(This series of “notes” first appeared in the YahooGroup “VenturingList” and are written by Michael Brown. I thought that they were worth sharing with the Commissioner Corps.)
“What are my duties?” “What should I be doing?”
These are frequent questions asked by people who take on a new responsibility in their crew, either as an appointed chair or as an elected officer.
Ideally, the crew should take the time to ensure these people are trained in their position as soon as possible. And if not, these people should seek out help and learn what they should be doing.
Too often, they won’t, doing a poor job and upsetting others (and frustrating themselves). You’re not learning anything by stumbling along blindly. At best you’ll do a poor job, at worse you can hurt your crew, either by reputation, financially, or cause it to lose members or possible awards.
They made the mistake of not ASKING FOR HELP. Not asking for help is not a sign of strength, but of stupidity. Who can you ask? Your predecessor. Other officers. Your advisors. District/Council/Area/Regional officers. Even looking on-line for manuals and assistance.
What should (or could) have happened to avoid this issue?
* Officer Transition Training/Office Training
Ideally, new officers should be shown what their job entails by their predecessors. This can be done informally, one on one, or more formally by the crew using the Crew Leader syllabus or using the new Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews. Too often, elections are held too late for this, as the previous officers leave at the end of the term, and no one has the time at the end of the term to properly do this. This is one of the reason why many organizations will elections done weeks if not months before the end of a term, to allow for this training and transition period.
Also, attending training for your position is vital. Different organizations handle training differently. Some focus on general leadership training, others focus on specific position training, some do a mix. All have their good and bad points.
* Crew Documents
Your crew bylaws will contain some basic description of your office position. This can be a good starting point. These descriptions should have been used when elections came up, to ensure that everyone knows what is required of the positions before people ran for the positions, and those that did should understand they have committed to the job. (this is also why some organizations make use of nominating committees and commitment agreements as part of their election process, as covered in a previous Note).
* Officer Notebooks
Many organizations create officer notebooks. These binders contain all of the information gathered for a particular officer. Ideally, each officer will add to it during their term, and pass it to their successor. Sadly, sometimes these are lost, which means the information they had is gone. Each officer notebook should be unique, but typically it will contain the following:
* Crew bylaws and other operating documents (Standing rules, etc.)
* relevant mailings and information from Council, Regional, National
* committee reports from last year (or more)
* crew calendar & goals, council calendar, crew roster & contact info.
Some information will be unique for certain officers. The Treasurer’s Notebook should have all the financial information, etc. The Secretary’s Notebook will contain the last year’s meeting minutes and committee reports (older minutes and reports should have been moved to the crew’s permanent records).
Of course, these notebooks are useless unless they are USED. The officers should bring them with them to meetings, so they can be referred to as needed, new material added to them, and the like. More importantly, the officers should review what is in the notebooks. (you know, READ it).
Your advisors are a resource of information. Many of them have been crew officers (and/or officers in other clubs/organizations), so they can help explain what your job entails. Approach them and ask for help. If they’ve offered to help new officers in learning their job, take them up on this offer! Some youth groups that have adult advisors will assign specific advisors to specific officers. This ensures the officer has a dedicated advisor who understands their role. Does your crew do this? Should your crew do this?
* District/Council/Area/Regional resources
Your council and regional staffs are full of people who have been crew officers and understand how things work in Venturing. There may be district/council VOAs who you can call upon. This is one of the values of VOA: a group of venturing youth that can assist your crew. Hopefully there are area/regional VOAs as well.
* On-line resources
There are several on-line resources. There are several Venturing-related email discussion lists (like this one), on-line forums, Facebook groups, and the like that you can use to speak with others, many of who are chapter officers themselves.