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How to Motivate Your Team Members While Also Holding Them Accountable

And how to find out if your team is even more involved than you think.

I joined Spoon University my freshman year—and, as a senior, am still as dedicated to this organization as ever. Throughout the past three years, I have seen all levels of commitment to Spoon. When I became the Marketing Director, I was worried that I would have a hard time motivating my teammates to be consistently dedicated to our work— a worry that I'm sure many other chapter leaders share.

For this reason, I was determined to make Spoon as fun and as productive as possible, to make sure that our members wouldn't fall off the map (as students are wont to do in the beginning of the year).

Brian Chan

A few weeks into the semester, I thought that I had failed. My impression was that attendance was low, and that people were not contributing as much as expected. But as I dug a little deeper, I realized that I was completely wrong: my teammates loved Spoon and were even more committed than I had imagined.

So here are a few things that helped me come to this revelation and how I think other leaders can motivate their members while holding them accountable.

Actually take attendance

Brian Chan

This may sound silly, but attendance can easily help you figure out who on your team is dedicated—and who is not. We have mandatory weekly meetings at Duke, but I of course cannot expect every member to come to every meeting.

So while I felt like we only had half of our team present sometimes, taking consistent attendance showed that most members were coming every other week—which is still acceptable in my book.

Attendance also (glaringly) revealed the one or two members that had not come to any meetings ever. This is a quick and effective way to screen your members for participation, even if it is a cursory glance.

Pay attention to individuals

Brian Chan

Even if certain members have somewhat consistent attendance, or if others rarely show up to meetings, their level of participation and dedication may not be what it appears. Paying attention to individual work is honestly the biggest way that I realized that most of my teammates were actively involved.

I'm not saying that you should micromanage your chapter, but you should definitely take conscious note of who does what. For example, one of our members rarely comes to meetings, but posts on our Facebook page at least twice a week. Even though attendance may show that she isn't the most active member, noticing her actual work showed that she was still very much involved with our chapter.

Have individual check-ins

Brian Chan

I scheduled all of my teammates for individual check-ins about two-thirds of the way through the semester. At this point, I knew that most people were actively participating in our efforts, but did not have a clear picture of team morale or commitment. To my surprise, almost every single member that I talked to said that he or she loved Spoon and that it was his or her favorite organization on campus.

Obviously, this made me ecstatic. Part of that excitement was of course self-validation, but another part was relief. It's quite comforting to know that everyone working towards the same goal enjoys their experience, and it made me extremely happy to say the least. After doing some digging, I went from slightly dejected and worried about the state of my team, to being inspired for our future work.

Create sub-committees and establish specific roles

Brian Chan

After having a few years of experience with student organizations at college, I have realized that the most important way to get organization members to remain active is to give them specific roles. Within my marketing team at Duke, I have three sub-committees (partnerships, social media and events) that have unique tasks. These roles are not meant to be restrictive, though. Members still collaborate on pretty much everything, but the committees make it much easier for me to delegate.

For example, I go to one specific member to make social media advertisements, and another member to reach out to Durham restaurants. With this structure, each member feels like he or she contributes to the chapter. Further, this makes meetings much more productive.

Get to know your members

Madeleine Braksick

My last piece of advice on motivating members is to be their friends. Or at least try your best. As a senior, most of my teammates are younger than me, and did not know me in a social capacity. I made an effort to get to know every member personally, which makes meetings much more informal and fun. Befriending your teammates will also make you seem much more approachable— plus, your team members will feel a little more obligated complete their tasks.

At Duke, we started doing "Splunches", which was when members signed up to have lunch with one or two members of the leadership team. If this isn't feasible due to the size of your chapter, even just saying "hi" to your teammates in passing goes a long way. 

Being a leader in any organization can be tough, and it can be frustrating at times if you feel like your teammates are unmotivated and inactive. These were just some of the strategies that I used to try and reinvigorate my chapter at Duke—what are yours?