The summer of 2005 will be long remembered as one of the worst hurricane seasons in recorded history. The devastation experienced on the United States Gulf Coast in the midst of Hurricane Katrina was immense. Yet, the situation worsened due to a lack of preparation for this type of catastrophe. The failure to prepare was furthered clarified when contrasted to the high level of readiness from the state of Florida in the wake of Hurricane Wilma. While neither of the affected areas could control the weather, they did have the ability to prepare for their response to it.
Preparation is the one thing that will help student leaders to be ready when opportunities come. Those who rise to leadership positions within their schools or organizations typically have strengths in the areas of spontaneity and reacting to impromptu situations. But these strengths can become glaring weakness if a student leader continually fails to properly prepare for their involvement.
Preparation and practice are closely related. The way you practice helps you to get ready for those opportune moments. The question is: What should a student leader prepare for?
1. Prepare information – Know what's going on around you. Know who your key players are and the strengths and involvements that each one brings to the team. We must be ready to share our stories and be able to clearly articulate the values of our organization.
2. Prepare possible questions and situations – Think through the questions that you expect other students will ask. Role play with other student leaders how you’ll respond in situations of conflict or crisis.
3. Prepare for different mindsets – Not everyone will think and believe the way that you do. What other kinds of perspectives are out there? How many ways have you viewed the current situation?
4. Preparation is anticipation – Think ahead.
Abraham Lincoln said, “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.”
We prepare for something based on the perception that our preparation will directly affect our performance. The more we can learn about our positions, expectations, student needs, communication styles, our own strengths – the more in tune our perceptions will be about how to perform when we are doing our job. False or mistaken perceptions will have a direct impact on how we perform and how we prepare.
For example, if we believe that people expect us to duplicate what the person in our position did the previous year, our effort will be built around the perception "How did "so and so" do it?" rather than, "How can I best use my strengths and abilities to create the best event ever?" Perception moves the Performance target and changes the direction of our preparation. (Note, I use the word perform to mean the various work, tasks, and interaction that we have with our fellow students, not trying to fulfill some role as an entertainer where others merely spectate.)
How To Prepare:
1. Consider other perspectives besides your own.
2. Be able to communicate and simplify various perspectives.
3. Apply things to memory.
4. Get to the point where you know what your response will be in certain situations. Know the next appropriate action.
Often we don’t prepare properly. You may be in charge of leading a small group of students, getting ready for an activity, or organizing a roster of clubs. Throughout the week your schedule overwhelms you and you find yourself scrambling to even show up. You quickly skim your responsibilities and rush into each situation, hoping to make the best of it. These kinds of things happen. But if they happen all the time, we fail in a few areas:
1. We show a lack of respect.
Your time is important, but so is the time of your people. The old saying goes, “When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.” Every moment spent in preparation will show your people that you value both them and their time.
2. We miss opportunities.
When we’re prepared, it provides more options for us. We have a greater awareness of what’s going on around us because we aren’t as focused on the things we weren’t ready for. Plus, preparation allows us to be more creative.
3. We do not grow.
Lack of preparation forces us to fall back into old habits or familiar ways of doing things. When we prepare, we open ourselves up to new ideas and new opportunities. Proper preparation helps us to break through some of our own comfort zones. We are better able to stretch our own learning.