As the fall term concludes, it is up to a new group of leaders to bring their chapter into the Spring 2021 Term. To help them adjust to working on board, the South Jersey Region hosted the Board Training Institute (BTI) for the benefit of chapter leaders. The event was hosted on Zoom and was open to all members of the Chapter boards within the region, AZA and BBG alike. Each segment was run by a member of the SJR Regional board. The day began with an activity dedicated to teaching first-time board members about the job they would be doing and the commitment that goes along with it. The majority of this segment taught the basics of being a board member, beginning with discussions of what it means to be a leader then moving on to a few specific scenarios.
Once that was done, it was time to bring in the rest of the region’s leaders. After a quick introduction to BTI and what the goal of the event would be, participants were placed into random breakout rooms to discuss what traits good leaders possess. Another segment of the random breakout rooms taught about how Zoom has affected leaders and how the board can work to be role models and encourage the chapter, even in a virtual setting. One important take-away from this activity was that virtual programming is an “opportunity and not a burden,” as it allows for more schedule flexibility and experimentation, which is a great message for those struggling to take on a positive outlook.
With that, the main tasks were completed and BTI moved into conversations between individuals on a chapter board. Each board was asked to discuss trust and how to earnestly pursue, preserve, and avoid breaking the trust of the people they care about or work with. During this time, there were conversations about how trust is fragile and how boards must have trust between them to succeed. Members concluded that to trust another meant agreeing to not only be vulnerable with them but also to rely on them to do what you ask of them. Individual boards later reconvened to discuss goals and guidelines they wanted to set for themselves.
The next segment, counterpart sessions, was largely agreed upon to be the most useful. During this part of BTI, general advice and ideas were shared among counterparts on different chapters’ boards. This segment is a way for board members to learn more about the position and share their advice. Through group discussion, some important ideas emerged, such as reaching out for support, maintaining contact with the board, and always being ready to improvise whenever necessary.
So why is it that the counterpart training was picked by leaders to be BTI’s most important segment? After questioning fellow board members, it is clear to me that this must have something to do with practicality. As someone with any amount of leadership training in BBYO can confirm, teen leaders are taught about leadership at many events or programs. It's always “What makes a good leader?” or “What does the ideal board member look like?” or “How do you define trust?” Of course, these sorts of ideas are important to keep in mind as a leader, but once teens hear them enough they start to zone out and risk missing any other, useful tips.
Leaders on board want to hear advice that will truly help them in their job. When teens were asked to discuss trust all they could come away with was that “Trust is fragile, preserve it,” but the real practical advice, and what should be viewed as the main lesson, was that a board can only survive if powered by trust. The majority of the lessons that will be applied in each board member’s term will be ones from the counterpart training which showcased real scenarios that leaders might encounter. When advising new leaders, it is important to accompany the bigger ideas with practical advice, like how to make prospects feel welcome, how to plan and organize fundraisers, and how best to oversee and manage a chapter board. Teens without real experience on board are going to look at events like BTI as an opportunity to get advice from people who have been in their place before, such as Regional Board members, and they are going to pay less attention to the less applicable, more philosophical discussions. In planning programs, we need to take this into account or we might risk young leaders losing interest.
Jamie McManmon is a BBG from South Jersey Region and she loves all things reading and writing.
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