Our Sector: 50 tips for supporting sabbs

Jonathan Oliver I’d say more leadership training, and conflict resolution skills would be a great help.

Jo Walters Expectation management but also not trampling on their dreams (you are not always right). Well-being. Understand that their role is different to yours, they are not another member of staff

Jonathan Oliver I agree with well being, myself and two others had breakdowns at one point or another during our terms, being able to know how to ask for help in things like that would have been invaluable.

Maggie A Tia Hayes Get them part of a wider network. Make sure they book annual leave.

Vicki Baars Finding good mentors for them who they trust and can learn from

Murray Hope 1. exit support.2 years of being encouraged to be BNOCs & national stage to then often searching for a new career path and becoming small cog again…

Ruth Wilkinson Strategic thinking vs operational thinking is a real challenge

David Gilmore I’m procrastinating when I’m supposed to be proofing so here goes:
1) Don’t cast them off as trouble-makers just because they’re not immediately on board with your strategic plan. If your strategic plan isn’t agile and broad enough to support diversity of thought, then you’ve written the wrong strategic plan.
2) At the beginning, try and capture as much of what they felt about their own student experience, and the student experience of those around them as possible. They’ve probably got some legitimate reasons why they plonked ‘improve communications’ in their manifesto, you’re just going to have to drill down a bit to get it, and you’ll need to do this before they become completely institutionalised by the internal workings of the union.
3) At the end of every week, ask them to tell you something they’ve learnt.
4) At the end of every week, write down something you’ve learn about your sabs.

Tom Flynn 1. Let them make mistakes sometimes. 2. Don’t tell them to ‘GOAT’ pointlessly without providing support for well-designed and meaningful discussions with students and local-level representatives. 3. Encourage them to see their role as using their access and platform to support other students efforts to change stuff, not just drive their own agenda through committee. 4. Align or allow flexibility to accommodate officer’s early planning with operational planning. 5. Think about how strategic development takes place in ‘off years’ so every team contributes something rather than 1 in

Caitlin Natasha I second this motion and would add get work phones and didn’t put personal numbers on business cards if that’s not possible.

Jess Lazarczyk I’d say training/coaching for leadership and management skills, conflict resolution, handling difficult conversations, assertiveness, strategic thinking and stakeholder management.
Support networks set up for Sabbs to provide guidance, advice and encouragement for their peers across the country could be helpful, too. Transition into career afterwards

Nick Smith Get to know what success looks like for them politically and personally – and this is for PTOs as well. I’m was an activities officer and a welfare officer and I had specific political wins but my personal win was definitely the opportunity to get an interest in governance.

Matthew Myles-Brown I think teamwork trumps ideas, especially for sabbs – staff teams need to meaningfully bring them into their culture and work programmes and support sabbs to be a team together

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson Finding them good mentors from le sector but potentially from outside their own SU, conflict resolution (this is literally a must for all sabbs tbh), some kind of reso or fun/team thing in November (to beat the post freshers Nov blues). Specific training for second year sabbs so they utilise the knowledge and skills they already have from the word go but not overshadowing any new team members.

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson Training on advantage thinking was probably the most useful training I ever got.

Colum McGuire Don’t use the reply-all button unless your life depends on it (wait did I say this one already)

Scott Storey Nobody who says sorry for cross posting is sorry for cross posting. This adds in my tip. Don’t use your personal email address for those mailing lists, I’m still getting some and can’t figure out how to unsubscribe.

Gary Hughes Be generous with your time, experience patience, thank yous, high fives etc. They want to know they’re taken seriously and only presenting yourself as the senior staff member who cares about budgets/sandwiches/crying people – but not them – does a massive disservice to folks who need attention, above all, to feel secure enough to experiment, safe enough to say some fucking weird things to start with, and confident enough to own their political agenda, and assert their rights.

Dani Beckett Model self care, don’t just tell them to do it.

Anne-Marie Canning Give them organising training

Stuart Chugga Jones This article is 10 years old but old school! I don’t agree with everything in it 100% but some good points in there! https://www.theguardian.com/…/20/workandcareers.graduates1

Tom Renhard Make sure they take their lunch breaks (and generally support them to reduce likelihood of burnout)

Hanif Leylabi If they’re the lead sabb on a project, don’t do all the work and just treat them as figureheads or poster people. It’s patronising and doesn’t develop your skills anymore than their’s.

Rob Gofton Buy them this book https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/06848…/ref=tmm_pap_title_0… in particular Win – Win

Ben Archibald Really observe them. Determine what they actually seek to achieve and work out how your support can make that more likely – or help them identify additional or alternative angles to success.

Rosie Inman Being a sabb is one of the most ill-defined jobs in the world. Some come in knowing exactly what they want to do with their year and how they’re going to do it. Others have no idea what they’ve signed themselves up for and feel completely lost and out of their depth, it’s usually the first time they’ve stepped out of the structure of FT education where people tell them what to do all the time, and they’ll flounder. Give those sabbs the right staff support, teach them project management skills, don’t just say well, they’re the student leadership, they can get on with it. I’ve seen so many sabbs who have been written off as the lazy ones who just want to coast and mess about for a year, and if you dig a little deeper with them you often find they’re actually terrified and have no idea how to do the things they wanted to.

Chris Shelley If I’m allowed to comment from the ‘dark side’…Allocate them appropriate staff support for their portfolio so they aren’t expected to understand the policies/politics/intricacies of every issue they have to represent students on. Then (and this is the tricky bit) ask the institution to allow these staff members into the relevant committees etc alongside the sabbs. or even to go instead of them to some working groups etc that really don’t need an officer in the room.

