Guest post by Elisa Kosarin. This post originally appeared on Twenty Hats.
Need a better way to check in with your supervisor? Here’s some help.
Is this how you prepare for a regular meeting with your supervisor?
You’re sitting at your desk checking your calendar, and you see that the weekly check-in with your boss is scheduled for 2 p.m. — just 10 minutes from now.
When you meet, you know there are one or two priority items you absolutely must discuss, like the new volunteer manual and the schedule for corporate groups. No need to write down those topics.
And then there are a couple of other things you want to be sure to bring up — some volunteer requests and a staff concern. You take out a notepad and jot down those issues as you head out the door.
Oh, and as you enter your boss’ office, you remember it would also be good to talk about the fall appreciation event. You’ve already arrived though, so no need to add that to your notes. You’ll just remember to mention it while you chat.
Or will you?
How many times have you sat down for a check-in with your supervisor and forgotten to mention half the things you needed to review? Or perhaps you discuss the same project each week but never really measure the progress you’ve made.
You might start to wonder if these meetings are worth anyone’s time at all.
CVA Sami Smyth was determined to make her weekly check-ins productive, but instead of relying on an informal running list, she created her own reporting form for supervision meetings.
“I’m the kind of person who needs everything written down, otherwise I’ll forget about it,” says Sami. “When it came to supervision, I needed a way to structure my conversations, so that I could keep my supervisor updated and also make sure to mention any areas where I needed help.”
Wondering what a form like this might include, Sami searched online for examples and templates that might inspire her, finally creating her own hybrid matrix.
What’s brilliant about Sami’s form is (1) it’s simplicity and (2) the way that it tracks her tasks over time, documenting her progress on the many projects that she juggles simultaneously.
The form has five sections:
Action Items: This is where Sami lists anything she’s currently working on that requires input from her supervisor.
Upcoming Volunteer Projects: This area is especially helpful for tracking group projects, such as corporate days of service.
Completed items: Although many of her projects are ongoing, Sami wanted a place where she could check off the projects that had an end date.
Questions and Comments: This is where Sami notes any feedback shared by her supervisor or adds new questions that arise from their discussion.
Important Dates: This section helps ensure that Sami’s supervisor and other staff are aware of upcoming volunteer-related events.
Sami created the form shortly after she began at her nonprofit. “I happened to start around holiday time,” Sami explains. “There were so many moving parts to my role. I needed a tool to help keep me on track.”
“For example, I wanted to make sure I was reaching out to all of our volunteer groups and connecting with the right people. I used the form to help me create a timeline for holiday outreach, listing the groups to connect with under ‘action items’ and checking them off the completed list when the connection was made. Having the form helped me get a feel for the size of our program, set goals, and review what I still needed to do.”
Just a few months ago, when Sami was promoted to Manager of Volunteer Programs, she made a new discovery: the form was just as helpful for supervisors as for supervisees.
“I have a volunteer coordinator who reports to me now. We use the same form for our weekly meetings. The process helps me stay accountable to him and ensure that he’s working on projects that make sense. If I can’t provide help, I can take the forms to my supervisor and discuss additional resources or support.”
“Right now, my volunteer coordinator is responsible for creating a new role, where volunteers accompany staff out into the community. The form has been instrumental in helping us track the role’s implementation.”
A huge part of a volunteer manager’s work — I’m thinking at least 50 percent — is about creating the systems our programs need to sustain themselves and thrive. But a system is not always an elaborate series of policies and procedures.
Sometimes, the most effective systems boil down to one page that answers your most relevant questions.
Elisa Kosarin, CVA coaches, trains, and consults on volunteer management. She believes volunteers are a powerful force for change in our communities — if they are managed by volunteer engagement pros with the skills to cultivate this resource.