Leading an All-Volunteer Army

As most of you know, I went through a period of about seven years when I was training and consulting, but not actively building a business.  When I got back in the field five years ago, I built faster than I ever had before.  Dramatically faster…

Now I can attribute that to a number of variables:  Of course I chose a solid company with a sexy product line.  I believe I had advanced a great deal in my self-development and people skills.  I was a better copywriter, marketer and knew how to use technology.  But I don’t think those things made the real breakthrough…

I believe the biggest breakthrough came because of the experience I had during those seven years I was out of the field.  During that time I was:

  • President of my church board;
  • Active organizing political campaigns;
  • President of the Florida Speakers Association;
  • President of the local Chamber of Commerce; and,
  • Vice president of the Viper car club.

There was a very important commonality in all these activities.  In each case I was leading an all-volunteer army.

Big, big difference from my past…

Remember I used to be a restaurant manager.  And reached that position with no formal training, simply by working my way up from dishwasher.  Looking back at it, I can honestly say I had some management skills, but virtually no leadership ones.

The restaurant industry has a turnover ratio that makes Network Marketing look positively stellar.  The industry average in the hospitality biz is 200% annually.  In the sector I worked, it’s even higher!

In an average month I might have between ten to 15 employees quit.  If someone couldn’t get off the night of a concert, they quit.  If they couldn’t leave early when their favorite TV show was on, they just left anyway.  So at the end of the day, there were times when my management technique was to say, “If you don’t mop the floor before you leave, you’re fired.”  (Now I’m not claiming this was a good leadership strategy, just that it was what I did.)

Now picture the difference when I was in charge of leading all these non-profit organizations.  In each case I was leading volunteers.  People I couldn’t hire or fire.  They only stayed around if they wanted to stay around.

Sound familiar?

Your network is an all-volunteer army as well.  So how can you be an effective leader for them?   Here’s my take.  Please share yours.

I believe it starts with integrity.  Your people have to know that you have their best interest at heart.  That means you never lie to them or coach them in a way that isn’t in the best interest of their business.  It means you’re accountable: you honor your commitments and do what you say.

Some other important things:

Inclusion.  Involve them in the decision making process to the degree they are qualified.  (Key here is that last part.  New people aren’t qualified to create presentations, set training agendas or change the system.  But they probably deserve a seat at the table sooner than your control freak tendencies believe is the case.)

Recognition.  The magic elixir of MLM, and leadership in general.  No one does enough of this.  No one.

Exclusion.  Keep the train moving fast enough so that people have to be a little breathless to keep up.  Give them some stretch goals and objections to reach before they get to participate in some of the “insider” stuff.

Model the behavior.  Stop trying to sponsor two people and manage them to making you rich.  It ain’t happening.  You can’t manage people anyway.  You lead people and manage things.  And you lead by example.  You sponsor, you bring guests, you attend events, you promote to the next major.

Expectations.  This is the thing that worked best for me in the non-profits, and still works best in our biz.  I have always been blessed to be able to see the greatness in others, often before they can see it in themselves.  Let your people know you believe in them and create expectations for what you know they can do.  It’s amazing how often they will live up to them!


23 thoughts on “Leading an All-Volunteer Army

  1. This makes so much sense. I just finished reading your book Multi-Level Money Machine and purchased your First Steps to Success Packet. I am taking the things I have learned and becoming that leader that I never was for my team. I have lost alot of people and I know it is because of me not being that leader.

    I am a salesperson and realizing 90% of people are not has really helped me. I am very blessed to have your resourses to help build my business.

  2. Just happy to read ur email today:)

    When you’re leading volunteers, u just hve to motivate them always. I also share the obstacles ive faced and show them its nothing really, that they too will overcome!


  3. Great post Randy.Thank you!
    I was volunteer for all team and I forgotten that I have to built my team.
    I decided to be a leader for my team ….and…its working.

