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These 5 Tips Will Make You A Better People Person

When you work with volunteers (or if you are a volunteer) chances are, you are in contact with people. For some of us, the thousands of little interactions we have a day come naturally. However, for a lot of us, we have to focus on what we are doing, and it doesn’t always come easily.

The good news is that interpersonal intelligence can be learned. All of my introverted friends, rejoice!

Here are 5 tips that will help you build those “soft” skills.

#1 Realize that our emotions are contagious

Like a bad cold, our emotions can be catching. When we are in leadership roles, our followers take their cue from us, and the mood can infiltrate the entire organization.

In her book Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, Vanessa Van Edwards explains the idea of infectious emotions by detailing the work done by Psychologist Barbara Wild.

During an experiment where participants were shown an image and then given a series of mood tests, Dr. Wild and her associates found that people who looked at a happy face felt more positive, while those who looked at a sad face felt more negative. These pictures flashed in front of the test subjects in less than 500 milliseconds, and yet people not only registered what emotion was displayed, but they began to mirror those same feelings.

Hearing this research, we may be tempted to paste on a false smile and fight our way through a bad day. However, Van Edwards warns that faking our emotions doesn’t do us any good either. In a study done with more than 4,361 participants, over 86.9% were able to correctly identify a genuine smile (from among three fake smiles).

Even the great actor, Orson Welles, couldn’t beat those odds!

How does this information help us be better with people? Realizing that we are human is a good start. We don’t always have to have our lives together. People know that we don’t have it all figured out. So be authentic. You don’t have to pretend you are full of excitement if you’re having a rough day. However, we can choose to be joyful despite our feelings. We can choose to pay attention to how our emotions impact those around us. Moreover, we can decide not to allow our feelings to rule our behaviors.

#2 Learn names

People LOVE the sound of their name. Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” And scientifically, Carnegie was right. In fact, research shows that your brain is activated in more cortexes for your name more than any other. So if you want to get better at connecting with people, learn names, and use them…often.

What if you are bad at remembering names? There’s plenty of tricks you can use to practice this critical skill. Repeat the name out loud as soon as you learn it. Say the name silently to yourself repeatedly during the conversation. Then, use it during the close of your meeting to seal it in your memory.

I try to use people’s names as often in a conversation as I can without sounding weird. It’s such a simple thing to do, but it immediately endears you to them. Even special nicknames can be an excellent way to connect. I once worked with a girl who was from New York, specifically Brooklyn. We started calling her Brooklyn around the office as a pet name. It stuck, and she loved it! Her face would light up in a huge grin when she heard us calling.

#3 Ask for more favors

In Pop Science, the phenomenon of someone liking you more if they do you a favor is called the Ben Franklin Effect. The founding father is quoted as saying, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

So as strange as this sounds, if you want to make more friends, you should ask for more favors. People rationalize to themselves that they must like you if they are willing to do something for you.

I’ve found this to be true in some of my own relationships. A new lady started at my job a few years ago and since we worked in different departments, and we had very different interests, I didn’t think to start a friendship. One day, out of the blue, she asked me for a non-work related favor. I was surprised she would ask me, but since it wouldn’t take much time and I was happy to help if I could, I did it. Shortly afterward, I started following up with her to see how she liked her new role. I checked in often, and she did the same for me. We became good friends after that, and now I’m glad she reached out. It all started with her asking for a little help. Then, since I helped her once, I was more invested in how she was doing in other areas like work and her personal life.

#4 Make eye contact

According to science, eye contact makes your words more memorable and coupled with sudden movements, it can help people notice and remember you. Not only does eye contact show confidence and denote authority, but it can also create trust.

We’ve all been there. It is the worst feeling when you are talking to someone, and their eyes are looking everywhere but you. It feels like they are looking for a better option (even if that’s not the case). When we take the time to focus on the person we are talking with, and connect with them by looking into their eyes; we show we are interested in what they have to say.

If this feels a little uncomfortable for you, practice by forcing yourself to examine the color of your conversation partner’s eyes. It only takes a few seconds to learn eye color, but it starts getting you more comfortable with eye contact. It is also more challenging to look away if you are studying the shade of someone’s eyes. If you want to connect with people on a deeper level, look into their eyes.

#5 Say, “Thank You.”

