5 Twitter Applications for Your Leadership Toolbox

July 26, 2010

Depending on your perception of Twitter and Twitter usage, you might not think of Twitter being an essential tool in your Leadership Toolbox.  Once you look beyond Twitter as an extension of Facebook, email, or chat, you will be able to see how it is indeed an invaluable tool that you can use to manage your campus organization. 

One thing to keep in mind in order to implement Twitter as a leadership management tool with your club or organization is that all the people in your organization must use Twitter as well.  Another stipulation is that the members of your group should FOLLOW YOU on Twitter and in return you should FOLLOW THEM.  To get you and your members started on Twitter here are some Twitips to get you started.

Below are some suggested Twitter Applications and there practical uses for leading and managing your campus organization:

Campustweet is an application which allows you to opt into a listing based upon your state and school.  Once listed you are able to view all other Twitter users for your university including students, alumni, and faculty/staff.

Practical Applications:

  • Build your network.  Use this listing to follow people on campus and make connections. Establishing relationships with fellow students, alumni, or faculty & staff can potentially result in many opportunities for your organization.  Having a social network such as this on your campus can provide you with educational, programming, publicity, philanthropic, and fundraising opportunities.
  • Example #1: Use Campustweet to make a connection with a faculty member who is a wine-enthusiast.  Coordinate an event with the faculty member who will educate guests about wine along with a local winery to provide wine samples and sell their product. Your organization can promote the event and sell tickets. Use your Campustweet network to promote the event and sell tickets.
  • Example #2: Your club wants to arrange a fundraiser for the victims of a natural disaster.  Your group decides to hold a car wash during Homecoming Weekend.  Use your Campustweet network to publicize the event to all students, alumni, and faculty coming to campus for Homecoming Weekend.
  • Tweet your Campustweet network to educate about your organization, recruit members, and publicize your events.

Tweetshare is a Twitter Application that allows you to post files, images, and videos, and then have discussions about your posts.  You can also post questions and quick polls with and set time limits to your conversations up to 30 hours.

Practical Applications:

  • Example #1: You receive the tweet: “Help! Get snacks 4 meeting.”  Use Tweetshare to post a quick poll to your members.  Your tweet says: “Meeting 8pm. Vote now on snacks.”  Your quick poll says: Snack Choices: A) chips and salsa, B.) chocolate, C.) veggies & ranch dip, D.) cupcakes. Your group immediately begins to tweet you back with their choices, and you are ready to shop.
  • Example #2: Your committee is preparing for the Annual Semi-Formal. Two members are shopping for centerpieces.  They use Tweetshare to post video of three different centerpieces.  They create a quick poll to get results and are able to have discussion within the committee via Tweetshare.  The committee comes to a consensus and is able to purchase centerpieces in one trip.
  • Example #3: The Advisor of your campus group is retiring, and you are drafting a speech for a dinner in her honor. You post the Word document on Tweetshare and your members collaborate and make suggestions.

Twitpic allows you to upload and tweet pictures from your phone.

Practical Applications:

  • Example #1: You’re attending a conference and tweeting pictures and information back to your campus and organization in real-time.
  • Example #2: Your organization is holding a dance-a-thon fundraiser and you are using Twitpic to publicize this ongoing event.
  • Example #3: It is new student orientation and the leaders have put a new spin on the old “get-to-know-your-campus” scavenger hunt.  Groups of new students are given a list of clues and must figure out and locate the campus site based on those clues; all individuals in the group (except the photographer) must be present in the photo.  The groups upload the photo and tweets with Twitpic to the specified Twitter account.  The winning group will be the one that adhered to all of the rules and Twitpics the correct campus location first.

Bit.ly shortens web links and allows you to track how many clicks each Bit.ly link receives.

Practical Applications:

  • Example #1: You are researching fundraisers on the internet and using Bit.ly to tweet links to your members.
  • Example #2: You are updating your group’s Facebook page and posting relevant links as Bit.ly links.
  • Example #3: You have found a valuable blog post on Studentlifeguru.com. You want to tweet the article to other student leaders on campus.  The permalink is too long so you copy and paste it in Bit.ly to shorten it. Now the link is tweetable and textable.

TweetDeck manages all your Twitter lists on your desktop, smart phone, or iPad so you can monitor many conversations at once.

Practical Applications:

  • When you follow a person or group on Twitter you are listing people in some kind of order you have created.  For instance, all the people you follow in your organization are listed in one group and Campustweet followers are listed in that respective group. If you are also active in student government, you could have followers in that group listed.  Your friends from high school and family members could be other possible lists.
  • With most of your followers listed, you are organizing these lists on TweetDeck.  You can also follow # (hashtag) groups here as well, which can be based on searchable key words such as #college, #leadership, #university, #studentaffairs, #fraternity, #sorority and any other key words related to your club or organization.
  • Each time you login to TweetDeck all of your lists are intact.  When you are at the library studying, you can keep an eye on ongoing conversations and all your leadership responsibilities while still getting your study time in.

For additional useful Twitter applications, check out Oneforty.


