Your individual performance as a Resident Assistant is very important. Many aspects of the R.A. position involve individual effort, initiative, decision-making, one on one communication, and this list could go on and on!
The ability to function as an individual who is part of a team is equally important however, to your success The development of a strong staff team will increase the level of fun and satisfaction you have with the position, increase consistency within your residence hall, and provide for a strong support system throughout the year.
So…as much as you need to individually perform at your peak, consider how you as an individual can impact the development of a strong staff team this next year.
Increase Group Productivity:
In general, groups realize higher productivity when individuals in the group know, understand, and accept one another. So work hard in the beginning of the year to develop strong staff relationships with the other members of your team. Spend time with your co-workers, and learn about their individual strengths. Since individuals bring different things to a group, figure out individual strengths of the group members, and always work to maximize these things. Work to learn about the commonalities that you share with your fellow staff team members, because through similarities often comes an acceptance of difference. Make strong staff relations a priority all year long.
Active Participation in Group Initiatives Creates Stronger Teams:
The bottom line here is that you will support more strongly that which you create. So be an active member of your team. Be an individual on your team who shares in a common vision of what your hall will be and look like at the end of the year. Work hard as a team member to work towards making the team’s vision become a reality. A strong team will result naturally as a part of this process.
Think about your team make-up. A high majority of individuals hired for R.A. positions have strong leadership tendencies. The message here is don’t always be the leader in your staff team. Share equally in leadership and non-leadership roles. Sharing leadership in your group will help nurture a feeling of cooperation and participation that will result in strong group cohesion. Remember that apathy and disinterest can result through dominant leadership, so don’t always take on the leadership role. At points let others assume this role, and be the listener for a change.
Participate in Thoughtful, Constructive Discussion:
I was recently in a feedback meeting at a conference, and the individual facilitating the meeting, made the following statement that really struck home with me. Before the feedback process began, he said, “Honesty, without sensitivity, is brutality”. Think about this comment every time you provide feedback this year.
As an R.A., you will have many opportunities to provide feedback on a wide variety of issues. Participate actively in these discussions, and listen to the viewpoints of others, while being sensitive and respectful any time you make a comment. Remember that through open, honest and sensitive discussion, the generation of more ideas will be facilitated, a better end product or outcome will results, and individual staff members feelings will not be hurt.
Groups May Function in the Present, but they are Impacted by the Past:
If you are a new R.A. with lots of new ideas, be careful not to criticize past practices of your staff team. This is important because many of the individuals on your current team were members of the staff team that you are criticizing from the last year.
If you are a returning staff member, be open to the new ideas about how to make things better in the next year.
All staff need to recognize that change is inevitable, but change for change sake is not necessarily a good practice. Thoughtfully analyze what works and what does not, and as a group work to continually improve the practices that are not working as well as they should.
All of this is particularly important at the start of the year, when you do not know your fellow staff members all that well, and comments can be easily misconstrued. So be careful with your criticisms, and be open to new ideas.
Excellent performance as an individual Resident Assistant will result in great feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. Your overall experience as an R.A. may be even more enhanced through the experience of being an individual member of a strong, highly functioning team. To enhance your overall R.A. experience this year, make the practice of good group etiquette a priority, and watch your staff team soar!
Submitted by Terri Scanlon, Managing Director, Reslife.Net
Terri Scanlon is a founding partner and owner of the website www.reslife.net, and the company Reslife.Net.
Acknowledgements: The statement, “Honesty, without sensitivity, is brutality.” was made by Richard Bova, Director of Residence Facilities at SUNY Purchase.