As simple as this may sound, good manners can have an instant positive effect on your relationships. Expressions of gratitude create strong bonds and can lead to more significant influence.  According to the book, The Power Paradox by Dacher Keltner, individuals who express gratitude to others at the beginning of the group’s forming period have stronger ties months later.

Want to connect with people? Start by including something as simple as, “Thank you” or “Please” in your conversations.

Looking for more ways to increase your interpersonal skills? Check out Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People by Vanessa Van Edwards.

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Motivation Theories

How are our leaders investing in us? Are they just putting us through the paces? Sending us to one class after another to learn and telling us to read books but not taking the time to invest their time in us? A leader’s schedule can become very hectic, and between trying to help others and follow-up with volunteers, it seems like their job never stops. But you can’t grow a volunteer unless you’re willing to invest time with them. Spending time with somebody, correcting them, teaching them, loving them, talking to them, and helping them grow doesn’t happen without that relationship.

So how do our leaders motivate us?

Value us.

One way to motivate volunteers is by showing us that we are valued. Appreciation goes a long way in keeping people involved and dedicated to the organization. It keeps them motivated to continue working and also serves as a way to fill needs such as job satisfaction. Showing volunteers how much they are appreciated and how much their contribution mattered to the organization increases the likelihood that they will return.

Give us the opportunity to grow.

Another way for leaders to motivate volunteers is by giving them a chance to develop personally. When people volunteer, they are usually looking for a way to either give back or personally evolve. Leaders should offer volunteers the opportunity to stretch themselves and reach their potential. It will keep them coming back to serve if they know doing so will also help them continue to grow.

Commitment versus confinement.

Although commitment from volunteers is necessary to show they are dedicated and willing to embark on the journey to excellence, it is also important to remember that organizations can’t expect too much from these non-paid individuals. Yes, they want to see people who come faithfully every time they are scheduled, and they can give them the responsibility that would usually go to a paid staff member. But that isn’t just commitment. Leaders shouldn’t want to hedge us in so that we are only using our gifts for them. They should want us to spread our wings and grow. Whether that is through their organization or somewhere else. The organization’s job is to help us develop personally while we are with them so when the time comes we are prepared to go to our next position of influence.

Let us choose.

Leaders should give volunteers the option to choose whether or not they will keep serving. They shouldn’t have to drag people into positions of service; it’s much nicer when volunteers come willingly. Although the word itself implies someone who freely offers to do a task, there are occasions when volunteers don’t particularly relish their job description and may not be as motivated as they once were. Letting the volunteer choose to serve provides them with the control of their destiny and helps them re-evaluate why they opted to serve in the first place and whether or not those reasons are still relevant.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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Greek Myths and Expectation Power

When talking incentives, a lot of leaders teeter between two sides of the management fence: Self-motivation versus Supervisor motivation.

Which is more powerful? Are people more inclined to be motivated by their own expectations or that of their leader?

Pygmalion (or Rosenthal) Effect – the power of other’s expectations. This theory states that people will perform in ways that are consistent with the expectations of their supervisors.

Galatea Effect – the power of self-expectations. If I believe I can do it, then I am more likely to succeed.

Based on the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his ivory creation, Galatea, these theories show the phenomenon where higher expectations (those of our bosses, or ourselves) lead to better performance.

So, which one works better?

You’ll hear arguments for both camps. Everyone has an opinion about which is more powerful. So why can’t we use a combination of both?

As leaders, it’s our job to see the potential in our followers, not their current status. We believe that they can achieve more than they realize and we encourage them to fulfill those goals. It’s also our job to help them see themselves as victors. As individuals capable of incredible things.

The greater the confidence we show in their abilities, the greater confidence they will have in themselves.

We might not always be able to control how our team sees themselves, but we can do our best to display our encouragement (even in non-verbal cues). A nod, smile, thumbs-up, note of encouragement, and public praise can do wonders to boosting the confidence of our team members.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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Creating a Cultural Brand

Scott Cook, the co-founder of Intuit (the company credited with QuickBooks and TurboTax), once remarked, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” This has become true in our social media-driven environment where one positive or negative post can go viral in a matter of moments, and the fate of a multi-million dollar organization hangs in the balance. Public relations have moved to the hands of the consumers, and its power has gone on to include the volunteer experience. Word-of-mouth has taken on an entirely new meaning in the 21st century, with people now having their very own platform to share their opinions and experiences. Power has shifted to the consumer, and their findings are not always accurate facts, but more often, perceptions from their unique tunnel visioned encounter.

