If you’ve ever transferred to a new school or joined a team or club for the first time, you probably know how it feels to be an outsider – awkward, embarrassed, maybe even rejected. On the other hand, when leaders strive to include everyone, the result is a stronger team with a shared vision, defined roles for each individual, and better communication all around. Including others also largely helps to stop bullying from happening.
“When you make sure everyone is included, it signals that you value everyone and not just a select few,” says Jennifer Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine. “The very act of including everyone reduces bullying because it eliminates the pool of potential victims.”
Start by looking around your FFA chapter. There are likely some members taking an agriculture class for the first time. There may be others who moved from another school and don’t yet feel like part of the group. Make a sincere effort to get to know their needs, desires and reasons for joining.
“View everyone compassionately,” Hancock says. “Everyone you meet has their own story and experiences. Your job as a leader is to find out what makes them the unique individual they are and what strengths they bring to the team.”
Some tips to help:
Don’t make assumptions.
“If someone is shy, withdrawn or different than everyone else, don’t assume you know why or that you won’t like them,” Hancock says. “Make an effort to get to know them. You’ll be glad you did.”
Let everyone speak.
“Every group has loud, confident people and shy, quiet people. