Checking In as a Management Strategy
Building a Positive Environment for Committee Member Engagement
Working with committees (also called consensus bodies) to develop standards can be difficult. Members may be located around the world and operate in vastly different time zones. Meetings may only be held once or a few times a year and members may find themselves with very little time to commit to volunteer activities such as developing standards. In Chairing an ISO Committee, we heard about the additional hurdles and difficulties in working with international groups including language barriers, politics, and meetings held at less that opportune times.
This all contributes to low engagement, slow development, and struggles in getting members together to discuss projects and make progress on work.
In this environment it is even more important to communicate early and often with members to continually reinforce their participation and to keep them engaged. A 2014 gallop poll found that “When employees strongly agree that their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on, they are almost seven times more likely to be engaged than actively disengaged.” The same is true for committees.
Checking in helps members feel seen and keeps them engaged in projects. Checking in also benefits you as the committer leader by helping you better understand members and their needs, why they are on the committee and how you can help them achieve their goals. If you have special projects, checking in with those project leads will help you better understand the status of those project, lend a hand to help them overcome hurdles, and support those projects deliver on time. Frequent outreach also helps build comradery and trust between you and members. That trust will come in handy if ever a conflict arises as the members of the group will follow your lead in navigating and moving towards a positive outcome from the conflict.
And a final benefit of checking in with members in between meetings; by doing so you will create a ‘doors open’ process for proactive problem solving. Not all members speak up in meetings, some issues arise between meetings and may be forgotten by the time a meeting is held, and not all issues rise to the level of needing to be addressed in a meeting. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your committee members and other leaders will allow for issues to be addressed quickly, reducing disruptions to current projects, and supporting the success of the group.