It doesn’t matter if they only see one portion of an organization, once they’ve interacted with some section, their opinion has been made for better or worse and they are armed with their conclusions to share with friends, family, and followers. If this sounds depressing, don’t worry. Just as one bad experience can go viral the same goes for a good encounter! One good interaction with a guest can have the same viral effect, spreading as they share their experience on social media and through word-of-mouth.

Volunteers are often on the front lines of guest relations, so it’s up to them to create customer service experiences that lead to positive buzz. A good experience will slowly begin to build the brand up positively in customer’s minds; a negative interaction will have the opposite effect. Marketers tell us that one way to develop brand loyalty is by encouraging customers to create an emotional attachment. Researchers have found that an emotional brand attachment may be formed when a particular brand becomes a part of an individual’s self-concept. In other words, people get emotionally attached to organizations who embody characteristics that they either desire or believe they already have. When people identify emotionally with a brand, they cultivate deeper loyalty ties. As volunteers, we have the opportunity to create positive, emotional experiences. We are in unique positions to interact with guests face-to-face, and that personal interaction is where emotional connections take place. The more memorable encounters we provide to people, the stronger the bond becomes to the organization.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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Getting Attention in a Noisy World

It’s pretty noisy out there.

Marketing experts say that most Americans are exposed to at least 4,000 ads every day. Organizations are continually competing for our attention. Brands are everywhere we look, shouting messages to our subconscious without us even noticing.

To adjust to the constant barrage of images and ads, most of us have become desensitized to them. We glaze over when commercials pop up on our screens, ignore banners tailored to us online, and hardly notice the t-shirts and caps promoting x-brand or y-organization streaming passed us on our commute.

In such a loud environment, how do you make your organization stand out as a fun and fulfilling place to volunteer?

1. Be true to your values. People are drawn to organizations who share their passions. If you are out there doing what you love, trust me…people will find you. Don’t get distracted by fads or gimmicks, when you focus on who you are and what you believe in, and the right people will naturally catch the vision and join. The added benefit is that you won’t attract people who aren’t interested. You’ll have an army of individuals who are just as excited about your mission as you are. 

2. Focus on your uniqueness. There’s a reason you’re in business. You’re good at what you do. Even if there are others similar to you in your community, you have a particular way of doing things. Focus on the areas that make you stand out from the crowd and highlight those strengths to your audience.

3. Be interactive. Social media gives us a direct channel to potential volunteers. It takes some time, but having a strong presence online will keep you at the front of people’s mind, which is precisely where we want to be. They might not be ready to serve now, but when they are ready, we want our organization to be the first place they think of serving. Interacting online is more than just posting pictures and inspiring messages. It’s important to build relationships. Liking follower’s posts, commenting, and even sending direct messages will help you authentically connect with your audience.

4. Show what you do. It’s not enough to tell people what your organization does. We’ve become desensitized to words, and it’s easy to drown out someone talking about a good cause. Visuals stimulate people. Videos, GIFs, and images are taking their place in modern communication. Research shows that video will represent more than 81% of all consumer Web traffic by 2021. There’s no better way to express your brand than by showing people exactly what it is you do.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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Clash of Culture

We had a leader in our church named Joe. Joe was really great at systems. He could look down a pew and know exactly how many seats were left and could position it so twelve people could fit in a space meant for ten. Joe had a wonderful talent for organizing and led our usher team with great efficiency, but he had a major issue. He wasn’t connecting to the rest of the volunteers. Try as he might, the other ushers who served with him would not respond to his efforts. From all appearances, Joe was a skilled leader, but he was unable to rally volunteers to his cause (despite their shared vision and goals).

Where was the disconnect?

Joe’s leadership style wasn’t compatible with the culture of the church.

One of the main reasons people serve is for the chance to connect and interact with others. Volunteering at church is a social experience, where people take the time to encourage and share with each other, and serving teams almost function like a small group where people are invested in team member’s lives. The no-nonsense leadership style of Joe was clashing with the very purpose of our volunteer team.

Time and again, I see this happen not only in churches but in organizations. Someone is given a position of authority but their leadership style does not mesh with the culture of the company, and EVERYONE feels it.

