Posted by: Del Suggs – Saltwatermusic.com
Last month I discussed organizational matters (officers, titles, responsibilities, and
membership) to improve efficiency, performance, and diversity. I also covered office
hours, and the need for structure to improve your program board. Even if your board is
functioning well, there is nearly always room for improvement.
In this column, I’ll deal with time management tools, and conflict resolution. Perhaps
you’ll get some ideas here that you can use to take your board to the next level. It’s all
part of building a High-Powered Program Board.
Time Management Tools
There never seems to be enough time to do everything. And yet, some folks get much
more work done than others. A lot of productive people use good time management
tools. Such tools enable you to do more work in less time, and assist you in doing a better
job. While it’s important to work quickly, it’s even more important to do the best job you
First of all, have a good scheduling system. It doesn’t matter if you use a Blackberry or
another PDA, a Day Planner, a plain old calendar, or a pad of sticky notes. What does
matter is that it work for you, and that tasks don’t go uncompleted or forgotten.
Everything you do in programming, from scheduling events to promotion to election of
members, has a deadline and a timeline. A deadline, of course, is when something needs
to be completed. A timeline is a list of actions that must be completed– and when they
must be complete– in order to meet the deadline.
Create a timeline for your events by listing everything that needs to be done, starting at the
end. Do it like a David Letterman “Top Ten List.”
Let’s use my concert for an example. Take a page and have two vertical columns labeled
“Date” and “Action.” List the concert as the at the bottom of the page: “Del Suggs
Concert.” Then list the date of the event to the “Date” side: let’s say “February 14.”
Above concert write: “put up posters, and start publicity blitz.” Since you want to do
that a week before the show, count back seven days, and write “February 7” in the date
column. Say the campus newspaper comes out on the first of the month. Write
“Newspaper story” as an action. Then find out the deadline for that issue of the paper– it
may be five to seven days before publication. When your find out, fill in that date:
When you’ve finished this action and date list, you’ll have a timeline for everything that
needs to be done for the event. Try this for your programs. It’s like an old school “To
Do List” only with the deadlines for each item. It’s a great way to both break down the
big event into smaller tasks, and to make sure that the tasks are completed at the proper
Using a Form
Schedules and forms are excellent ways to manage the myriad of tasks involved in
activities programming. I’ve drafted a “Campus Event Form” and posted it at my website
for your use. Go to www.SaltwaterMusic.com, and click on the “Ed Resources” link in
the menu bar. Near the bottom of the page is the form (it is a PDF, so you’ll view it with
Adobe Acrobat Reader).
This form covers most of the steps involved in presenting an event on campus. Each item
(such as “Request Contracts” or “Reserve Venue”) has a line for you to date and initial
upon completion. The idea is to have a list of everything that needs to be done, and to
keep a record of when it gets done. Feel free to change it in any way to fit your own
program board needs. I really believe you’ll find it helpful.
You can always create your own forms, too, for completing frequent yet complex tasks.
For example, I have a personal form I created for tracking every single concert or lecture I
present. At the top, I have blanks for the school, date, showtime, topic, and all those little
details about the actual event. Then I have a date and checklist of business matters, such
as “Contracts Sent,” “Contracts Returned,” “Promotional Material Sent,” and more. At
the bottom is pertinent information such as “Accommodations,” “Directions to Campus,”
and a general “Remarks.” I even have a blank for “Thanks to:” that I complete
immediately after the show, so I don’t forget the people who helped me out when I was
visiting your campus.
Do I have to have a form for all of this? Probably not, because after more than 750
college appearances I know what needs to be done. But you and your student
programmers probably don’t have that depth of experience. In fact, some of your board
members won’t even know everything that must be done, much less when it should be
done. That’s why a form can be so helpful.
And, it makes things simple because I can look at the form and see exactly when I send
posters to a campus, rather than having to go to my computer database and search. I
generally apply Occam’s Razor to my use of technology. In Latin, “entia non sunt
multiplicanda praeter necessitatem,” which translates to “entities should not be multiplied
beyond necessity.” To paraphrase– simpler is better!
Let’s look briefly at conflict resolution. Every program board has conflicts and
disagreements between members. Why are there conflicts? Let me give you five quick
causes of conflict:
- Interdependence: Every member of the board depends on other members for help and support.
- Differences of Values, Goals, or Beliefs: Board members can be
diverse, and have widely varying assumptions of worth, what is
important, and even basic ideas.
- Stress: Program board members have an important job to do in
producing major events on campus. Sometimes they actually have to take
exams and write papers, too!
- Scarce Resources: Imagine a program board meeting when the
homecoming budget just got slashed after the planning was completed.
Who gets their event cut?
- Uncertainty: Not knowing the outcome of an issue, problem, or concern.
It can be difficult to resolve conflicts. One reason is the concept of winning and losing. If
you feel strongly about something, then stepping back from that conviction might make
you feel like you lost the conflict. Nobody likes to lose.
Another reason is sometimes referred to as “zero-sum.” That’s like a balanced budget,
where in order have one thing you have to eliminate something else. So, in order for the
conflict to be resolved, some one has to give up something.
The last reason conflicts can difficult to resolve can be the famous divorce term:
“irreconcilable differences.” Some times the sides just can’t be resolved. In that case, you
have to agree to disagree and move on. But when that happens, you can count on conflict
Conflict Management and Strategies
Here are some ways to handle conflict. See which strategy works best for you and your
- Competition: Essentially, having each side compete against each
other. You might see this as a discussion and vote on the matter.
- Accommodation: This means finding a way to have both sides win. It can be tough to do.
- Compromise: Basically, each side gets part of what they want, while giving up something they want, like a negotiation.
- Collaboration: Having both sides work together, and come up
with a mutually agreeable outcome. This can be the ultimate team
- Avoidance: Just ignore the conflict. This is a bad choice, because it won’t go away by itself.
Negotiation to Resolution
If you are faced with a dispute among your board members, you may need to take action.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when your resolving conflicts.
First, prepare for the negotiation. Just because you will be the mediator doesn’t mean you
can enter the negotiation without adequate preparation. Learn as much as you can about
the issue, what is involved, and who is involved. It’s important to be ready when you face
the two sides.
Second, focus on the process. You do this by keeping the people separate from the
problem. If it’s a budget matter, that means looking at the budget process and the
outcome of that process, not “Brandi wants this much money, and Billy wants this much.”
Try to take the people– and the personalities– out of the problem.
Third, deal with the actual issue or interest, not the position. That means look at the Big
Picture. for example, it’s less important what program each of the opposing sides wants
to present than it is to consider whether the entire event matters.
Ultimately, you want to seek a balanced solution. You may have to pick one side as the
winner on occasion. You may find a way to have both sides win sometimes. But true
long-term conflict resolution involves compromise and collaboration. The sense that you
are fair to both parties in resolving the conflict will go far in reducing future problems on
your board. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.
Next time I’ll deal with some exciting concepts called Branding and Marketing.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you. Just
drop me an email, and I’ll get back to you.