How to Hold Your Members Accountable
A prudent system of accountability is necessary for any successful student group. But student groups are voluntary organizations. You can't force anyone to do anything, and yet things still have to get done.
Thus accountability can be kind of tricky in student groups. But here are some tips for navigating these treacherous waters.
Most importantly, make sure your expectations of your officers and members are clear from the very beginning. You can't hold your people accountable if they don't know and understand what is expected of them. Also, make your expectations public. That way the person feels a sense of responsibility to everyone in the organization, not just you.
Communicate your general expectations before you give someone a title and get'em involved and your specific expectations after you ask them to do something. Your expectations have to be reasonable and not higher than those you set for yourself.
As soon as a person fails to complete the task, arrange to talk with the person in private. Public criticism is likely to cause resentment, so avoid it. Then follow these steps in this order:
Person-centered Approach: You need to learn why the task did not get done. There may be a personal reason for why they could not complete the task. And you don't want to look stupid or insensitive if the personal reason is serious or understandable.
Ask the person how they are doing. Maybe they just broke up with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe they are having family troubles. Maybe they are struggling with school. Perhaps this failure is temporary or an isolated incident and the task will be completed soon.
As a student leader, you need to know who you're leading. Become friends with everyone in the group, yet don't let your friendship compromise the mission of your organization.
Task-centered Approach: Maybe there was something about the task itself that was troublesome. Perhaps the person would have done the task if they knew how to do it. It is your responsibility as a student leader to ensure your people know how to execute their tasks.
Train them, so they learn how to do practical political tasks. Maybe unusual circumstances that you are unaware of made the task impossible.
Re-education Approach: Oftentimes, there are no serious personal problems or a lack of knowledge involved. Rather, the person may not have the dedication to the group and the cause that you thought they had.
Gently question the person's understanding: Do you understand our mission? Do you understand how very important our cause is? Do you understand the crucial role our student group plays in the broader movement? Do you understand the urgency of our operations? Do you understand how important your role or this task is to our mission?
This is the most agressive approach, so save it for last. And remember, it is your job as a student leader to motivate and instill dedication in your fellow students as best you can. Maybe the person is more passionate about a specific issue area or type of activism. Empower them to be active where there interests lead them.
Notice that all three steps require humility from the leader of the group. You may actually share some responsibility for the failure to complete the task.
Student leaders have to walk a fine line, pressuring students to execute tasks without devolving into personal attacks. Never make it personal and tell the person it's not personal. Always focus on the mission of your group and tell the person that you are only looking out for what's best for the group.
If all three steps fail to produce results, then assign an "assistant" to help the person out. The assistant will hopefully take on all the responsibilities and complete the task. You can later promote the assistant to a leadership position and replace the poor performer.
Every situation or person is different, but hopefully these tips will help your group be more productive and successful!