  4. This is a great post. Leadership is often doing what no one else is willing to do. Something about being in the lead…

    On the topic of recognition; most of the time it is manipulation or at best the price to a request for something else. ‘OH! What a great job you did…’… followed by ‘can you now do …’….or the ‘what took you so long’ erasure. In this profession almost all real recognition is for all the people that made it possible. You will not be successful unless you support other people’s success. Recognition is as you say a very weak muscle, never done enough or I say appropriately. Thank you is often sufficient if people would leave it at that. The other part of the equation is a million acknowledgements are erased with only one mistake. The critical mindset that only sees what is missing while never appreciating what has taken place or the effort and struggle to have it happen is so ingrained in people that the air leaving the balloon is always blamed on the balloon and almost never the guy with the pin who just put the small hole there. The experience of making a difference, of fulfillment after a job well done is too often ruined or tainted by how people are ‘recognized’ for their accomplishment. There are a lot of people who practice being nobody. You know the ones… nobody does it better, nobody can do this, nobody has more friends, nobody is faster… The art and science of acknowledgment may never be learned sufficiently and perhaps that is why so few take it up.

  5. What I have experienced, in any endeavour, that the recognition and praise part of leading a group of people is simply the most vital peice. People will go to incredible lengths to be mentioned on an Achievers List or hear their name mentioned from the stage.
    One thing I am formulating within my own organization is stronger recognition of new team members and really spotlighting those who are doing well. I want to make sure that my all-volunteer army really knows we appreciate them and what they are achieving.

  6. Your observation of Leadership is spot on Randy. To create a Dynasty in MLM requires Leadership skills and always be willing to help others succeed in your team. I am a Minister in our Spanish church in Sydney and having also been President of an Association and Director of Gospel Glory Ministry, I am fully aware of the skills required to lead others. It has been a learning experience from day one and continuous to be a moment by moment, day by day, exponential personal growth. Mentors are so crucial in this journey and a Massive Consistent personal application of oneself to always be in learning mode. At the end of the day Leadership is INFLUENCE. My personal goal with Network Marketing is to create a Dynasty in order to reach my life goals and help hundreds and even thousands reach theirs also. Your Duplication Nation resource has been awesome and very helpful. Thanks so much.

  7. Randy, I worked for 17 years, director, choreographer, fitness trainer, there were people who liked my work, was a success in my work asked the rhythm of my life, but did not bring the desired income. When I came in MLM for a long time could not understand why I can not attract the right people, though, and do certain work. Now I understand what you need to do work within and around us and there will be people who you will be interested and they will forever be with me in my business. A miracle is happening if aspire to the dream!

  8. Hi Randy,
    many People in the Corporate World try to motivate with fear. Building an MLM business could help them develop Leadership skills.
    The Education is better than the most expensive course of Management and reward them directly

  9. Thank you Randy!

    The best way to lead people is leading yourself first. Then, all ways of leadership are possible.

    Please, it would be very useful to have this blog in SPANISH. The latin american MLM community is growing fast and your resources are the best for this growth.

  10. Hey Rndy,

    It’s very true because “people join people, not companies. If your focus is on a company, or on a compensation plan, or on products, then your focus is wrong. To build a lasting long-term network marketing income, your must focus on building relationships”

  11. -RG,

    i agree being in a leadership role with a non-profit is a great way to develop leadership skills. Being a retired fire captain I could lead but I needed to develop a different skill set to lead “civilians” in the non-profit world.

    My biggest lesson was to validate and embrace the skill set that each person brought to the table.


  12. Hi Randy,

    What an amazing post; I took the liberty to translate it to Spanish and sent it to all the Latinamerican Team I work with. I wanted to share it with the community that reads your blog and speak spanish… Hope you enjoy it… JFG

    Liderando un ejército de solo voluntarios

    Como la mayor parte de ustedes saben, atravesé un período aproximado de siete años en que daba entrenamientos y hacía consultoría, pero no construía activamente un negocio. Cuando volví al campo hace cinco años, construí mi negocio más rápido como jamás lo había hecho antes. Dramáticamente más rápido…

    Ahora puedo atribuir esto a algunas variables: Por supuesto, escogí una compañía sólida, con una atractiva línea de productos. Creo que he avanzado mucho en mis habilidades de desarrollo personal y con las personas. Soy un mejor escritor y marketero, además supe cómo utilizar la tecnología. Pero no pienso que esas cosas hicieron el verdadero avance…

    Creo que el avance más grande vino a causa de la experiencia que tuve durante esos siete años que estuve fuera del campo. Durante ese tiempo yo fui:
    El presidente del directorio de la iglesia;
    Organicé activamente campañas políticas;
    Presidente de la Asociación de Oradores de Florida;
    Presidente de la Cámara de comercio local; y,
    Vicepresidente del club de autos Viper.
    Había un muy importante común denominador en todas estas actividades. En cada caso yo dirigía a un ejército de solo voluntarios.

