the parking team was meeting and so what we did is we created this tunnel kind of like, you know, this cheer tunnel, if you will and it was something so small but what it said to the parking team was "all the inside volunteers see us." Really, that's what it said. "They see us and they support us." And, man, when I went outside that day, because I think on those days it's important to see the leader, so I need to be out there, too. It was, I mean, it put a pep in their step and so I think for whether you lead volunteers or paid staff people, little -- it doesn't take a huge thing -- but little things really do matter but I think more than anything, people want to know, "Do you see me? Do you see what I do? Do you see who I am?" versus just that "I'm here to do the same thing over and over and over again," and at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you THINK that you're doing, what matters is how they FEEL about what you're doing and sometimes those are very different and then other times are very, very much the same.
Sara: So good, Jason, I love it. I want to --there's so many things I could ask you but for the sake of the time, we will start wrapping up. So, you've got a lot going on. You've got some new stuff coming out, like right now. Early May is big for you. So tell me what's going on in life right now that you are excited about.
Jason: So I think probably a couple of things. One, I have the marketing agency I'm working with says it's a new brand. I'm not great at all this stuff, just to be honest with you, but I'm always kind of done the Jason Young Live thing. It's been social and website and all that but I'm moving over to something that's called Catch Fire and the idea is everybody needs a little bit of a spark. Spark in their marriage, spark at home, spark at work, spark in their leadership, spark with the team, spark with ideas, spark on caring for guests, whatever the spark is, but if you could just start with a spark, eventually it'll catch fire, and so I guess that kind of the idea of the brand. So that launches beginning of May, Lord willing, and there'll be a podcast. I've never done that before, I kind of put it off and didn't think, you know, I don't know, a lot of people were doing it and I just didn't. But I think the timing is good and so all things will switch -- the new website will be Catch Fire Daily. I send out this thing every other Saturday right now, it'll change, but it's just aggregated content on hospitality and leadership. It's free. So right now, it's jasonyounglive.com but you'll see the Saturday rundown is there. So I'm excited about that. I have two books that come out next year. So those will be primarily focused on the business space and so, yeah, those are kind of some things I'm excited about today.
Sara: That is -- that's a lot of things to be excited about and welcome to the podcast club. It's fun!
Jason: Thank you.
Sara: So you've got all these new -- this new brand coming out. This podcast will be airing in May when this stuff is hopefully live, I will make sure to include all the current links, but if people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?
Jason: Yeah, well, I'd say there's a right now and there's a later. Right now, so if you're -- if the Web interests you it's jasonyounglive.com. People say, "How'd you come up with that?" Jason Young was taken and was that "Live" was another option and all social channels were available too. So, any social channel is the same -- Jason Young Live. So I been taking a little bit of a social breather to work on some projects and just create a little separation. I guess, healthy from time to time, at least for me. But, yeah, so on the web or social channels, you can you can catch me there.
Sara: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, we will definitely keep in touch, and when your new books come out, we will let our audience know about those. But thank you so much for your time. It was so great to talk to you and to get this kind of fun, different perspective on leading people who don't have to follow you and making them want to come and making their lives better by being a part of your work and I just think that's really, really great. So thank you so much for your time. We will talk again soon.
Jason: Thanks for letting me be on. Yeah. All right. See you soon.