Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Importance of Documentation in Leadership

When most people think of "Leadership" they imagine something like this: 

  That's a nice visual, but if you're actually leading a team it's a lot more about collaboration, improving the system, and making things as simple and clear as possible. Especially with multiple sub-leaders underneath one or a group of major leaders, things can get convoluted and confusing. 
Documentation becomes essential to:

1. Clarifying processes and responsibilities, 
2. Creating duplicatable practices future leaders in that position can follow
3. Organizing set goals and metrics towards achieving them 
4. Figuring out what doesn't work and how to improve

I've experienced this throughout my years in Toastmasters. 
The "Officer Position" manuals they give are too vague to be genuinely helpful. And Officer trainings can sometimes miss important points left out.

As the Sergeant at Arms I was handed a large file folder of documents -but not necessarily told what to do with them. I was "Keeper of the Mystery Box". No one ever used it, and no one knew what was in it. 

As Secretary I was told, "Just take notes at officer meetings." When I later read the officer manual I found there were other duties I was in charge of that never got carried out because no one ever told me how to. I also found out previous Secretaries hadn't printed out, stored, or tracked notes from previous Officer Meetings. Which meant 5 years worth of officer notes was nowhere to be found. No archive. May as well start from scratch. Who knows what common issues and solutions previous officers had faced we might come across as well all the unwiser.

As a VP of Education I did inherit the Excel Spreadsheet of random role assignment. I then decided: Role Assignment Should Never Be Random. You're trying to make members progress through their manuals by filling specific roles. You need to track where people are on completing their manuals and what roles the still NEED to fulfill those manuals. That in term gets the club credit which is how you become "President's Distinguished". 

At that point the "mentoring program" was also thrown in my lap. It had only recently been acted upon, so I continued to perfect materials that could help mentoring seasoned members guide new club members.

Then I was President. No previous documents to refer to for President duties and responsibilities. So I started documenting -partially continuing on by tracking the progress of members (to see the overall progress of the club). I also asked the other officers to declare what their roles consisted of since I was still unaware of what the heck the other officers were in fact doing. Then I had them establish goals for themselves and track their progress. 

Now comes the current nightmare: Treasurer. The past 3 treasurers were: a Financial Advisor, a Lawyer, and an Accountant. I track my own funds well, but have never had financial experience as a professional.

ALL of the documents are in hard copy in a "mystery box" of its own. Receipts from 5 years ago, bank account transactions, former member applications... lots of unnecessary crap. And in all of that there are NO procedure instructions. Treasurer has one of the most crucial roles in a Toastmaster club and yet it gets passed over and ignored so often. 

Current Treasurer Duties: 

1. Fill out and submit financial portion of New Member Applications (aka handle people's money)

2. Submit taxes annually 

3. Reimburse officers who buy club supplies

4. Transfer the Bank Account to your name and the President's name from the previous treasurer and president (which involves all 4 people going to the bank at the same time).

5. Make sure members pay Biannual Dues 

6. Inform the officer team of the current financial budget

NONE of this has written procedures. I went to Officer Training last night and got about 80% of my questions asked. I've since been uploading instructions and documents to our Dropbox account.

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