On the afternoon of Friday, March 3, a S.A.I.L. program was held in Sykes Student Union to offer students suggestions and guidance on effective ways to collaborate and build consensus in student run organizations.The program was lead by Senior Mike Neary who is a Leadership Consultant and has organized three S.A.I.L. programs. Neary began by stating, “Whenever you are in an organization and you are working with a group of people, it is necessary to collaborate because you are always going to come to disagreements and you might not always see eye-to-eye.” The responsibility for resolving those disagreements lies in the hands of the leader of the student organization.
The first concept that Neary focused on was coming to an agreement. Using the example of an organization having a conflict over the most effective and appropriate way to fundraise, Neary outlined what a leader would be expected to do in order to resolve the issue.
Before the issue can be solved, both parties need to be spoken with in order to gain an accurate perspective on what the problem is and what the opposing parties’ viewpoints are.
Following that, the parties need to come together with the leader present to intermediate between the opposing views. Eventually the situation must come to a cooled-off point where each side can come together to reach a compromise from their original opposing views.
Compromise may mean that neither of the fundraising ideas are used, or that both are used or even that a new idea is conceived that better serves the need of the organization. In order for there to be a consensus within an organization, Neary stressed that there must be an atmosphere that leads to consensus building. Often that atmosphere is a social environment.
Neary used the example of the Student Government Association and personally explained how the members of SGA have had their most productive time together when they have had a more social and relaxed atmosphere. Specifically, he mentioned a “retreat” that SGA members had taken part in during one of their meetings where they used five minutes of their time together to discuss business of Student Government and the rest of their time to participate in activities. Neary also highlighted that the reason they are able to have this sort of atmosphere is because members of SGA and the executive board spend time together outside of the formal group.
Suggestions on how to effectively communicate were given during the program including taking one’s time before speaking, understanding what the other person is trying to get across to the group, striving to understand how the speaker feels, summarizing what the other person has said to see if you accurately understand them and giving your perspective after listening to the other person.
Elements of destructive communication were also discussed, including rushing to judge or respond to someone’s comments or perspective, only focusing on your viewpoint, forming your own solution to the problem while the other person is still speaking and even bringing in other issues that are unrelated to the topic at hand.
Students need to be careful to “really listen instead of just waiting to respond to what the other person is saying,” said Neary.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember while in group situations or organizations where students are working to collaborate and come to a consensus is to not lose sight of your final goal. A sense of focus is essential to having an effective organization that can come to a consensus.
Neary ended the program by stating, “It is always necessary to have a solution to an issue” without any sort of conflict lingering within an organization.