By Amanda Wright
As a Senator in student government and a former President of the Society of Physics Students, I have heard from a lot of organization leaders about the success and strains of running their club or group. As a non-traditional student and an aspiring entrepreneur, I have learned quite a bit from experiences outside of the college. I am not an expert on organizational psychology and have made plenty of mistakes during experiences as a leader in any organization or company that I have worked for, but here I will share a few lessons that might help future leaders at Roanoke College.
A book that I recommend for every new organizational leader is called Motivating the Middle. The book describes how your campus club is divided into thirds. The top third are the movers and shakers of the organization who hold leadership roles. The middle third are the members who can make it to meetings and are sometimes able to help out as their schedule allows. The bottom third may comprise of the people who never show up to meetings or functions and may complain about the structure of the club. We will not pay any attention to the bottom third.
Many clubs on campus have problems which fall under the following three categories: lack of meeting attendance, lack of engagement, and lack of cohesive organization. The first, lack of meeting attendance can be easily solved, although it is the toughest to configure. Meeting attendance can drop for two reasons: conflict in scheduling or the meetings are not that interesting. If there is a conflict in scheduling and you know you can attain more attendees by shifting things around, then do so. If the complaint is about the meetings, then ask what they would like to see in order to gain their interest in attending. In other words, tweak it until a happy medium is found.
To solve the issue of lack of engagement, leaders need to impress upon their members how important their participation is to the club. Most leaders are so used to doing everything themselves that they never bother to ask for help or delegate tasks. It’s as simple as asking. If the member says no, that’s fine; it’s not personal, and may just have to do with their schedule. Don’t delegate big tasks; take the big task and break it into smaller steps. Small tasks are easier to delegate and less likely to receive a negative answer. While you are delegating, make sure that you know your club members and have given them a task that they will enjoy.
As for the third topic, lack of cohesive organization is really due to a breakdown of communication from leader to leader and leaders to members. People are not always going to agree with each other and there are several ways to solve a problem. Don’t take rejection of your ideas personally. Everyone wants the same thing–what is good for the club. Don’t just hear each other, but listen. Leaders listen more than they talk and act more often in response to others. Take ownership and responsibility for your organization and ensure that you are keeping the door open for new ideas and solutions.