As we head into the backend of another spring semester, many organizations begin the transition process to train and set up a new group of exec members within our RHA, NRHH, hall council, and other residence life-based student groups. Often groups have defined processes to recruit and select new exec members, probably spelled out in governing documents, and executing a plan to effectively transition new execs is just as important as finding the right people.
5 Tips for Exec Boards in Transition
Designate a point person to manage the transition process - When work is left up to everyone, the risk is run for it to be done by no one. A successful transition may have many pieces - a written report, retreat or other group meetings, one-to-one meetings, etc. - and that means someone needs to be responsible for managing the timeline and accountability. This is a great task that provides a student leader with experience managing a process and directing people, among other significant employable skills.
Ensure that the “why” is shared along with the “what” and “how” - Transitions focus on teaching skills that set up the incoming board members for success. This often includes teaching what kinds of roles the new exec will be expected to fill, and how to go about tackling those roles. In addition to sharing what needs to get done and how, it's important that incoming execs understand the meaning behind the work. Have intentional group conversations about the mission and goals of the organization, and help the execs to connect their work back to the core of the organization to understand how their work impacts the bigger picture.
Consider different formats for transitioning information - Different information requires specific forms of communication. Some things are best communicated in writing, while others might make more sense for in-person conversations. Additionally, different people learn best in different ways, so having a variety of transition methods will meet various individuals' needs. Consider creating a group outline that current exec members can use to write their end of year wrap-up reports, or to guide their in-person meetings with their successor. MACURH has some resources for transitions in the Advisor Resource Folder, and a task force is currently working on ways to further support organizations transitioning.
Create opportunities for shadowing & hands-on training - Some leaders learn best by experiencing, so in the time following their election before they officially step into their new role, having opportunities to shadow the current exec can offer an effective way to learn their new role within the organization. End of year events, general assembly meetings, task force or committee tasks, etc., offer great opportunities for new execs to shadow and learn the ropes of their position, or try out the work first-hand. It's important that this time be guided by the current execs, and not seen as an opportunity for work to be transitioned to a new set of hands.
Evaluate your transition process every few years - To make sure the transition process is meeting the needs of the organization, it should be reviewed every few years, or sooner. Organizations seem to have a natural rhythm over the years, and some years see more changes to the organization than others. When changes occur within the organization, those changes should be reflected in the end-of-year transition, to provide historical context and set up the next group to understand the organization's future trajectory.
However your group chooses to manage the transition process, don't forget some intentional focus in this time of year to prepare for your group's future. The work that student leaders put in now impacts their organization long-term, and creates an organization grounded in historical perspective.