As the school years wind to a close across the nation, many newly elected student organization officer teams are gathering for the very first time. Just beginning their journey through a year long process of becoming a team.
It’s an exciting time, filled with both anticipation and anxiousness. While in high school our student leadership team had some very fun and memorable times together, our summer officer retreat stands out as one of the most memorable.
What makes this time so important is that now is when student leadership teams begin to go through the forming stage. But growing in your relationship with your teammates is not something that just happens at the start of the year. It is a continual, intentional process. Here are five ways to help any student organization team strengthen their relationships and become a high performing team.
1.) Cultivate a Team Culture
This should be a separate, and distinct culture from rest of the student organization. There should be a sort of closeness that exists between the team members. The officer team should have it’s own uniqueness, it’s own quirks.
For example, one officer team had their own mascot, a stuffed fish. Another had a team song, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn.” These were things that were often brought up and joked about when even a few of the team members were together.
It was not some sort of official piece of business or anything like that. Cultivating a team culture happens when the team members are able to open up with each other and have some fun. Not just focus on the projects that need to be accomplished.
2.) Social Time
Regular, often scheduled, time to just hang out and be themselves with each other is perhaps the best way for teammates to build trust with each other. Student officer teams should get together on a regular basis with no work to be done, simple hang out.
One way to do this is to have regular officer meetings one day a week (during lunch on Wednesdays, for instance). The team should meet even and especially with no business to do. Also, one day a month those student leaders should have a get together and do some sort of recreational activity whether watching a movie at someones house, playing laser tag, or going skiing.
* For many state level student organization officer teams having social time can be very difficult since they are often spread out throughout the state. One way to get around that would be to use Google+ Hangout and have some video chat time.
3.) Invest 1 to 1
Your student organization officer team is made up of different personalities. They will not always get along. There are going to be a few personal conflicts throughout the year, but it is important that your team learns to work together with those different personalities.
To be able to work effectively with people of different personalities, it’s important that they have an understanding of each other. That is why the most valuable thing teammates can do is to invest time one on one with each other.
Naturally certain teammates will be closer. Maybe they were already friends before becoming officers but for those that are not close they should be spending time with each other on a regular basis. Once a week teammates should be communicating with one another at minimum. Preferably face to face or by phone would work too.
4.) Challenge Comfort
In our lives, all growth takes place when we are challenged. When we step outside our comfort zone.
So it is important that as an officer team you continually challenge comfort. Whether its taking on a really big project or two for the year, or doing activities specifically designed to get them out of their comfort zones like team building workshops and ropes courses, it is important that your team get in that habit of getting uncomfortable.
The real reason for doing some of these uncomfortable activities is so that everyone on the officer team feels safe being open and sharing their mistakes, frustrations and struggles with the team. It would be a good idea to set some ground rules upfront that allow for teammates to feel more comfortable sharing with each other (i.e. what is said on the team stays on the team).
5.) Curate the Correct Conflict
All great relationships, that last over time, require a certain amount of productive conflict in order to grow. This is true of teams as well. Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially on many student organization leadership teams.
It’s important here to distinguish between ideological conflict and destructive interpersonal conflict. You want to promote the productive ideological conflict that is conflict limited to concepts and ideas and avoid mean spirited attacks on a person.
Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best solution in the shortest time. Often people may think that by avoiding conflict or ideas that the team can get more done.
However, when team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal attacks. Healthy conflict can not only be a time saver because issues are brought to light right away and addressed but it turns out it can also be a team saver.
To get the most out of your year of service, you need a close knit team surrounding you. Kick your year off right with some intentional focus on creating relationships with your teammates. Relationships = Results.
Question: When do you feel closest to your teammates? Leave a comment below.