Tag Archives: Residence Life

10 Strategies for Fixing a Broken Team

Every so often leaders will encounter a situation in which their team is not meeting the goals of the organization or simply not performing at the highest levels. This can come about because of apathy, laziness, incongruent expectations, and burnout.

Here are 10 strategies for getting your team back on track:

1. Revisit Goals, Mission, and Vision – Sometimes everyone needs a reminder to know where we’re heading. Many times we can get caught up in the day-to-day of “tasky” behaviors and even issues unrelated to the job and forgot what our organization truly stands for and what we aim to accomplish. Print out a copy of the goals, mission, and vision of the organization and share it with everyone. Have a conversation related to what these areas mean to you, what it means to your team members, and how you can accomplish them together. 

2. Reestablish Expectations with Team Members – As is the case with #1 (i.e., Revisit Goals, Mission, and Vision), meeting with each team member to reestablish and reinforce your expectations with them is crucial. This will put you on equal ground and common understanding related to what is expected and can even spark new excitement. However, if someone’s expectations are vastly incongruent with the overall mission and vision of the organization, this would be the time to tactfully coach them out of their position. My good friend Dawn Lennon wrote a guest blog post called “Putting an End to Slackers,” which I highly recommend that you read.

3. Create a Formal Reward Structure – Everyone likes to be recognized for their hard work and contributions to the organization. Having an objective reward system can help set the expectation that reaching certain goals comes with certain “prizes or privileges.” This can also create a sense of collegial competition among your group. Keep in mind that a formal reward structure should not take place of simple “pats on the back” and other simple and cost-free means of recognizing your team members.

4. Build in Team Development Activities – Create purposeful activities for your group. This can be anything from team-building exercises and training activities to volunteering in the community and even simply taking them out for a meal. Do not have your team members participate in ice-breakers just for the sake of doing ice-breakers. Have a purpose behind every activity that you present (i.e., increased communication, conflict resolution, effective teamwork, etc.) rather than doing something haphazardly. 

5. Eliminate or Fix Processes that are Unneeded – Work for work’s sake can kill confidence in your members and add to poor team morale. If a task or process does not add value to the organization, why are you doing it? If it does not advance your mission or vision, get rid of it.  

6. Remove Complainers, Naysayers, and Troublemakers – I once read a statement that rings very true when it comes to team cohesion: “Strike the shepherd and the flock will scatter.” This can simply be presented as a conversation similar to #2 (i.e., Reestablish expectations) or a more direct approach by removing individuals from the group. And yes, you can fire volunteers! Bad attitudes spread like wildfire so deal with this swiftly.

7. Incite Excitement – People take a part in what they help to create. Writer Jeff Jarvis once wrote, “Tap into people’s passions and they’ll about work for free!” This stands true for your team. Find out their skills and strengths and get them involved in activities and projects within the organization that will complement their passions. Keep it fun.

8. Check Yourself – No one is perfect, including you. Take a step back and evaluate what you are doing and what you may be able to do better to help your team. Being in charge is not easy. Assess your own strengths and areas you can improve upon in order to “fix” your team.

9. Take a Break – Sometimes everyone, including you, needs a brief “time out” in order to refresh. Purposely create time off or a short lull in the action to regroup rather than constantly “hitting problems over the head.” Time off between semesters or quarters can add a much needed respite for reflection.  

10. Seek Advice – Talk with your supervisor, a mentor, or trusted colleagues and get advice. Read books and blogs about leadership and management. Additionally, realize that the problem did not happen overnight so trying to solve it will not occur overnight either.

What are some strategies that you have utilized to fix a broken team that may have been under your leadership?

All of those who share a comment will enter into a raffle to win a “Leadership Discussion Cards” activity kit from Student Life Consultants. The raffle will occur on 12/14/11 at 12pm and the winner will be announced via Twitter @studentlifeguru and through this post’s comments. 

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How to Avoid Creating Resident Assistant Boot Camp

With August right around the corner, many of us in Housing and Residence Life are in the process of developing our fall training for our resident assistant staffers. While this is generally a fun and exciting time, it can also be a very brutally intensive experience for many given that it can occur in a “short aggressive period of time” as my one close colleagues put it perfectly. Institutional training traditions are passed down from generation to generation of professional staffers, and unfortunately, many of these training practices can actually be counter-productive. I would like to offer some successful practices that have worked for me when training my own staffers.

