7 Keys to Successful Delegating

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Photo © 2012 by Choo Yut Shing under Creative Commons license.

Even if you’re not a PTA president, December is a busy time of year, filled with holiday shopping and decorating, end of semester projects, holiday concerts, and more. If you’ve got a PTA meeting and a PTA event or two, it can be overwhelming. The key to avoiding burnout as a PTA president is to delegate, but doing that is not always easy and may not come naturally. Here are 7 keys to successfully delegating.

  1. Delegate tasks to the right people. In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins compares leaders to bus drivers who need to “get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” In other words, don’t delegate your tasks to the first person who volunteers to do it. Make sure they have the skills to do the job. If you have a volunteer in mind, target them and ask them directly, face to face, to take on a task.
  2. Give them the tools to get the job done. PTA provides its leaders with more information and resources than they can probably use in a year, but all of it is information a leader might need. This information needs to be shared, so make sure that the people who need the information you have receive it. Don’t assume that everyone knows what is out there. Look through the Illinois PTA Local Unit Packet, pass around the USB drive to everyone on the board to copy what they need, and point people to the resources on the National PTA and Illinois PTA
  3. Be specific about the task. Make sure that the person you are delegating to understands what they are being asked to do, what the budget is, what paperwork needs to be done, and when it needs to be completed. Ask if they have any questions not only when they first get started but also after they have been working on the task for a while. Sometimes you don’t know what questions to ask until you get into a project.
  4. Set them loose. When you delegate a task, don’t spell out exactly how you want it done. Instead, focus on the results you want. No one likes to be micromanaged, and micromanaging a delegated task doesn’t reduce your workload.
  5. Generally offer advice only when asked. About the only unrequested advice you should give is pitfalls and stumbling blocks that have come up from others doing this project in the past. If your PTA has a procedure book for the program or event, those potential problems should already be noted in it. Do check in periodically to see if they have any needs or problems that you can help with.
  6. Have their back. If a disagreement controversy arises, don’t leave the person you have delegated a task to dangling. Remember that everyone needs to focus on the results and not the path to those results, especially if the disagreement is over a “but we always have done it this way” issue.
  7. Provide thanks and solicit feedback. Be sure to publicly thank your volunteers after a task, program, or event is completed. Ask them to review how things went and to identify what went right, what went wrong, what could be improved, and what they would do differently the next time. Make sure that feedback is included in the procedure book.

At times, it may feel like it would be easier to just do it yourself rather than to teach someone else to do it, but delegating work has long-term payoffs for your PTA. You will have more energy as a leader, those delegated small tasks are more likely to take on bigger ones in the future, and people will be less likely to run away from the PTA president’s role in the future because they will see that the PTA president doesn’t have to do it all.

 

 

4 Things Not to Do When Dealing with an Angry Volunteer

woman-975339_640From the National PTA president down to the local unit, PTA is a volunteer association. PTA can’t do what it does without volunteers, and Illinois PTA has shared information on:

Most of the time, PTA volunteers are happy to share their time and skills, but occasionally one must deal with an angry or upset volunteer. When that happens, the Engaging Volunteers blog has a list of four things not to do, as well as what to do instead.

  1. Don’t Smile at an Angry Volunteer
    You might think a smile is welcoming and friendly, but to an angry volunteer you may appear to be condescending or not taking them seriously. Your smile might also be seen as an attempt to move them away from anger that they (perhaps rightly) feel is justified.
  1. Don’t Tell an Angry Volunteer How They Feel
    Saying, “I can see that you’re really angry…” may be an attempt to be empathetic on your part, but doing so can sometimes increase a person’s anger. Their reaction may be to deny the words you are using and push the conversation into an argument.
  1. Don’t Push Your Solutions
    An angry volunteer wants to be heard first, not have a solution thrust upon them. While you may feel like you are sharing your experience, providing a solution that they may not be ready to hear or have bought into is likely to go nowhere and can turn into a new point to argue about.
  1. Don’t Hijack the Conversation
    Sharing your story (“I know exactly what that’s like…”) may feel like you’re being sympathetic, to your angry volunteer it seems you are not letting them finish their story and have made the conversation about you instead of them.

Be sure to read the Engaging Volunteers article to find out what to do instead of each of these things to make sure your volunteers feel that their concerns are being met in a safe, non-judgmental, and empathetic way.

Illinois PTA Launches PTA Essentials Video Series

illinoispta-logoIllinois PTA offers free training, both in person and online, but realizes that not everyone’s schedule aligns with training opportunities. Today, Illinois PTA launches its PTA Essentials video series with two financial help videos on its YouTube channel:

PTA Essentials is a series of short videos that provide critical information on running a PTA. They are not intended to replace the Illinois PTA’s PTA University training courses. These videos offer a quick refresher for those who have already taken training and cover the basics for those who may be just starting a position and haven’t had the opportunity to take training yet.

The first two videos focus on key financial issues for PTAs. Failing to complete an audit, mishandling PTA funds, and not using deposit and expense vouchers are three of the most common ways PTAs run into financial problems. Future videos in the series will cover topics such as:

  • Running a PTA Meeting
  • How to Update Your PTA’s Bylaws
  • Maintaining Good Standing
  • Creating and Using Procedure Books

Click the subscribe button on any video to ensure that you don’t miss these future videos from Illinois PTA.

