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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs in health care settings.

~August 2010~

Question Beyond Question


Last month focused on some key takeaways from Disney’s Approach to Quality Service for Healthcare Professionals.  This month focuses in more depth on one of Disney’s key points – Guestology. 

As mentioned, Guestology refers to the needs, wants, stereotypes and emotions of the visitor.  According to Disney, emotion trumps needs, wants and stereotypes.   Staff should be trained to answer what Disney refers to as the secondary question.  This merits deeper discussion.

As the DVS for my facility, it is part of my everyday responsibilities to conduct the interviews for everyone interested in volunteering at the organization.  And after years of conducting these interviews, it’s easy to have a memorized little script of sorts to share information with the potential volunteer.  Now, I’m sure that sometimes that information may sound very cold and calculating to the potential volunteer….because after all, it is only the 1, 378th time I’ve said it (or so it seems)!  I continually remind myself that just because I’ve said it 1,378 times doesn’t mean the person hearing it has ever heard it before.

As a DVS setting the tone for the entire volunteer experience, it is important to remember that each person deserves the same warmth, respect and time that would be offered if they were a guest in our home.  The human nature is to emulate those leaders that we look up to.  And by treating everyone with equanimity and respect, you are setting yourself up as a leader to be emulated.  Most of us have a caring, empathetic nature that drew us into this line of work anyway so it should not be that hard.

In John G. Miller’s book QBQ!, he discusses the concept of the Question Behind the Question.  While Miller has written the book to focus on practicing personal accountability at work and in life, the concept of the question behind the question is very intriguing to me.  When someone asks the seemingly silly question, it’s human nature laugh it off sometimes thinking the person asking the question is ignorant, stupid, “doesn’t get it,” or just plain dumb.  In reality, the appropriate action to take is to try to find out what they really want to know.  In other words, what is the real question behind the question?

Again relating this back to Disney’s Approach to Guestology, the question behind the question “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” really is more about where is the best place to stand/sit that provide best visual, best picture taking, etc for the parade.  According to Disney, really good “Guestologists” are like little detectives trying to figure out what the person asking the question really wants to know.

Remember to keep it fresh!  Even if it is the 1,379 time you say something or answer the same question.  Seek to determine the question behind the question the next time someone asks, “What time is the 3 o-clock parade?”

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The author of the Heath Care Volunteer Programs column is Mary Kay Hood MS, Hendricks Regional Health, Danville, IN (317) 745-3556. With a BS degree in biology from Marian College and a Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, Mary Kay has been involved in volunteer management over twenty years with a zoo and in the health care field. During that time, she completed the Management of Volunteer Programs course offered at University of Indianapolis, several supervisory training programs as well as the Indiana Hospital and Health Association’s Management Institute offered by the Executive Education Program, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Mary Kay served on the Nonprofit Training Center of United Way from 1993 to 2006. During that time, she taught many workshops also facilitating speaker arrangements for the Basic Volunteer Management series. Additionally, she has presented at various national and international conferences. Mary Kay served as president of the Central Indiana Association for Volunteer Administration (CIAVA) from 1993-1997 and the Indiana Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (ISDVS) from 2006-2008. She was also the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Director of Volunteer Services Award and the 2002 United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award. Most recently she served on the Steering Committee for COVAA resulting in the formation of a new national membership organization for those in volunteer management, the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE). With several published articles, she is also author to two books: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions and The Volunteer Leader as Change Agent.

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