TRAINING STARTS WITH THE HIRING PROCESS: You can minimize (*not eliminate*) the need to cover basic topics (e.g., campus resources and campus departments orientation) by hiring student leaders that already have a strong knowledge of the institution and the various services available to students on campus. Simple campus resource quizzes can actually be used as another assessment tool during the selection process in addition to what you already do. Additionally, many human resource policies and expectations can and should be communicated before and directly after an RA is hired. In this regard, they know exactly what is expected up front (typically occuring in late spring) rather than them hearing a familiar, “We will go over that during training in August.” Granted, expectations should be revisited again during training at some point, but they do not necessarily have to be part of a lengthy session.

BE MINDFUL OF THE LENGTH OF THE WORK DAY AND WEEK: This is where I feel that many Residence Life departments can and do go overboard. It’s generally seen as a badge of courage to go through a “Hell Week” of sorts starting at 8 or 9 AM every day and going through 10 PM or later. Typical schedules I have seen (and have been a part of) go like this: breakfast, training, lunch, training, dinner, activity, staff meeting, bulletin boards, and, finally, bed. Rinse and repeat (for 7+ days straight). This is a tiring regiment that, again, can be more detrimental than productive. Burning our student staffers out prior to the actual move-in can set the stage for further problems throughout the semester.

ASK YOURSELF – WHY ARE WE DOING THIS: If you do not have a strong answer for every activity and session that you are doing, then you may want to consider eliminating it from the training schedule. “Just because” or “We have to fill the schedule” are NOT good answers as to why you are including something for training. Have a reason for including every training session and activity in your schedule.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COVER EVERY TOPIC: Think of training like a college class. You cannot learn everything about a particular subject in the course of one semester. Typically you will learn major themes about a subject, but not every topic and detail within that subject. You should use this same philosophy when designing RA training. Trying to pack everything in your training schedule related to policies and procedures, student conduct, programming, roommate conflicts, ethics, mental health issues, and everything else related to Residence Life is simply too much. Cover the topics that your staffers will need the most knowledge about for the first six weeks. Cover additional topics during staff meetings and staff development activities. Training should be an on-going, year-long process.

TREAT YOUR RETURNERS / SENIOR LEVEL RA’s WITH REVERANCE: 2nd year and subsequent year returners going through the same process every year can be torture. Mix it up for them; get them involved in helping or develop advanced topics for them. You could also bring them back a day or two after all the new staffers have already covered the basic topics (this could also save you some money as you wouldn’t have to feed them all).

ELIMINATE OR REDESIGN “BEHIND CLOSED DOORS” ACTIVITIES: Role-playing type activities that new staffers go through to practice confronting hall violations (e.g., noise, alcohol, marijuana, domestic dispute) can be easily perceived as a mild form of hazing. It seems to be a badge of courage for a returning RA to role play in over-the-top situations that underhandedly try to stump the new RA’s trying to respond to the issue. However, these type of role playing sessions need to be designed as a teaching tool rather than an abusive right of passage. If you choose to include this type of training activity, create scenarios that are realistic and ends up being a positive learning opportunity for the new staffers. To save time and extensive planning, you can also include written case studies of varying difficulty that everyone can work on. Case study activities can be better supervised in one location rather than allowing the paraprofessional staff to control the activity throughout the halls where problems can arise.

Best wishes with your fall training! As always, I am willing to help you brainstorm ideas and offer advice.

What do college gambling and basketball have in common?

While gambling can be fun if you’re of legal age, it’s not a risk-free activity. For some college students, gambling for fun can turn into a serious problem and have a negative impact on their lives.

CollegeGambling.org was developed by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) as a tool to help current and prospective students, campus administrators, campus health professionals and parents address gambling and gambling-related harms on campus. This site provides resources to help you learn more about this issue and how to get help if you need it.

They’ve even created an fun interactive quiz. Click HERE to try it out.

CollegeGambling.org builds on the recommendations of the Task Force on College Gambling Policies, which can provide your school with a roadmap for reducing gambling among students and enabling those who are struggling with addiction to participate more fully in college life. View the Task Force’s “Call to Action” report.

For more information, check out: http://www.collegegambling.org/