Congratulations! — You are chairperson?
August 26, 2015
In my July 18 column, I discussed how to be an effective committee member. When serving as a committee member you have the responsibility to provide your insight and dedication to assist the committee in reaching their goals. The work of this committee may impact your community, your county or your state.
Congratulations! Now, you have now been elected or appointed to serve as the chairperson/president of the committee. How does this change your role and responsibilities? Obviously, you want to strive to be an effective leader of the committee and provide a good experience for your committee members as you all work together to reach your goal(s); complete a project; or meet outlined outcomes, whichever of these is applicable to the type of committee you are leading. Here are some key tips to help you be most effective in your role when you find yourself the chairperson/president of a committee.
1. Communication, communication, communication! I cannot stress this enough. As the committee leader your number one goal is to communicate with your team. If committee members feel disconnected it is most likely because of lack of communication. Communication must occur during the meetings, between meetings and anytime a team member needs to be updated. This can be done face to face, via phone calls, or emails/text messages. As you learn more about your team members, you will find which form of communication works best, but don't be afraid to ask them. Team members will feel disengaged if there is not clear communication about meeting dates, issues, or even adequate discussion allowed at the meetings. As the leader, you should be aware of all items impacting your committee but, that doesn't mean you should be the only one to know. A leader creates tension when he or she chooses to openly communicate with a select few committee members and not the entire group.
2. Plan regular meetings. Everyone has busy schedules. To get regular, consistent attendance at your meetings, have regularly scheduled times to meet. Set a regular time, for example, the first Wednesday of each month at noon, or the 15th day of every month. Whatever is determined, make sure all members know the dates and times. If a special meeting has to be called, here's where communication comes in again. Contact everyone as soon as possible and if it is very time sensitive, you as the leader may have to just pick a date and time, or if possible use free calendar polling like Google Calender, etc., to find a time that works for the majority of the team.
3. Agendas are a must! Do you want to show up at a meeting and not know what is to be discussed? As committee chairperson, it is your responsibility to develop an agenda so your team members are not left in the dark and they know what will be discussed at the next meeting. Committee members will become frustrated if they arrive at a meeting and realize they are to present on topic or were to have researched an issue prior to the meeting. Unless your committee has specific rules/guidelines about format and timing of notices, at a minimum, an agenda should be shared 48 hours before the meeting and preferably a week prior.
4. Delegate. You have committee members for a reason, to help accomplish the goals of the team. Depending on the size of your committee and the goal/project to accomplish, you might want to consider allowing team members to form subcommittees. Meetings will be more streamlined if subcommittees report and update the entire committee rather than everyone's time being used to analyze each and every issue. When the subcommittee reports to the full committee, discussion can still occur. Don't waste time during full committee meetings doing the work the subcommittee did. For very small committees, individuals could be given the same task as subcommittees.
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5. Lead by example. It is your role as a leader to create an environment of teamwork, motivation and responsibility and you must set the example to be followed. Be respectful of the time your members are contributing and recognize their efforts. Recognition of efforts needs to be done in a genuine and timely manner. This means when someone or a subcommittee has excelled, don't wait six months after they reached their fundraising goal to give recognition. To them, the recognition will not seem sincere, but rather more like a "drive by" thank you.
In summary, a good chairperson will make all members feel valued, listen to others, have a vision for the future, allow others to take responsibility and communicate. Good luck in your new role.
Lynn Gordon is an SDSU Extension Ag Leadership Specialist