Ever try to get someone to volunteer to help you out with a project? Or what about getting employees to work collaboratively on a new organization-wide project?

Were you successful in recruiting your volunteers or employees? If you were, then you most likely tuned into their “WII-FM” (“what’s in it for me”) station.

I find that people (and organizations) sometimes take for granted that others will simply jump onboard to assist with a cause or a project just because they are asked to do so. If this were the case, it would certainly make it easier for those of us who ask, but you probably know how difficult this can be.

In order to recruit individuals (paid or unpaid) for anything, it is always easier if you know their WII-FM.

To give you an example, I recently worked on a project with a team of intelligent managers who were assigned to the project by their employer. Initially, the team was excited to be there, but trepidation soon set in. What they thought they were getting by participating in the project was not what they expected.

For one, more work and responsibility was added to their already overburdened schedules and they were being told that they would be taking on a role after the project for which most of them felt unqualified and ultimately afraid of failure. As the project progressed, the team members turned over frequently. Why? Because the original team’s needs were not met – not by a long shot! Their bosses were out of touch with their WII-FM needs.

As a leader in your organization, you know that in order to recruit employees (and volunteers) for projects or events, you need to inspire them and build cohesion among them such that they will want to be on your team. You need to sell the experience, not the product (after all, how exciting is it to work on a records management program? really?).

It’s the experience of working together with a dynamic group of individuals and being given the power to make decisions about the organization’s future that will inspire your employees. That’s what you need to sell! No one will jump at the chance to work on the “records management program,” but most will jump at an opportunity to be involved in decision-making.

One of the best ways that I know how to tune into employees’ WII-FM is for leaders to treat their employees as their peers. When you treat your employees as your peers, using empathy to recognize and understand their point of view, you will inspire your employees to produce great outcomes for your organization.

It’s leaders and employees working shoulder-to-shoulder that make the organization efficient, productive and profitable. If you’re not shoulder-to-shoulder, it’s time to get up from behind the executive desk and walk the shop floor. That’s the best way to hear your employees’ WII-FM station.

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