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How do we set realistic expectations for coalition roles?

While most people who participate in your coalition are interested in the coalition and probably even passionate about the topic, the ability for them to contribute varies considerably. Depending upon your current funding situation, staff, leader and member competency and capacity, what is realistic will also vary. Although the need is always great when you are convening a coalition, prioritizing and clarifying what roles are realistic is an essential step in leading an engaged and sustainable coalition. Join me this week for three questions to ask to help you set realistic expectations for coalition roles.

What has not worked?

One of the best ways to discern what is realistic is to begin with what is unrealistic. In one of the coalitions that I work with, I used to be funded 100% to do the work of the coalition, but now I am less than 40% funded. Although I am still involved in leadership, I keep realizing that I cannot do what I did previously and am constantly needing to make adjustments, provide training and delegate more to our team in order to build capacity. I also need to be careful that I do not volunteer our coalition for things that are unrealistic. 🙂 

When we take time to reflect on what didn’t work, then we can make adjustments for future expectations. As we know, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results (author debated). When reflecting on what has not worked, be specific. Are you finding that particular staff members are unable to fulfill their roles? Perhaps it is some of your workgroup leaders or members? Think about times that people have volunteered to fulfill specific roles but did not fulfill them. Is this one or two people or is this all of your groups? When you take time to reflect on specific examples, you can begin to recognize what may be unrealistic and then make changes toward being more realistic.

What is working?

After you reflect on what is not working and write it down, you can spend some time reflecting on what is working. You may be able to answer both questions at the same time. If you consider one workgroup that may be struggling to fulfill roles and expectations, another workgroup may be able to fulfill them all. What is the difference between these groups? In many coalition settings, those workgroups that have paid staff assigned to supporting the work will be able to fulfill more roles than those who are completely volunteer-led. You may have experienced volunteers who are extremely confident or new volunteers with lots of energy. Involve more than just a few people in exploring what is not working and what is working so that you can begin to be more realistic about coalition roles.

Are you able to fill and maintain roles?

One of the best signs of realistic expectations and finding the right fit for your coalition staff, leaders and members is whether you are able to fill positions in your coalition. If your positions remain filled with a “waiting list” of people to fill them, then your expectations are probably realistic. However, if you are struggling to find people to join your coalition in any way – staff, leadership or membership – one of the reasons may be due to unrealistic or unclear expectations. For instance, if the role of a co-chair has been to organize meetings, develop agendas and lead meetings and no one is volunteering to be a co-chair, perhaps you need to adjust those expectations. Perhaps only a few of the activities are the right role for a co-chair and the others are for a staff. Or perhaps you have a coalition that is not confident or comfortable with co-chair positions right now and you need a leadership team that can share the responsibility even further. Each situation is unique and requires you to check-in to figure out what may be happening that impacts your ability to fill and maintain roles. 

What about you? What can you do this week to reflect upon what is not working, what is working or whether your coalition roles are filled?

If you are ready to dive into this further, check out the recording from my most recent Masterclass, Who is doing what in your coalition!

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