Running Effective Committees
Committees can either be one of the more frustrating and lengthy venues for tackling a problem, or they can serve as an engine that brings about new resources and great results. What makes the difference?
As a facilitator of multiple social change efforts, I have come to notice three characteristics of committees that have an impact over time.
The most effective committees have an end goal, a limited time frame, and the resources to act on their recommendations. They spend time clarifying their vision of success, and they understand that there are both financial and leadership resources at the end of the process, even if only a fraction of what they will need. They have sense of urgency; they rally because the stakes are high, people are waiting, and the results matter.
At a first meeting, most of us assess how valuable or necessary our participation will be. Interactive meetings where members make decisions, clarify and deliberate options, and share information, are more engaging than meetings with presentations, followed by questions and answers. Drawing upon members’ expertise, marking insights along the way, keeping the group from tracking backwards, and capturing decisions during and after each meeting makes members feel and see how productive their time can be.
Leaders often strive to appoint committees with each member representing a specific constituency that needs to be heard. It is most effective to combine the aim for an inclusive process with a checklist that has more to do with character than position. Select individuals with passion, knowledge, the credibility and influence to mobilize others, and good practice at listening. Dynamic participants, once engaged and shaping the process, will add their own networks and resources to advance the issue at hand.
- Tina R. Trent, Senior Director, Strategic Planning and Program Evaluation, NeighborWorks®, Washington, DC
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