Create a Vision Others Will Want to Follow

July 24, 2010

All effective leaders have intangible qualities such as charisma, taking risks, and transparency.  In addition to these qualities, effective leaders create a vision that others want to follow. These leaders not only live their vision, it defines them. Whether you are a student government president, a resident assistant, or a student organization leader, your vision for the group can be a make or break determinant.

Below are three concepts to keep in mind when creating your vision:

1. Think Big

Use your kindergarten teacher’s words of wisdom: DREAM BIG. Painting your picture of the future should not have stick figures and other small images in it. Rather it should be like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s painting in the Sistine Chapel, grand and awe-inspiring.

When you are brainstorming ideas and goals for the year or into the future, think about what the end is going to look like and how you want that picture painted. Now you’ve got your vision, now it is time to unveil it.

2. Communicate Your Vision to Others

As a student leader, it is imperative that your vision is communicated clearly to your group. Your vision needs to excite, and reaffirm why people are following you. In order for action towards your vision to happen, you must also create a sense of urgency within the group.

Communicating your vision to the group can be accomplished in many different forums, including leadership retreats, meetings, advertisements, and information tables. Here are some tips when presenting your vision:

  • Keep it clear and on point. Nobody likes to listen to someone ramble. Set clear expectations and goals for your group and communicate them to everyone. Track and communicate the group’s progress regularly.
  • Have fun. If people see that you are having fun, they will want to be a part of it. Purposely plan fun activities for your team members regularly. One of the biggest reasons people stay involved in clubs and organizations is because it’s fun for them.
  • Engage your audience. People take a part in what they help to create so keep your members engaged in the process.
  • Publicity should be colorful and clear. Use all media sources possible, such as Facebook, Twitter, campus publications, campus radio, and any other means to spread the vision of your organization. 
  • Be open to constructive feedback. Get your members involved by seeking feedback, including constructive criticism. Someone’s feedback can be a positive seed for progress.

 3. Build Bridges Toward Your Vision

Realistically, you cannot get from A to E without going through B, C, and D; you cannot simply achieve your vision in one giant leap.

As a student leader, it is important to achieve goals and view them as smaller victories toward your vision. Here are three main types of goals you should set for your organization:

1. Procedural Goals – goals that bring structure to the group like starting on time, ending on time, following established meeting protocols, and having members in attendance.

2. Directional Goals – goals that give direction towards the vision such as a new marketing plan or the completion of a service project.

3. Milestones – goals that are a true group accomplishment and should be celebrated. Examples include earning a prestigious award, presenting at a national conference, or raising a large amount of money for a local charity.

Having a vision is a necessary part of the success of a leader and their organization. Leaders need to think big when creating their vision and must communicate their picture of the future. A vision cannot come to fruition without smaller victories and milestones in the form of goals. As a leader, it is important to find your area of passion within the organization and create a vision based on this passion. If your vision lacks passion, clarity, and direction, the members in your organization will be hesitate to jump onboard.

Steve Knepp is currently finishing his first year as a full-time professional in higher education. His areas of interest include residence life, student government, and student leadership development. Steve earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University and his M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. His hobbies include camping, golf, and traveling. You can follow Steve on his blog at http://steve0709.wordpress.com

Creating Team Confidence (Free Activity Sheet)

July 19, 2010

Inspiring team member confidence should be an important part of a “Leadership Evaluation.” Team members need to have confidence in one another, be able to discuss easily ideas with one another without hesitation, and foster a sense of confidence among all of the members of the team.

As the team leader, creating “purposeful” conversations centered on team issues are symbolic in that you are setting the stage for what is an appropriate way to express thoughts and ideas in an open and respectful manner. If you create a team culture in which teammates solve problems together without unnecessary conflict or without always having to have the team leader intercede, everyone can concentrate on the actual mission and vision of the organization.

Here are some recommendations on how to create a team culture of confidence and communication:

1. Recruit team members that already embody the ideals of your organization’s culture.

2. Purposefully match team members on projects so they can experience “wins” together for good progress.

3. Hold regular team-building exercises during team meetings in order to demonstrate important team lessons. (Don’t simply have ice-breakers or other exercises just for the sake of having an activity; have a real purpose behind it.)

4. Be a role model for your team. Always be positive (but not fake), and speak well of your team everywhere you go.

5. Make it fun! It’s not all about work. Take your team on a fun outing in order to spend social time with one another.

Click for a free Colleague Discussion Activity sheet. Please feel free to share it.

How are you inspiring confidence among your team members?

Team Accountability Activity: “The Jar”

July 13, 2010

It shouldn’t strictly be the responsibility of a team leader or supervisor to hold everyone on the team accountable. Staffers and team members actively holding each other accountable can lead to better communication, increased productivity, and better team cohesion. As a residence hall director on two different university campuses who had supervised over 20 staffers at one time, I wanted to instill and develop a sense of staff accountability with my student employees. So I created a staff meeting tradition called “The Jar.”

What is “The Jar” and how does it work?

