Three Questions to Ask Yourself to Supercharge Your Club Leadership This Year

by | Aug 30, 2019 | Strategies and Tips, Managing Teams

Think about the last time you were part of a high-functioning team. One that was particularly creative, collaborative, strategic, and results-oriented. Who was responsible for the team’s success? Was it the team leader? Was it other individual contributors? Most likely, it was a shared process of leadership. A literature review from Michigan Ross Dean DeRue and others found that team members who consciously share the task of structuring and planning their work achieve superior team performance. 

Whether you are leading your club this year with a specific agenda, or you’re simply motivated to enhance your own leadership skills, here are three questions with action steps to get you started:

Team of students

Teams that feel safe take more risks.

1. Am I contributing to my team’s psychological safety? 

Teams that feel safe take more risks and perform better. Harvard Professor Amy Edmondson defines psychological safety as a shared belief that the team is a safe space for interpersonal risk-taking. Ask yourself these questions of the team you are on:

  • Is this a place where people can make mistakes, learn, and grow?
  • Are we able to raise difficult topics without fear that we will be demeaned or rejected? 
  • Is this a team where people respect one another?

If you would like to make your team a safer place, consider the following actions suggested by Edmonson: 

  • Give feedback and seek it for yourself
  • Invite others to improve the current processes 
  • Learn new things together 
  • Experiment with new ways of doing work 
  • Engage in constructive conflict 

Creating a psychologically safe organization takes intentional acts of leadership. As a contributor to your group’s success, what is one thing you can commit to doing to make your team feel safe and connected?

2. Am I clear about my intentions and goals?

In a team environment, we are often quick to jump right into action. However, it’s important to first assess where your team is and where it wants to go. 

In The Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle shares a series of questions that IDEO, the Palo Alto-based design firm, uses to kickstart teams with a high degree of intentionality. These prompts connect with team members’ deep emotions like fear, ambition, and motivation.

  • The one thing that particularly excites me about this project is…
  • I confess, the one thing I’m not so excited about with this particular project is…
  • On this project, I’d like to get better at…
  • On this project, you can rely on me for…

Part of the college experience is taking creative risks in a safe environment where you can learn and grow, but how often are you intentional about the opportunities to do so? Take a moment to ponder the organizations you already joined or are considering joining. Before you say “yes,” pause and ask yourself the above questions. Share your answers and encourage others to do the same.

3. What experiments am I pursuing?

Let’s face it, we’ve all failed. The negative emotions we often associate with failure are why we often hesitate to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone. However, if we’ve come to college to be challenged, to learn, and to grow, then there’s no time to stick to what’s comfortable. 

Experimenting and taking notes

Be intentional during your club experience by running experiments and measuring the results.

In her book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, author Herminia Ibarra shares her research about what it takes to develop new skills at work. She paints two very different pictures. One describes how we generally approach our work: with a great deal of seriousness, clear goals, an eye on the clock, and a drive to continuously improve.

The other picture describes how we generally approach play. When we’re playing, we lose track of time, ignore the rules, approach activities with curiosity, and make discoveries. Think about the last time you watched a child play. You may have noticed they were totally immersed and used imagination to develop the game they played. The benefit of a playful approach is that it lightens our mood and increases our creativity. It shifts us from a risk-averse mindset to a growth-orientation, which makes us more courageous and effective. It enables us to drop our insecurities, fully engage, and learn from the journey. 

Here are experiments you might consider to inject more intentionality into your club leadership:

  • Set learning goals for yourself, not just performance goals. What might you be able to learn from the process of leading?
  • In this next semester, find a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. This could be speaking to a large group of people, sharing a bold idea, or practicing vulnerability. Try experimenting with a new approach and prioritizing your learning over immediate outcomes.
  • In the next five days, identify a leader or two whom you admire. Reflect on what it is they do so well. How would they approach your current challenges? Is there anything you can learn from them or new behaviors or skills you can try? 

The key to fueling your leadership is intentionality. What is one thing you will do today to be more intentional to practice your leadership?