So, what was the solution?

You can’t exactly fire a volunteer. It’s one thing to reprimand a staff member, but when it comes to replacing someone who is working for free everything gets more complicated. This tension between the leader’s behavior and the culture of the organization will eventually cause your system to break. Either the culture will slowly shift toward the leader’s behavior, or the leader must conform to the culture of the organization. Church leaders have to be proactive, or the culture will change without them. How do you change the leadership style and behaviors of your leaders to match the culture of the church?

Evaluate your Environment

Before trying to change a leader’s behaviors or leadership style, we first need to understand the culture of our church so we can direct their actions to line up with our desired environment. What is your culture? Friendly, inviting,

Shift Expectations

Leadership development is context sensitive, so there is no one perfect style that works for all churches. What works for one church may not translate to the next. This is why understanding YOUR culture and YOUR leaders are so important. Find out what works for your church and focus on a leadership program that meets their unique needs. Don’t give in to the temptation to mimic what a successful church is doing. They may have a great system, but remember that their culture is a mixture of environment, people, beliefs, background and a ton of other contributing factors that work with their leadership style. Your situation is unique to your people and copying a style that doesn’t match your situation is not only harder for your leaders, but can be unhealthy for your church.

Create a Coaching Culture

As the leadership in the church, you set the thermostat of the rest of the organization. Believe it or not, your leaders are taking their cues from you. Who you are as a leader influences the culture of the church and trickles down to the rest of your team. How can your leaders mimic your style if they are not spending time with you? Whether you have a volunteer team of 2, 200, or 2,000, your top leadership needs to be actively engaged and spending quality time with key leaders in the ministry.


Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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The Reason I Volunteer – Alex

This is Alex.

Alex volunteers as a photographer for a local college ministry called The Voice and for various events around town. Her favorite event so far? Make ‘Em Smile: an annual party for kids with special needs hosted by Nathaniel’s Hope. As the founder of Bedside Educators Network, a tutoring company for hospitalized and homebound students, Alex knows the value of giving back.

“Through photography, I can share my perspective of the world with others. I can tell a story, promote a cause, or memorialize a moment with a single shot. Getting to do what I love is great. Getting to do it for a cause that is bigger than myself is even better. That’s why I volunteer.”

People like Alex are what inspires us here at Volunteer U! She gives back to multiple organizations and has found a way to combine what she loves with helping organizations that are making the world a better place.

To learn more about the Bedside Educators Network and the incredible work they are doing visit Alex’s website You can also learn more about the event she volunteers for: Make ‘Em Smile at

If you’re enjoying the #TheReasonIVolunteer series, be sure to comment below and let us know. Follow along with our campaign with #IAmVolunteerU #Volunteeru on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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The Reason I Volunteer – Ashley

Ashley is next in the spotlight in our #TheReasonIVolunteer campaign.

This girl is a powerhouse in the most understated way possible. Not only does she work a full-time job at a church, but Ashley is currently finishing up her MBA as well. As an undergrad, Ashley majored in English and minored in Music. She volunteers at her church in the orchestra, playing the violin.

Here is Ashley’s WHY:

“I serve through the music ministry because God gave me a gift. Serving and sharing it with others is a way I say thank you to Him for giving it to me. The problem I sometimes have is forgetting who gets the glory. Usually, when I forget and get wrapped up in MY talent, He “allows” something to happen, like, my mic not to work for a spoken word-violin duo performance, or me completely forgetting what notes I’m supposed to be playing during a worship service. He alone should get the glory, and when He does, no one using any gift He has given them will ever be put to shame. I always want to be used in whatever capacity. Right now, it’s through music.”

The more stories like Ashley’s that we hear, the more we get inspired to make the most of our skills and gifts! Her interest and knowledge of music led her to give back, and she consistently keeps her focus on what’s important. Ashley gave a great reminder that volunteering is NOT ABOUT US. It’s all about serving God and others. A simple concept, but so easy to forget.

Thanks, Ashley for the fun opportunity to hang out with you and hear your story!

If you’re enjoying the #TheReasonIVolunteer series, be sure to comment below and let us know. Follow along with our campaign with #IAmVolunteerU #Volunteeru on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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The Reason I Volunteer – Silvia from Dorcas Ministry

On our social media, we’ve recently begun a campaign called #TheReasonIVolunteer turning the spotlight on some terrific volunteers serving in their communities. (By the way, if you haven’t connected with us online be sure to click on the links below!). It’s been a fun way to hear stories of real-life heroes who donate their time and skills to make our world a better place!

Our very first post features a dear friend of mine, Silvia.

I wish I had time to go into detail about Silvia’s life exploits and her past as an entrepreneur selling commercial cleaning supplies, renting bicycles in Mexico, and being an extra in a movie, but alas, with our limited time I’m focusing only on her most recent endeavor as a volunteer for Dorcas Ministry.

Dorcas Ministry is an incredible group that repurposes pillowcases into dresses for little girls in developing countries. These beautiful dresses have been sent to children in El Salvador, Ecuador, Nepal, Poland, Mexico, and Togo.

Silvia explains, “I like to use my gifts (sewing) to help others. We have a responsibility to use our skills for more than just ourselves. I like knowing that doing something as simple as sewing is going to make a difference to a girl and her family. Plus it’s fun!”

Here is one of the precious little girls in Nepal who received one of Dorcas Ministry’s dresses! This sweet girl and her mother were so happy the photographer Alex, couldn’t help but capture the moment.

Just one example of the far-reaching impact a volunteer can have!

Keep an eye out for more of our #TheReasonIVolunteer posts in the upcoming weeks! And follow along with our campaign with #IAmVolunteerU #Volunteeru on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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Recruiting LIKE A BOSS

One of the most frequent questions we get asked at Volunteer U is, “How do I get more volunteers?”

This is a common issue; especially for churches and nonprofits where non-paid individuals make up a majority of the positions. Sadly, although leaders know the importance of recruitment, it is usually one of the very last tasks on their busy to-do list. What leaders don’t always realize, is that a little bit of strategizing and effort now can save a lot of stress later on. Having a solid recruitment plan in place will keep a steady flow of volunteers coming through the pipeline.

Below are the three steps of recruitment and the three keys to an effective recruitment strategy.

STEP ONE. Explain the Need

This is where your salesmanship should come out. Spare no details. A flair for the dramatic is helpful here too. Even a monotonous, dirty task like cleaning the parking lot can sound exciting if you put the right spin on it! Serve your community, build friendships, and help keep our parking lot clean! Sounds like a pretty nice way to spend a few hours Saturday morning.

STEP TWO. Prove why THEY are needed

People want to know that they are needed. When you recruit, you need to make a case for why they are important. When we ask people to serve, everyone automatically believes someone better qualified will step in. We need to show volunteers that everyone is needed and can contribute. It’s also important to make people invest emotionally. Explain what you need and how their unique gifts and skills can make an impact.

STEP THREE. Call to Action

Our call to action should be simple and to the point. Ask for help with a specific project or encourage people to come to your volunteer orientation. Give them one simple step that they can take right away.

Most churches are so desperate to get help, that they try to make the volunteer process as easy as possible. I think that’s a mistake. We want to put a few steps in place that will act as filters. We’re not just looking for anyone. We’re looking for the right people. Trust me, it’s much better to be searching for someone to fill a spot, than having to clean up a mistake.

We need to build in some safeties to help make sure we get the right people in the right roles. Background checks should be standard practices for anyone working with children or youth, but asking people to become church members, or attend a mandatory training/orientation will help weed out those who aren’t committed.

3 Keys of Volunteer Recruitment

#1 Put Your Current Volunteers To Work

Recruiting doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. It should be built into the culture of your organization. Current volunteers should be your biggest advocates. There’s nothing that can compare to word-of-mouth advertising. 84% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues [1].

#2 Hold Volunteer Fairs

Two of the biggest reasons people tell us they don’t volunteer are 1. They don’t think they’re needed. 2. They think someone else will do it. People won’t know what you need until you let them know. Let them know all the different ways they can serve.

#3 Have a Social Media Presence

Social media has a huge reach. Your organization should have a consistent presence online to generate interest and keep people engaged. 58% of consumers share positive experiences with a company on social media and also ask their network opinions about brands [2]. This is your chance to handcraft a perception of your organization.


[1].  Nielsen (2013, September 17). Under the Influence: Consumer Trust in Advertising. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from

[2] SDL Survey Reveals Consumers Want Brands to Offer Consistent Experience (2013, May 15). Retrieved July 24 2017.



Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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