At the beginning of every semester, I brought a jar to the first staff meeting. Every staff member was given three pieces of paper. On each paper they were to write something they wanted purchased for them (under $5.00) or an activity accomplished for them under an hour of time. Only one request was permitted on each slip of paper. The requests had to be appropriate and in good taste (hazing or any acts of humiliation were not permitted). Examples included everything from purchasing coffee, fast food value meals, and donuts to doing laundry, helping to study, and getting a ride to go shopping. The slips of paper were all folded and placed into the jar.

The jar was brought to every staff meeting. If a staffer neglected a particular job task or failed to keep a promise related to work, they had to pick one of the slips of paper from the jar. Examples of reasons a staffer would have to pick from the jar included everything from being late for a desk shift or meeting, forgetting to lock the lobby office, and failing to meet a deadline. The staffer would then read aloud whatever was written on the slip of paper and perform the task or make the requested purchase prior to the next staff meeting. If they failed to submit to the request before the next staff meeting, they would have to pick from the jar again. They would still be responsible for fulfilling the previous jar pick in addition to the new pick.

Because a team member’s mistake or failure to meet expectations effects the entire team in some shape or form, the staffer picking is, in essence, making it up to the team. Therefore, all team members have an equal chance of having one of their slips of paper picked.

Recommended Tips for Success:  

1. Staffers and team members should NOT be permitted to write down any job responsibilities on the slips of paper for the jar; they still have to perform their job and assigned responsibilities.

2. The team leader or supervisor should also include their own slips of paper in the jar and also be held accountable to pick.

3. The jar should not be a substitute for normal team member disciplinary procedures, including potential termination.

4. Team members should not use the jar exercise as a “witch hunt” searching for every mistake of fellow team members.

5. Be mindful of the financial situation of all of your team members so a “purchase-related task” may not be inclusive nor appropriate for your team. You can have them vote by secret ballot and only include this option if it’s unanimous. (My particular staffers wanted the purchase option and all agreed upon a $5.00 limit.)

I have found the jar exercise to be very positive. The regular practice started with staffers even owning up to mistakes themselves during meetings (without being prompted) and requesting their turn to pick from the jar. Additionally, staff members that normally wouldn’t interact with each other in a social capacity were able to do so and started to make  relationships over a cup of coffee, during a study session, or over a meal that was initiated by a jar pick. Lastly, there were many weeks that would go by where no one would have to pick from the jar.

How do you encourage team members to hold each other accountable?

Three (3) Leadership Lessons from George Washington

July 4, 2010

I thought it would be fitting to publish my first post on the day of the birth of our nation. In the spirit of our country’s independence, I’d like to share some of the leadership lessons that the Father of Our Country, George Washington, left for us to learn from. Here are three (3) leadership lessons that you can apply to your own organization:

1. Remain a humble servant leader – General Washington always served at the pleasure of the Congress, his soliders, and the people. Although he had reached the heights of worldwide acclaim during the Revolutionary War, he was a man of few words, and his actions and decisions were always for the benefit of the national cause for independence. He was a leader that was able to share the glory of victory with his subordinates as his ego was always in check. Additionally, he spent tireless hours attempting to feed, clothe, and arm his soldiers throughout the six years of the war.  

Just because you’re a servant leader doesn’t mean that you relinquish your authority or ability to act. This can actually enhance your ability to do so because you’re creating loyalty with your team members and the individuals you serve. Being a leader is an incredible opportunity that not everyone gets to experience or benefit from.

2. Surround yourself with talented and capable people – There are almost innumerable individuals that helped to created the wonderful history behind our independence and growth into a fledgling new nation. During  Washington’s tenure as the commander of the Continental Army and as the President of the United States, he fostered strong relationships with those that would help to further the American cause. Henry Knox, the Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Nathaniel Greene, are just a few of the talented men with whom Washington aligned himself. This is not to say that he didn’t have staunch critics, which he did (e.g., Dr. Benjamin Rush, Horatio Gates, etc.), but he focused his time and effort on fostering relationships with those that he knew would help him to carry out his mission.

Foster strong relationships with key players on your team and allow their talents to shine. If you are in the position to recruit and select the members of your organization, take the time to thoroughly screen these individuals so that you’re confident that their beliefs are congruent with the mission and vision of your organization. If you are experiencing criticism from individuals, reframe that experience and attempt to turn critics into allies. People take a part in what they help to create so share decision-making processes in order to gain respect and trust from everyone.

3. Remain persistent – Contrary to popular belief, General Washington suffered more losses in battle than wins. However, he knew that the fight for independence would not be completed in a day. Washington learned as he went and eventually made an art of harassing the British lines and then retreating in order to fight another day. It would take six years to fight the war and then another two years to negotiate the treaty that would lead to the British recognition of our country as a sovereign state. 

Success takes time, patience, and a certain amount of “stick-to-itiveness.” No one affirmed that being a leader would be easy. Reaching the goals that you have set for yourself and your organization will take time and persistence. If you get stuck or reach various obstacles along the way, think of other approaches to reach your goals and seek advice from your closest teammates.

There is a wealth of great information out there regarding George Washington and his triumphs and mistakes as the Father of Our Country. I highly recommend the following books for further reading.


Happy Independence Day!


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