One of the most important functions of an advisor is to assist with the transition from one set of organization officers to the next. Advisors are sometimes the only consistent, stable member of the organization, so the advisor has seen the organization develop over time, knows what has worked in the past, and can help maintain continuity. Investing time in a good officer transition early on will mean less time spent throughout the year nursing new officers through the semester. Student Activities staff are here to help.
The key to a successful transition is making sure new officers know their jobs before they take office. Expectations should be clearly defined. There are a number of ways to conduct the officer transition. The following two methods are examples of two commonly used methods for transitioning advisors.
Tip: In April, take the time to meet as a group to review events and programs for the following academic year, do an inventory of supplies and equipment and decide what direction you will take in the fall.
The team effort involves the outgoing-officer board, the advisor, and the incoming-officer board. This method involves a retreat or series of meetings where outgoing officers work with incoming officers on:
- Past records/notebooks for their office and updating those together
- Discussion topics should include:
- Completed projects for the past year
- Upcoming/incomplete projects
- Challenges and setbacks
- Anything the new officers need to know to do their job effectively
- Facilitate discussion and be a sounding board for ideas.
- Organize and provide the structure of a retreat.
- Offer suggestions on various questions.
- Refrain from telling new officers what they should do.
- Fill in the blanks. If an outgoing officer doesn’t know how something was done, or doesn’t have records to pass on to the new officer, you can help that officer by providing the information he or she doesn’t have.
The structure of a team effort retreat can take many forms. The advisor’s role in this process is to provide historical background when needed, help keep goals specific, attainable and measurable, and provide advice on College policies and procedures. This is an sample outline of a team effort retreat:
- Icebreakers and team-builders
- Officer meetings
- New/old officers pair off (e.g. president with president, treasurer with treasurer)
- Update each section of notebooks, or talk about what should go in a new one. If officers do not have a notebook, take the time to create one!
- Each pair of officers should discuss the following:
- Who did the outgoing officer interact with most in Student Activities; Catering; AV Services; Scheduling; Facilities Management; other student organizations; College administration; and in the community?
- With the departments/areas listed above, what capacity did the outgoing officer work with them on?
- What College paperwork is this position responsible for completing?
- What did the outgoing officer have to do with the organization's budget proposals?
- What College procedures did the outgoing officer have the most trouble with and how can the incoming officer avoid those troubles?
- What were the biggest challenges the outgoing officer faced and how did they overcome them?
- What goals did the outgoing officer have, and which were achieved and which were not.
- Gather as a group; write everyone's notes on a board or flip chart. Note similarities. For instance, the president and treasurer may always interact with the Assistant Director of Student Activities or the Student Assembly Treasurer.
- Generate a discussion on similarities, challenges and how challenges can be overcome.
- Review the Student Organization Leader Manual. Have outgoing officers talk about helpful sections.
- Goal review: What did the past officers accomplish?
- What is left to do from the past goal list? Revise list or eliminate it if the officers choose. Provide new officers time to list goals for their position on their own.
- Reassemble and share updated goals.
- Brainstorm new goals for the organization and ideas for programs, fundraisers, and social events.
- Make an exhaustive list of everything the group could possibly accomplish.
- Narrow down that list to what they can reasonably accomplish.
- Assign tasks to specific officers. If no one wants to do it, take it off the goals list.
While it is ideal to have the outgoing officer team assist in training the incoming officers, sometimes this is not possible. The outgoing officers may leave abruptly (even mid-year), or the outgoing officers are unwilling to commit to onboarding the new officers. In these cases, it is left up to the advisor to educate the incoming officers. In that situation, there should be a joint meeting of the new officers with the advisor to learn about their positions. You can be very helpful in this situation. After that meeting, the advisor should meet individually with each officer; examine the notebook of the previous officer and/or help create a new one.
Things to include in a new notebook:
- A copy of the organization's constitution and by-laws
- Copies of previous meeting agendas
- Past years financial ledgers and relevant documents and receipts
- Organizational financial account numbers (i.e. Student Assembly, liability, etc)
- Past years' rosters and membership information
- Organizational e-mail addresses and passwords
Talk about what the officers hope to accomplish in the forthcoming year. Assess the officer's role in the organization. What are the expectations of each position? What are the student's expectations of the position and his/her goals? Review the Student Organization Leader Manual.