Anthony Martin 2015-09-10 10:50:36
WHEN IT COMES TO TEAM-BUILDING ON CAMPUS, EVEN THE SMALLEST ACTIONS CAN BE MAKE OR BREAK. I hope all of you had or are having a great back-to-school fall rush. At Houston Baptist University, ours was the most challenging ever. Yet, when all was said and done, it was also the most fulfilling ever. My staff was outstanding. As I mentioned at the very beginning of my term as NACS president, the base I tend to fall back on is my experience in athletics. Being members of a team—with everyone doing their part to make the team successful—helps to create trust and confidence between you and your peers. I know most of you have seen or heard this before: Together Everyone Achieves More In our case, working as a team makes our institution better. All of us experience different dynamics on our campuses. Some of us have excellent relationships with other departments, while others do not. At HBU, we as store staff decided long ago that we weren’t going to say or do things that create an us-against-them dynamic; we especially wouldn’t display such a mindset in front of our students. I know it can be easy to blame the professors or someone in a specific department for giving us the wrong information, late information, or no information at all about learning materials being used in their class. Sometimes, instructors will tell students, “I gave that information to the bookstore,” when we know full well they didn’t. But we have to swallow that and soldier on for the good of the institution as a whole. In our store, we make an effort to tell our customers, “We’ll check on that and get back to you as soon as we can.” Most times, we’ve already attempted several times to get that info. During this latest rush, we had a situation where a faculty member didn’t turn in her textbook requisition. A student came to the store to buy the book for class and wasn’t very happy. We told the student we would check to see what happened and let them have an answer by the end of the day. We contacted the faculty member and got her textbook request. She said was very sorry she’d forgotten—but even happier that we hadn’t thrown her under the bus to the student. Other times, instead of holding our tongues, fulfilling our goals involves loosening our tongues to express gratitude. Every so often, we hold a little thank-you party for all the department secretaries in the back of the store. It’s not a flashy venue, and all we serve is cookies and lemonade, but it lets them know we appreciate the effort they make to try to get instructors’ booklists turned in. With so much communication done by email, it’s also a way to make sure the secretaries actually set foot inside the store at least once a term, which helps cement our relationship with them even more. We also try to participate in as many functions on campus as possible. We can’t always donate items or money to everyone who asks, but we do what we can. In some cases, that just means letting a group put up signs in the store or use us as a drop location for their event. We also volunteer our time. We help with booths at some campus events, and we run mini-book fairs when there are author readings or signings on campus, whether it’s an HBU event or sponsored by an outside group. We don’t always make a ton of money at these events, but they help establish the store as part of the whole university. At commencement, we make sure we’re on hand with extra caps, gowns, and tassels just in case a graduating student has lost something or didn’t try their gown on ahead of time and discovers the one they have doesn’t fit. We also perform usher work and direct folks to where graduation is taking place. These are very simple, easy tasks, but they’re greatly appreciated by all. Even though not every member of our campus is a team player, we don’t let a few bad apples change how we do what we do. We don’t let folks run over us, but we also won’t let a few bad teammates change our willingness to help our students, faculty, and staff. Doing a positive job in our store contributes to the overall mission and goal of the university. I tell my staff all the time that it’s the little things we do that can make us look good or bad. It doesn’t take that much effort to be considerate and listen to what others have to say and try to help them as best we can. I know all of you do things like this for your own institutions all the time, and that what I’m saying isn’t new to you. But I also know we get so busy and so caught up in our daily work that we can sometimes forget even these very basic tenets. Building positive relationships takes time and effort—but tearing them down irreparably can be done with one careless statement. So stay calm and be mindful. Anthony Martin is director of the Houston Baptist University Bookstore, Houston, TX, and president of NACS.
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