Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Are Your Officers Doing All that They Can Do?

Give under-utlized officers something to do!
fromj our friends at THE APATHY MYTH: A Blog for America's Student Leaders

Regardless of what student organization you are in, there are probably officer positions that don't have a lot to do. Some, like president, have so much to do they can't keep up. Some others seem to have no specific role and they spend time twiddling their thumbs. This is a problem.

It's hard to stay motivated when you have very little important to do. And, it's hard for the overworked officers to stay motivated when their counterparts aren't carrying the same amount of weight.

And remember the most important rule of student leadership motivation: PEOPLE SUPPORT WHAT THEY CREATE. If your officers are constantly feeling like they are helping to create a successful organization, they will not be motivated.

Here are a few suggestions for energizing those under-utilized officers.

1. Don't be hemmed in by the job descriptions in your bylaws or Constitution. Just because your bylaws say that the Secretary's only job is to keep minutes at the meeting does not mean that he or she can't do other things. Put your Secretary in charge of a long-lingering problem and put some deadlines and expectations on him or her. So what if your Historian is only supposed to take pictures at events. Put him in charge of upgrading your risk management. Maybe even ask these officers if there is a significant organizational problem that they would like to tackle this year? As president, you should not feel constricted by your bylaws with regard to offering opportunities. In fact, your executive board will run better when everyone on it feels like he/she is making an important contribution.

2. As a fall-back, constitutional revision is always a great way to keep someone busy. Not to say it isn't important, but it is time consuming and can be tedious. Most busy officers don't have time to sit down and do it. It's a great thing to delegate and the discussion it produces in your organization will fire a lot of people up.

3. Assign under-utilized officers to help the overworked officers. If your Parliamentarian doesn't have a lot on her plate, then make her 2nd in command to the officer in charge of Homecoming. Have them work as a team. If your officer in charge of Homecoming protests, tell him that you don't want him burning out or feeling overwhelmed, so you've asked another officer to back him up. This is also a great defensive move against having one person in your organization totally responsible for a big thing, then flaking.

4. Put one of your officers in charge of your executive committee goals (this assumes that your exec actually has a set of goals for the year). Each week at your exec meeting, this officer is in charge of spending some time reviewing pertinent goals and helping the exec committee, as a whole, to make progress on the goals. Many of you have goals, but no one is staying on top of them after they are set. Assigning an under-utilized officer to manage their progress is a great, meaningful leadership opportunity. You can even say that you are putting this officer in charge of the organization's "strategic plan." That sounds very important.

5. Put an under-utilized officer in charge of "External Relations." This person is now in charge of finding co-sponsors for events, creating networking (social) opportunities with the student officers of allied organizations on campus, etc. This might not be necessary for a student government, but for special interest student organizations, it can make a big difference in terms of campus image and member recruitment.

You can really tell a lot about what kind of officer someone will be by how enthusiastically they seize or avoid these requests. Someone who seizes the opportunity to be the "strategic plan manager" might end up being a good future president. The officer who does nothing with a delegated set of responsibilities is probably at the peak of his or her ascension in the organization.

Be aware that giving under-utilized officers meaningful sets of responsibilities is an exercise in delegation and relinquishment of control. If this is a problem for you, then it's something to work on. You should trust your organization and your fellow officers enough to spread the important and critical work around.