5 Ways to Keep your Officers Engaged Over the Summer

Within our Collegiate DECA officer teams, we have to accept the flaws and maximize the opportunities that come with being separated from each other during the summer months.

This article highlights some of the struggles, and successes I have had engaging and managing teams remotely during the hectic summer months and offers some insight on what you can do to improve four of the most crucial months of your term.

1. Mandatory team retreat.

To begin the summer, it helps to meet in person. Plan this as early as possible before weekend schedules begin to fill out. If someone on your team is willing to offer up their house for a weekend that is ideal (if not splitting the cost for a weekend getaway is usually reasonable). Now that the date is set, it’s time to consider an agenda.

I recommend including three things on your agenda:

  • Create a vision statement for your work term.

I find it effective to create a single statement that your team will operate by: empower your team to make decisions if they align with the statement, and to reconsider choices if they don’t. The statement should be clear, concise, and include who you’re serving and the impact you want to make. Take considerable time on this and consider every facet of your organization and how they can contribute to the overall goal.

  • Develop working standards.

Discuss with your team mutual expectations. These could include (but are not limited to) meeting structure, communication expectations, roles and responsibilities of each position.

  • Have fun, and get to know each other.

Whether this is done through competitive games, making meals as a team or late night conversations it is essential to not get too caught up in the work and leave time for bonding amongst team members.

2. Define success together, and hold your team accountable.

At the beginning of the summer, block of a period of time (ideally at the executive retreat, but a long Skype call will suffice) and outline goals and metrics of success for the summer. By having everyone on the same page, your team will be able to work in isolation and provide results aligned with the overall team goal. After success (including metrics and deadlines to support this) is explicitly defined, accountability measures should be implemented to manage deadlines.

3. Remote working software.

Now that success is defined, you need a way to stay in communication and follow deadlines. I personally recommend using Slack and Trello for communication and accountability respectively.

  • Slack is a tool I veraciously advocate for. Not only is it an excellent means of team communication, it also does something which is extremely difficult to in remote working arrangements; Slack helps to build a team culture. With fun features like ‘reacting’ to messages and the ability to create custom emojis, Slack let’s you have fun while working. Additionally the software allows you to segment conversations by what it calls ‘channels’, it easily integrates with google drive and is available as a desktop app and a mobile app for iOS and Android systems.
  • Trello is an easy way to manage, organize and prioritize projects. I find this program extremely effective from both a management and a worker’s perspective. For management it lets you see a pipeline of tasks to do, in progress and complete. For workers, it lets you prioritize and organize your work. For remote teams this program alone can ensure transparency and accountability with projects.

4. Patience is key.

As student leaders, there is one limitation that renders most management books useless. We don’t have the luxury of a 9-5 work day. However in the summer this is even more apparent as many students have incredibly busy summers; from working full-time internships to traveling the globe. Planning meetings and work sessions becomes increasingly difficult and it is easy to feel disheartened. Throw in some timezone changes and managing a team seems nearly impossible.

The most important thing you can do during the summer months is remain patient and understanding with the members of your team. It is inevitable that a trip to the beach can (and will) take priority over deadlines. The one thing you should demand as a leader is transparency. When you have the luxury of knowing when teammates will be busy, you can plan accordingly. Understand that deadlines will change, priorities will shift and the team will be less productive compared to the fall. Patience is key to maintaining working relationships, and transparency creates an ease of mind.

5. Random phone calls.

This is a personal favorite. During the year I like to call members on my team randomly (when I’m walking home from class or driving home from work is best for me). Don’t feel pressured to discuss work, simply have a conversation, ask your teammate how their week has been and if business is pressing then address your concerns. This creates open conversation, and actually builds a relationship with team members. I find too many leaders only communicate with their teams at meetings, and before deadlines; a completely ineffective way to build camaraderie.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but are simply suggestions I make from experience working with and leading countless teams in my life. If you have more ideas I’d love to hear them! Tweet at me @JakeJardineDECA and feel free to leave a comment below.

Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeJardineDECA.

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