Updated: Mar 2
Benjamin Franklin, he of the stormy kite flying and the $100 bill, said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Involve me and I learn. So true. Being involved in four different student leadership teams over less than three years has enabled me to learn so much more than I could have anticipated, whether it be technical skills, relationship how-to, life lessons, or random insights. While some things I learned are Unbound-specific, such as “you will likely end up on stage multiple times against your will”, most are applicable either to most jobs or to life in general. Some lessons are positive (“spreadsheets are wonderful, especially if colourful”) and some negative (“people who are hard to reach are annoying”), but all have been valuable and the experiences are not something I’d ever trade. While according to Franklin, you may need to get involved yourself to truly learn these same lessons, I can at least tell them to you and hope you don’t forget them too quickly.
Top Nine Things I Learned from Serving on Four Student Leadership Teams
1. Everything is more fun when you’re doing it with friends.
Your team can make all the difference between fun and disaster. When you work with friends, it becomes less about work and more about collaborating on a project with people you love hanging out with. If you don’t start off working with friends, try to change that by enhancing your relationships with your team members.
2. Don’t get an inflated head or be overly proud of your job - you’re a lot more replaceable than you think.
Yeah, it hurts to hear, but it’s true. You are replaceable, no matter how good you are at what you do. So realize it isn’t about you - it’s about the job you do and the people you serve. And don’t let that get to your head.
3. Nothing is worth hurting your team members.
No task is that important. You want to be still friends at the end of your tenure. People always go before tasks because the tasks are anyway meant to serve people.
4. Taking initiative is almost always appreciated.
The extent of your job and influence is often what you make it, so don’t be afraid to take initiative. People really appreciate when others see what needs to be done and actually do it. (Just be sure you aren’t treading on anyone’s toes at the same time. People don’t like squished toes.)
5. Giving up control is sometimes the best thing you can do.
It empowers those around you to be better and give more, so by giving up control you’re pushing the rest of the team to be greater. On the other hand, hoarding control just hurts people, yourself included.
6. As great as technology is, meeting in person is a million times better.
Meetings are often incredibly boring especially if there are more than four people and there’s nothing new to report. A good meeting has an agenda with something more than just “what’s new”. The best meeting is in person so there are no technological issues and everyone can interact much more naturally.
7. You will find endless opportunities to be insulted - don’t seize them.
Exactly what it sounds like. When you’re working with people, there will be opportunities to feel hurt, slighted, maligned, shunned, insulted, and whatever other word a thesaurus can conjure up. Ignore them all. Also read #8.
8. Never underestimate the importance of open communication.
People would usually rather hear the truth than feel like you’re hiding something. If you’re having issues with a team member, a policy, a plan, or anything else, talk about it like the mature adult you are. Open communication solves so much.
9. You can do more than you think you can and you may end up loving something you thought you hated.
You may not foresee falling in love with spreadsheets or film editing or public speaking or scheduling or accounting, but it does happen. Take advantage of the opportunities you’re presented with to perhaps learn something new and empower yourself with a job surprisingly well done.