I have six kids and “Winnie the Pooh” has been a staple in our house for many years now. I’ve always found the characters and relationships at Pooh’s Corner fascinating. You have Pooh the loveable, sometimes clueless, friend to everyone. Rabbit, the bossy rule follower of the group. Piglet, whose afraid of just about everything including sometimes himself. My personal favorite, Tigger (whom I once played in a High School Production – my kids have seen the pictures) whose always moving and full of fun. Gopher, the builder who’s constantly building and working even when he doesn’t quite know what or why. Then there’s Eeyore, gloomy and discouraged, never looking on the bright side of things. These characters all inhabit the hundred acre wood together.
So which of these characters are you? Which of these characters do you see in your volunteers. It’s Eeyore that gets to me the most and dealing with an Eeyore can be tough. Surely you’ve had one – they always see the down side, the glass half empty, trouble just ahead. The problem is an Eeyore volunteer can do great harm to your ministry team and the ministry. So what do you do with an Eeyore?
Get to the Root – do they just have a negative outlook on everything or is there something more? Sometimes their complaints are a reaction to change – many people struggle with changes, but Eeyore takes it personally. Maybe their complaining is just a fear of the unknown or fear of failure. Dig into the real issue and communicate, communicate, communicate to help ease those fears.
Stay Positive – when they bring their concerns to you listen quietly without interruption and pre-judging. Assure them that you take their concerns seriously and will look into the situation. Also, offer suggestions that will help ease the situation.
Be the Example – anytime someone brings negative feedback assure them that it is welcomed. That does not mean you’re going to immediately agree with them or that change will be the result. It will communicate that you are open to hear their concerns. Always remind them that critique is helpful where criticism is harmful.
Remember as a leader dealing with personalities is part of the job. How we deal with those personalities will go along way in determining our success or failure.