About a week ago, my friend asked me if I wanted to come with him to the first meeting of the Pakistani Student Association. I had wanted to see what their organization was like, and I wanted to experience it with a friend, so I accepted. And although I am part of many different organizations, I felt as though attending their meeting taught me several crucial lessons—and showed me that not all organizations are the same.
The first thing I found surprising about the organization was the size of its meetings. I’m involved with RUSA Allocations, which has 12 board members, and Dance Marathon, which has about 20 Central Planning Team members; in contrast, the attendance at the PSA meeting was probably closer to 50. The president and his entire team had clearly considered how they would run the event. They played Taboo (with a Pakistani flair)—but they ran four games, so that everyone would get a chance to participate. They had e-board members helping to manage the games, so that it wouldn’t get out of hand. I thought that showed a very effective usage of manpower to organize and run a large meeting.
Additionally, the PSA Board went out of its way to introduce itself to new members and to discuss the club with them. It surprised me that with a club this large, every person was made to feel important in their own way- and, in my opinion, this personal engagement is why their organization is both so large and so well managed. Fostering leadership begins with making individuals who show interest feel both appreciated and welcomed. And though it would seem as though the organizations I am involved with would have more opportunity to make individual members feel appreciated, I do believe this is something I can learn from. I now make more of an effort to make members of the organizations I am involved in aware that their efforts are crucial, and that their potential is limited only by their ambition.
Finally, I was surprised by how entertaining their meeting was! From Taboo to their meet and greet atmosphere (which was, of course, stocked with pizza,)
it felt as though everyone was legitimately excited to be there. Most of the organizations I am involved with require individuals to come to meetings; the difference in feel of these two meetings was substantial. That’s not to say, of course, that we should make meetings optional. But I can’t help but think that if groups made an effort to add in fun elements to meetings, they would become highlights of the week for members involved. I know some organizations I’m involved with have already taken steps towards doing this, and I think continuing down this path will lead to a more productive (and enjoyable!) time for all.
If there was one takeaway I had from my experience with the PSA and its leadership, it is that leaders must know what sort of organization they wish to create. In our Allocations meetings, we focus on effective performance; in Dance Marathon meetings, we focus on our mission to serve those less fortunate. The Pakistani Student Association’s Executive Board had clearly focused on attempting to develop a friendly, entertaining atmosphere (and, in my view, succeeded.) This point echoes Simon Sinek’s thesis in his “Start With Why” video: organizations must understand why they exist in order to accomplish their missions.