In addition to the PTA Essentials video series, the Illinois PTA YouTube channel has a recording of the first 2016 Illinois PTA Advocacy Day webinar on Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities for those who were unable to attend. Illinois PTA has also fixed an error in the sign-up form for the webinar series, so if you were unable to sign up to attend the Legislative Priorities webinar or want to sign up for these future webinars:

  • How to Meet with Legislators (October 13, 7:30pm)
  • Advocate the PTA Way (October 27, 7:30pm)
  • Hot Topics Briefing (November 10, 7:30pm)

head over to the revised sign-up form now.

Master the Art of the PTA Meeting

no-boring-2We’ve all attended them—PTA meetings that seem to drag on forever, don’t get anything done, and leave you dreading the next meeting. Poorly-run meetings can drive away potential PTA volunteers and leaders. If you’re a new PTA president, or even an experienced one, here are some tips to help you master the art of the PTA meeting.

Put the Business in the Right Meeting

Your PTA’s bylaws state what business items the general membership must vote on, and the list is a lot shorter than you think. Your membership votes:

  1. To approve the audit
  2. To adopt or amend the budget
  3. To amend the bylaws
  4. To elect the nominating committee
  5. To elect the officers

Approval of the audit and adopting the budget are done at your first general membership meeting of your fiscal year. Electing officers is usually done at your last meeting of the year, and the nominating committee should be elected a couple of months in advance of your election. Your PTA bylaws should be updated every two years, but that can be done at any general membership meeting.

This means that your PTA can manage with a minimum of three general membership business meetings each year. If the budget needs to be amended, a short general membership meeting can be held just before a PTA program or event to handle just that piece of business. All of the other business of the PTA can be handled in PTA board meetings.

If your PTA meetings are usually only attended by your board anyway, consider how changing your PTA meetings from a business focus to a program focus would affect how families engage with your PTA. If families knew that the PTA meeting that night was not a long series of committee reports and other business, but a celebration of student Reflections entries, a presentation from the school administration on how student discipline is handled, or a Family Reading Experience program, would more people show up? Would families that experience the PTA through programs rather than meetings be more likely to volunteer in the future?

Make Your Meeting a Welcoming One

PTAs and schools have turnover built in, as students and their families move on to higher grades and new families come into the school. Make sure that those new families feel welcome by your PTA by:

  • Creating a welcome packet for new families.
  • Greeting people at the door.
  • Providing name tags at your first few meetings.
  • Encouraging your board members to sit throughout your meeting area rather than in one clump.
  • Having a pre- or post-meeting social time with refreshments to connect with new members.
  • Use ice breaker introductions (name plus what grades your kids are in, your favorite part of school as a kid, what your kids like about your school, etc.).
  • Define your terms, including acronyms and jargon.
  • Avoid inside jokes, referencing people by first name only (e.g., “The previous chair always…” rather than “Jane always…”—especially if “Jane” isn’t at the school anymore), and other socializing during the meeting.
  • Consider sitting in a circle or around one big table rather than a table of officers at the front.

Have an Agenda

An agenda is the road your PTA meeting will travel. Without one, your meeting’s path may end up looking more like the path of a bumper car at the fair. As president, an agenda is a tool to help keep discussions focused on the topic at hand, as a gentle, “Let’s focus on our current agenda item” can help curb a tangential discussion. Providing your meeting agenda ahead of time can also help to set expectations for what will be accomplished at the meeting. An agenda should have:

  • A call to order
  • Welcome and introductions
  • Reports (from the principal, teacher’s representative, student representative, secretary (minutes), treasurer, or committees—but keep them short)
  • Unfinished business from previous meetings
  • New business
  • Adjourn

Make sure your unfinished and new business items focus on reaching decisions. If the discussion on an item doesn’t seem to be coming to consensus, entertain a motion to create a committee to make recommendations at your next meeting.

Use Parliamentary Procedure to Your Advantage

As a PTA president, you don’t need to know all 800+ pages of Robert’s Rules of Order, but you should be familiar with the basics. Use parliamentary procedure by:

  • Making sure you have a quorum (see your bylaws) when voting on business items.
  • Always having speakers wait to be recognized by the president before speaking.
  • Always having speakers address the president rather than each other.
  • Ensuring that motions (other than from a committee) have a second before being discussed.
  • A second motion amends the motion currently being discussed.
  • “Calling the question” or “moving the previous question” by a member of the audience requires a 2/3 vote to end debate, followed (if successful) by an immediate (majority) vote on the motion on the floor.
  • Knowing that the president does not vote other than by ballot.

Remember that Robert’s Rules of Order was written to ensure the voice of the minority is heard, but that the will of the majority prevails. While the smaller details of Robert’s Rules are essential when conducting meetings with a large voting body, those details are less essential in the friendly confines of a small PTA meeting. Knowing the key points above is sufficient for most situations that PTA presidents will find themselves in.

Share It

Publicize when and where your next meeting occurs in as many ways as possible: newsletters, e-mail, flyers, social media, school announcements, bulletin board, posters, school sign, etc. In channels where you have room, share why a family would want to attend (e.g., program or speaker, free babysitting, social event, etc.). After the meeting, be sure to also share what happened, thank those involved, and publicize the next PTA event.