Five Things To Think About For Five Minutes
Note: This is a reposting of a resource I originally wrote for studentlinc.net.
Running Effective Meetings. Brainstorming. Fundraising. Working With Advisors. Handling Conflict. Getting New Members For Your Organization. Publicity. Leading. Follow-Up.
How do you effectively train for these things in short, bite-sized amounts of time? How can you equip students or anyone else in many of these areas and more, even if you’re not present?
In my planning for another great year of student leadership training, I want to show you a tool I designed for busy students (and their busy advisors, mentors, teachers!). I needed something that wouldn’t take a lot of time, but would give students some handles on an issue and then allow them to wrestle with it for a little bit. The key was creating something simple.
First question: How much time?
Usually, I’ll spend time in a weekly meeting with all of our student leaders. Part of the meeting time is dedicated to learning, equipping, training. This typically takes ten minutes. But that seemed too long. In addition, I wanted a tool that students could use even if the trainer (usually me) wasn’t present. Something a student could always spend more time on, but the minimum time commitment was shorter. Let’s cut it in half – five minutes.
Second question: How much information?
I started with a kind of “one thing you need to know” idea. But I felt like that drastically limited some of the options that I could address around each issue. There was no way that I could cram a top ten list into five minutes. Plus, I didn’t want to simply pass on information, I needed the students to interact with it – quickly, internally, and actively. So I landed on five things. Why five? Because that’s about as much information as I can count on one hand (my apologies to the six-fingered man).
Third question: How do students interact with the information?
This is the most exciting part of 5x5s. When students write down the five things, the next step is for them to go through and rank them 1-5. They do this on the “P” column (p=priorities). I want them to begin to see each of these things in action – in their mind – and gauge its importance. I want them to ask themselves questions like: “Of these five things, which ones are vital? crucial? disposable?”
Secondly, they are then asked to assess whether they consider each thing a strength or weakness on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being strong and 5 being weak. They place these numbers on the “S” column (s=strengths). This encourages them to identify areas that they need to work on, as well as, affirms areas that they may already be doing well.
Now the students have created two columns from which to evaluate the five things. They can see what’s most important to them and where they feel their strengths and weaknesses lie. This provides them with a better way to process the information. If they placed a high priority next to an item, yet they feel that they are weak in it, it shows the student that this is something that they either must work on or find someone who can help them be successful in that area.
Which brings in the third column, the “D” column (d=all the words start with D). Students will mark each box with a symbol as they decide if this item is something that they must DO [+] – meaning it’s their job as the leader to accomplish this task or implement this item personally; DELEGATE [-] – meaning it’s not necessarily something they must do personally and they should find someone who is capable of doing it; DELAY [?] – this item isn’t something that they need to deal with right now but may be important in the future; or DELETE [X] – this isn’t information that they need.
Finally, the last square is for a Next Action Item. This is provided for any kind of To Do that may result from this process, any thought that this item brings to mind, potential names of people to delegate to, and/or a date that this item needs to be implemented by.
Fourth Question: Where does the information come from and how do they get it?
Enter the genius of blogging. Prior to training sessions, I can put together a list of five items that I believe are important to being successful or effective in a certain area. I will then post these items to a blog or facebook or twitter. That way, students know where the information is and know that they can get to it at any time. Plus, they are free to comment on it both before and after they do their 5x5s on it.
The material itself (the five things) comes from personal experience and proven practices. For example, let’s say I want to create five things on running effective meetings. My list may look something like this:
• Have an agenda.
• Start on time – respect people’s time.
• Get everyone involved in the discussions.
• Take minutes and good records of meetings.
• End each meeting with clearly defined action steps and responsibilities.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does name some of the key components of an effective meeting. I may even include some summary statements under each one to help define them a little better.
I have created a 5x5s worksheet as a pdf file. You can download it here. The pdf file is formatted to include two worksheets on each page with a dotted line so you know where to cut the page in half.
If in the process of using this tool, you have any ideas to enhance it or questions on how to use it, please feel free to comment or email me. I hope you will find this to be a useful tool in any type of teaching situation where you only have a short amount of time to get people thinking about a certain topic.