Chris Shelley Oh and help them manage their diaries. So much good will can be lost before they even start if they get an early reputation for being late for every meeting.

Megan Evans Echo this – take time to help officers prepare for meetings with the university. If you can spend an hour reading through stuff and thinking of questions, you will get taken so much more seriously in a culture where Boards/Council think of you as ‘just students.’ Being prepared makes a big difference.

Nick Smith Tedious self promotion but I run a whole day course for officers on University meetings so they can take on dark side folks like Chris

Leo P. Bøe Allow space for meaningful interactions between sabb priorities and strategic, operational and commercial planning. Ensuring timelines match-up and that sabbs aren’t undermined by preset activities and deliverables without having signed up to them.

Consciously set aside at least 20% of senior managers’ time to working directly with sabbs on new projects so they can be delivered effectively, in partnership and with buy-in.

Agree from the outset (if necessary) what sabbs do comms-wise, and how comms priorities are set.

Antony Butcher When things hit the fan – which they will at some point – stand by them, say that you support them, that you are there to help them, and that you’ve got their back. There are going to be times when they blame themselves for things that have gone wrong and it doesn’t seem like anybody is on their side – and they can be so much in the limelight that it is hard to be open and honest about how they are feeling to anyone.

Mark Charters Responsibility and Accountability. Have counselling provision in place. Mental health is a massive thing for sabs.

Ben Vulliamy 1) Sabbs need friends, colleagues, mentors and ‘link staff’. Do not be lazy and try to combine all of the above into a single person as it will never work 2) Sabbs need to be able to get it wrong and learn from it. 3) its not about the union getting more out of sabbs – its about sabbs getting more out of themselves and the union helping the sabb to do so. 4) Help them to ask – if they dont ask about their suspicion it festers and grows into something toxic and self destructive whereas if they ask ‘is this normal?’ 99 times out of a 100 the answer is yes. 5) Have fun – ‘Its play that makes people unafraid to fail and confident to try new things. Its play that helps us do serious things better because we enjoy them and feel a sense of joy in our achievements’ Jack Orlowitz Head of the Wikepedia library

Thomas Flynn Spend time on going through skills that you might assume they already have – in particular the ability to conduct qualitative research and putting together documents/reports/proposals. Build this up from drafting together, to agreeing an initial structure, to just putting in deadlines for full drafts. It’s a real skill that will both make them far more impactful in meetings with Uni colleagues, as well as prove invaluable in later careers.

Becci McEvoy Help them manage their diaries, and as part of that make time to go out and talk to students/be at student facing things on a regular basis so they stay close to the local student experience. Also help them manage their objectives, they ran for office to make a difference, help them understand how they can tangibly do this, and what’s realistic in a year, whilst still being able to dream big. There will be enough people telling them things can’t be done, don’t be one of them.

If they’re not doing something you know/think you need them to or want from them to do your job, don’t instantly blame them for being useless/not falling in line, and instead take some time to understand why and how you can adapt, our job is to support them and make their life easier, so if they don’t see value in what we believe we need from them to support them, perhaps it’s the process/thing/us that needs to change, not them. Also, when they’re on committees etc, make sure they know it’s helpful to understand the detail, but that they’re not there to be an expert on the policy/issue etc so if they don’t understand, there should be no shame in asking, they’re there to be an expert on what students think about it/how it will impact them on the ground, and they’re the only people in the room who can be an expert on that.

Actively encourage them to work with staff to be fully informed etc, but they should also be confident to take staff out their comfort zone (and give them training on how to do this professionally). There should never be doubt that they are the most senior people in the organisation and they should know they “outrank” every member of staff, including the CEO and that you understand that that’s their job too, so it’s ok and you expect them to do it. They should absolutely question and challenge everything if they’re not happy with it, and use their authority as an elected leader to make (informed) decisions, and if it really can’t happen for a legitimate reason, they should not be left in any doubt as to why.

Make sure they spend time together as an officer team, where it’s just them, to be truly effective, they need to have space to talk as a team on their own, and be solid as a team, and have each other’s backs. Also socially, maybe weekly/fortnightly/monthly lunches or drinks after work or whatever suits them – so when they’re irritating the hell out of each other, or “storming” (!!) they can remember that ultimately they’re all just human beings trying to do good things.

Finally, same advice Trish McGrath gave to new staff – they’re not operating on tiny baby hearts – it may feel like it’s life and death sometimes, but it really, really isn’t!

Josh Clare Give them respect- let them know that you think they’re talented people who can contribute and make stuff better not just be a figurehead for organisational goals and wins.

Joff Cooke Don’t be too hasty to rubbish their new ideas – your ‘curse of knowledge’ may be one of the main things standing in the way of some exciting innovation. However, it would also be helpful early on to train an understanding that everyone is different, and there are many different roles to play in an effective team. None of us is as smart as all of us. And you don’t have to like anyone you work with… but you have to learn how to work with them. Understanding Belbin team roles can be a massive help.

Joe Cooper Understand, and help them understand, their emotional motivation for standing. Help them leverage the same reasoning and motivations to achieve specific and achievable goals.

Also don’t assume a set of rules or preconceptions will work because they are all batshit.

Honor Cohen HE is a change averse sector. Therefore what sabbs / officer can leave as a legacy outside of their union but in their institution is limited but important. It would be wise to help them focus on what is important, on what they can change so they feel positive at the end of their term of office and to get them to see their legacy as part of a continuum where it’s not about individuals or ego but a long term building of a better deal for those they represent.

Posted in Our sector.

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