Posted by: Del Suggs – Saltwatermusic.com
Coming into the new academic year is a lot like New Year’s Day. Fall
is a great time to set new goals for yourself and your campus activity board. Let your
“New Year’s Resolution” for this new academic year be to do a better job leading your
board. Here are some great ideas for improving your leadership skills, and improving the
effectiveness of your Program Board.
Resolve to do a better job communicating this year. In today’s world, we have access to
incredible communication technology, yet we seem to be even more out of touch. Use
your email, your cell phone, and your IM to maintain keep your program board better
informed about upcoming events and meetings.
Set up a list serv or simply an email list for all of your board members. Keep everyone
informed of ongoing discussions, upcoming deadlines, and the constant concerns of your
student leaders. It is so much easier to make decisions when your executive committee
and your general members are keep in the loop. Communicate!
Before about five or six years ago, committee chairpersons had to physically be in the
program board office to make phone calls and conduct business. Today, we can do
business from anywhere– which is why it even more important to maintain office hours.
You should designate regular hours each week when you will be in your office. Use that
time to focus on board business, return phone calls, reply to emails, read your mail, and
all that other boring stuff that is so easy to put off. By setting and keeping office hours,
you’ll be more productive, more informed, and a better leader for your program board.
Your office hours are not the time for doing homework, surfing the Internet, or text
messaging your friends. Use the office hours as an excuse to concentrate on your job of
leading the program board. Take care of board business during office hours, and you’ll
be amazed at how efficient you can be.
There are many ways to improve your meetings, and make them more effective for your
and your board (Click here for More Effective Meetings).
Some very simple actions can lead to big results. Set up a regular meeting schedule, such
as every Tuesday at 7 p.m. Set a beginning and ending time for each meeting, and stick
to it! Your board members are far more likely to attend your meeting if they know it will
only last for one hour.
Email out the meeting agenda in advance, so your board will be informed and ready to
act. And, have an anticipated action for each agenda item. For example, don’t just list
“Fall Festival” as an agenda item. Include the action you plan to take: “Select the band
for Fall Festival.”
Finally, keep accurate minutes of each meeting, and send them out with the agenda in
advance of each meeting. That will keep everyone informed about board business, and
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and your committee or board members are no
different. Effective leaders express their gratitude strongly and openly. Think about the
ways you express your thanks to your committee members. Does it really reflect your
thankfulness for their work? Come up with new ways to say “thank you.”
Write thank you notes. Everyone appreciates a handwritten note. How about a thank you
gift? It doesn’t have to be expensive to show appreciation. Buy some movie tickets
(sometimes you can even get them at a discount from AAA or your credit union!) or a
meal card from a local restaurant. How about a nice fountain pen, for those fancy
signatures? Go browse through the local Dollar Store– you’ll be surprised and the cool
stuff you can get for a buck.
Try something clever and creative. Thank your members for completing a major
assignment by giving them a giftwrapped bottle of aspirin and antacid tablets, and thank
them for eliminating your headache and ulcers! They will know you appreciate their
work, and who doesn’t need some aspirin at some time?
Add some ritual to your activity board. Think about great organizations, and how
effectively they use ceremony, pomp and circumstance. If you’ve ever pledged a
fraternity or sorority, you know all about ritual. But it’s really used everyday and every
where for positive effect, whether we’re inaugurating a new President or singing the
National Anthem at a ball game.
When I was president of the Tallahassee Museum, I began every board meeting with a
group recitation of the organization’s Mission Statement. It was vital for the board to be
familiar with the mission of the Museum, and that ritual guaranteed that they said it at
least once a month. Plus, I had it printed at the very top of the meeting agenda, to
symbolize that it was the first thing to consider at every meeting. It was a very effective
Start by creating a ceremony to induct new members to your board. It can be as elaborate
or as simple as you want, but do something more than just introducing new members at
their first meeting. Have a pledge or swearing in ceremony. Have a secret handshake or
sign. Do something to make your organizational membership seem as special as it is.
How about a ritual for changes in leadership? It should be more than just having a new
chairperson run the meeting. Create a “pass the gavel” ceremony, when power actually
changes hands. Recognize new leaders with a special event or dinner. Great them with a
chant (huzzah!!) or cheer when they take over.
Can you hear the cheering from your Program Board when you announce that you’ve
abolished committees this year? Nobody likes to serve on committees. They meet too
often, for too long, they never get anything done, and once you get on one you can’t ever
seem to get off the committee. Well, bid committees goodbye!
This year, institute a “Task Force” system to meet your goals. How is it different from a
committee? To begin with, a task force has a specific goal– such as produce Spring
Fling– as opposed to the music committee which might have to produce numerous
events. Second, it has a clear completion date. Your Spring Fling task force is over the
day after Spring Fling!
You’ll find it much easier to recruit members for a task force than for a committee. The
assignment is clear, with a beginning and an ending, for a specific length of time. When
the task is finished, then you can recruit good task force members to another new task.
Give it a try!
Make this the year that you begin some formal training for your board members (Click here for Retreat Ideas). Plan a retreat at the
beginning of the year to do some team building and to learn the skills they need to serve
on the board.
If it’s too late to plan a retreat at the beginning of the year, then do a retreat at mid-year.
There is no better time for training, because you will have already uncovered their
weaknesses as a board. You may find board members who don’t cooperate; here’s the
need for team building. You may find poor attendance at your events; here’s your need to
teach promotion and publicity techniques. By the middle of the year, you will plainly see
what your board needs in order to be more successful.
You may need to schedule your retreat at the end of the year. That is also an excellent
time for training. Just make sure that you’ve already selected your new officers for the
coming year. Then you can really take the lead in training them to do the very best
possible job on the program board. Just remember, there is no wrong time to do training.
Lead By Example
Let your final “New Year’s Resolution” for the new academic year be to lead by example.
We all seek two things from our leaders: Vision and Integrity. Demonstrate your vision
clearly to your activities board. Let them know your goals for the board, and how you
intend to achieve those goals. Demonstrate your integrity by the way you live your life
everyday. That’s what great leaders do.