Meet the Officers > Officer Tookit
You're Elected! Now What?
An overview of what lies ahead for first-time board members, and tips for getting off to a strong start.
Whether you won by a landslide or one vote—with three recounts and a dispute over hanging chads—you face many challenges ahead. Getting off to a strong start can make all the difference. Here are some ways to do just that.
Meet with past officers—twice. The first time, ask the new board to get together with the old board. Talk about goals they were pursuing, projects underway, who they count on for help, and other broad issues. The second time, have new officers meet one-on-one with the past office-holders. The purpose of this get-together is to talk about how to do the job most effectively. Past officers often have systems in place, know the best contacts, and have other tips that can help new officers get off to a running start. They can be a terrific resource. Don’t ignore it.
Reach out to other leaders and schools. Make contact with other group leaders. Share fundraising information, program ideas, and give each other general support. Yes, there’s someone going through the same things you are! There is a Facebook group just for Terry Scholar student leaders.
Get your board members together in a relaxed setting. Discuss job descriptions and expectations. Talk about personal strengths and weaknesses. Take some time to get to know each other. You’ll be working together closely. When things get really busy, the foundation you lay now can really make a difference.
Begin delegating now. It’s natural for a new officer to want to have their fingers on the pulse of everything that’s going on. Delegating then begins when the amount of work becomes too overwhelming for one person, or one board, to handle. By then, finding someone to help can be almost as stressful as doing it yourself. By sharing the workload and responsibility now, you set the stage for success down the line. Giving more people a stake in your work means you can accomplish more.
When you delegate, follow these three keys: First, focus on the results, not the method.Communicate what you want to accomplish, and give the person you delegate to the freedom to develop a plan to accomplish that goal. Second, set firm deadlines. A few realistic checkpoints will allow you to keep track of what’s going on without micromanaging. Third, communicate limitations. Is there a strict budget? Is time frame crucial? Make sure the person you delegate to has all the information she needs to accomplish the task.
Communicate with scholars. Use surveys, talk to students in class and at meetings, solicit feedback at events. Ask students about what goals, desires, and ideas they have for the school. Don’t plan in a vacuum. The more information you gather, the better plan you’ll create and the more success you’ll have in implementing your ideas.
Meet with the advisors to discuss goals and establish a good working relationship. Getting off on the right foot with the advisors can make a world of difference. Tel them you’re working toward the same goals. Tell them you’ll respect boundaries on decisions they should make and decisions students can make. Tell them you know about the power of student engagement and, with their help, you intend to harness that power to benefit the everyone—which will make all of us look good in the process!
Engage your sense of humor. It doesn’t take long in a leadership position to learn one inevitable fact: Things don’t always go as planned. You take pains to communicate an important message clearly, but it gets misinterpreted. You plan for every possible problem—except the one that occurs out of the blue. You envision exactly how an event will go, but somehow—you’re still not exactly sure where—it gets derailed.
Simply put, you can’t control everything. There are too many human variables in everything we do. When things go wrong, laugh and look for solutions. Stressing out makes things harder on you, and it has a bad effect on your all-volunteer, too. Instead, act as a problem-solver. Most times you’ll get the result you were looking for, even though you traveled the road less taken.
Relax. Enjoy yourself and have fun. Even if things don’t go exactly how you envisioned them, the work you’re doing really makes a difference.