    Gran, gran diferencia con mi pasado…

    Recuerda que yo era un gerente de restaurante. Y alcancé esa posición con ningún entrenamiento formal, simplemente trabajando, subiendo desde ser un lavaplatos. Mirando hacia atrás, puedo decir honestamente que tenía algunas habilidades administrativas, pero prácticamente ninguna de liderazgo.

    La industria de restaurantes tiene un volumen de ventas que hace que el Mercadeo en Red se vea categóricamente estelar. El promedio de la industria en los negocios de la hospitalidad es 200% anualmente. ¡En el sector que yo trabajé, es aun más alto!

    En un mes promedio quizás tenía entre diez a 15 empleados que renunciaban. Si alguien no podía asistir una noche a un concierto, renunciaba. Si no podían salir temprano cuando daban su serie favorita de TV, de todos modos se iban. Entonces al final del día, habían momentos que mis técnicas administrativas eran decir, “Si no trapeas el piso antes de irte, estás despedido”. (Ahora no estoy diciendo que esta era una buena estrategia de liderazgo, sólo que eso era lo que hacía).

    Ahora imagínense la diferencia cuando estuve encargado de dirigir todas estas organizaciones sin fines de lucro. En cada caso estaba liderando voluntarios. Personas que yo no podría contratar o despedir. Ellos sólo permanecían cerca si es que querían permanecer cerca.

    ¿Suena familiar?

    Tu red también es un ejército de voluntarios . ¿Entonces cómo puedes ser un líder efectivo para ellos? Aquí está mi opinión. Por favor compartan la suya.
    Yo creo que comienza con integridad. Tu gente tiene que saber que tú sinceramente quieres lo mejor para ellos. Esto significa que nunca debes mentirles o entrenarlos de una manera en que no sea lo mejor para su negocio. Significa que eres responsable: honra tus compromisos y haz lo que dices que vas a hacer.

    Algunas otras cosas importantes:

    Inclusión. Involúcralos en el proceso de toma de decisiones en el grado que estén calificados. (La clave aquí es la última parte. La gente nueva no está calificada para crear presentaciones, armar agenda de entrenamiento o cambiar el sistema. Pero ellos probablemente merecen un asiento en la mesa más pronto de lo que tus extrañas tendencias controladoras crean que sea el momento).

    Reconocimiento. El elixir mágico del MLM, y del liderazgo en general. Nadie hace suficiente de esto. Nadie.

    Exclusión. Mantén el tren moviéndose lo bastante rápido para que las personas se sientan un poco sin aliento para mantener el ritmo. Dales algunos objetivos de esfuerzo y dificultades que alcanzar antes que puedan participar de “información privilegiada”.

    Modela la conducta. Deja de intentar patrocinar a dos personas y manejarlas para que te hagan rico. Eso no va a pasar. Tú no puedes manejar a las personas de todos modos. Tú lideras a las personas y manejas cosas. Y Tú lideras con el ejemplo. Tú patrocinas, tú traes invitados, tú asistes a los eventos, tú promueves el próximo evento principal.

    Expectativas. Esto es lo que mejor me ha funcionado a mi en las actividades sin fines de lucro, y todavía funciona mejor en nuestro negocio. Yo siempre he sido bendecido por poder ver la grandeza en otros, a menudo antes que ellos puedan verlo por sí mismos. Hazle saber a tu gente que crees en ellos y crea expectativas por lo que tú sabes que ellos pueden hacer. ¡Es increíble con qué frecuencia ellos vivirán de acuerdo a eso!


  13. You are so right on Randy. I had the pleasure of attending one of your seminars a few years ago and enjoyed every minute of it. Once I got the info through my thick skull and canned the me me me attitude, things exploded. Thanks again.
    ps you had a brochure years ago called”escaping the rat race”, it was about what network marketing really is and how it is applied to our lives. Is it still available? Thanks again
    Stan Townsend

  14. Hi
    I´m in the beginning here in Brazil.
    My team and I are all beginers, than your article will help us a lot for sure.
    Thanks for beeing such a good teacher.

Leave a Reply