What can you do when you feel so miserable and stressed that all you want to do is to curl up under your blankets and sleep it off, but you can’t, because you have yet to start studying for a midterm that will take place in 14 hours?
Lessons learned from my experiences as President of Innovative Design, UC Berkeley’s largest graphic design organization.
Lead with Direction
As president, your main project of the semester is to manage the entire organization. The leadership board is your team. They are there because they believe in you and the organization. They believe that by following you, they along with all of InnoD will excel. All you need to do is point them in the right direction. As president the best thing you can do is to establish that direction for them.
Prioritize by goals
There are going to be a million things you want to do, but there is no way you can do all of them. Allocate your resources (money, time, and people) according to your priorities. Prioritize what you choose to implement by addressing the ones that are most important to progressing to your goal. Ex: If your vision is to have a very tight-knit membership group, maybe choose to devote your energies to making one very great internal event that would help people bond, rather than the external event which may not appeal to everyone
Plan early and well, then take action
It is important to plan well. The earlier and more detailed your plans are, the better it is. There is no such thing as too early. The dates creep up on you faster than you will expect and the semester will be over before you know it. Make sure that you set deadlines for yourself and your team and that all of them are being met. It is ok to set soft deadlines if you are planning way in advance, but every deadline counts and must be treated with just as much importance.
However, it is even more important to actually carry out those plans. You can have a lot of great ideas, but nothing will happen unless you actually do something about them. Choose which ideas to pursue earlier on. It is good to analyze the pros/cons of each idea, but don’t spend too much time debating over them. Just think back to your vision/goal and if it fits, go for it.
Delegate and Enforce!
It is your job to make sure that your team members know what they need to do and how to do it. It is NOT your job to do things they cannot do. If they don’t know how to do something, teach them, but don’t do it for them even if it might be faster or done better. If you do, people will get used to the fact that you are always going to pick up the slack. It is better to let an event fail and let them know that it was due to their lack of attention. But, first before starting anything, make sure that your expectations of of them align with their expectations for themselves.
Don’t debate too long - it’s ok to make executive decisions
As I’ve said before, your job as president is to lead the club. That means you determine the direction the club is heading. You make the final calls. It is good to get second and third opinions, but don’t take too long trying to find the solution that makes everyone happy. You just need a solution that is going to make the organization better as a whole. You have the right to determine what that is. Time is always of the essence. Don’t waste it.
Confrontation is normal
There are going to be problems. I’ll be extremely surprised if there aren’t. People miss deadlines, flake out on responsibilities, act out, and cause drama. That’s life. As president, you need to make sure patterns of negligence do not continue. Actually, the best thing you could do it so to prevent it from happening. Even if it is a small error, make sure to call them out on it. Like all things, the earlier you catch this, the better. Make sure they know what they did wrong and how they can improve in the future. The key here is improve in the future. Don’t just complain/get angry. Let them know how they can correct the current situation (if possible) and how they can be better later. Confrontation is a necessary evil, but it needs to happen if you want an effective officer board.
Good Presidents Lead, Great Presidents Inspire
Let your officers know exactly where you plan to take the club and how you plan to take it there, and let the officers manage the details for their related roles. Don’t micromanage. When you do, people stop thinking for themselves and better ways to do things are overlooked. Give your officers the opportunity and more responsibility to take on projects for themselves. Of course, hold them accountable for producing results. They will be more motivated if they feel like they are making a direct, tangible contribution to the organization. Showing your own enthusiasm towards the cause is an absolute must!
Get to know your officers and members
Getting to know your officers and members on a very personal level is the best way to keep people motivated and excited about InnoD. They like you and they’ll like the club, too. Who wouldn’t want to go to an event that all their friends are going to? So find ways to learn more about each person and opportunities to talk to everyone. Make sure that your officers are also doing the same. Make it a rule that they cannot cluster at events. The biggest perk about a club is the people in it, so get to know the people, and find ways for the people to get to know each other.
Encourage action, Recognize Achievements and celebrate successes (and make it special)
You can never do enough of these 3 things. It is what keeps people happy. People want to be recognized for their work. When they realize how important they are, they will be more motivated to work harder. I didn’t spend enough time and effort not just giving praise, but actually showing off what individuals have done. This is important not just for the officers, but for general members (all team members) as well. There should be regular appreciation ceremonies/showcases, but also spontaneous ones as well. You can make it more special by establishing some sort of award for excellence to be awarded by the president only when someone does something extraordinary (but do this rarely or it’ll lose its charm).