I’ve worked with a number of committees; each had its own personality and reached different levels of effectiveness. So what makes an effective committee? How do you create one of your own? Here are a few factors that inspire the drive of a committee:

Leadership: Strong committees need strong leaders. Committees need leaders who can influence, bring people together to work towards a single goal and who will take some of the workload on themselves. Leaders make decisions with the most up-to-date information they can get and they stand by their decision. And perhaps most importantly they stand by their committee, passing along praise for good work and taking responsibility for issues. Is your leader a leader?

Diversity: Strong committees will have a range of members with various backgrounds and skills. Knowledge isn’t always gained within university walls so don’t underestimate the self-made; they’ll have more adaptable people skills than many others. You’ll also want people who will question the norm and discuss ideas from various points of view. While it is sometimes frustrating to review procedures that work, new opinions will enhance your project. Finally, ideal members will have a wide reach within the community and they will be able to call on their contacts when the need arises. Can you count on your members to voice their own varying points of view?

Action: Members must be able to fulfill their duties. Whether it’s attending meetings, finishing a task, taking on duties or simply seeing where help is needed and stepping in to help; everyone must pull their own weight. What you expect from a committee must be clear when a member is approached and should be reviewed periodically with the entire group. I work with a very successful committee who has a maximum number of years a member can be part of the committee. It works because it keeps ideas fresh and always brings in new sponsorship with the new connections. Do your committee members share the workload?

Focus: You want committee members who are focused on growth and driven by vision. Projects grow with action driven meetings, when members have an equal voice and when the focus is on important details. Does your committee focus only on minute details or do they have vision?

Of course there are many factors that affect the work a committee can accomplish during a year. And all committees are different and have very different agendas – more importantly, most committees are made entirely of volunteers. So how do you get strong leadership, diversity, action and focus?

I believe it is all about communication. When people know the reason for the committee (focus), intended outcomes (vision) and how they unquestionably fit into the vision (drive) they will usually step up and show up. But please, don’t waste someone’s time. If you do, you’ll soon see a lapse in commitment.

Finally, why not offer some sort of training? There are so many course offerings for leadership, communication, relationships, and a large number of them can be found online FOR FREE. Why not schedule 10 – 20 minutes during one or two meetings a year where you watch a video, a webinar or listen to a podcast intended to improve a certain skill or to inspire.

I’m sure you also have ideas on how your committee can become more effective so trust in your own vision.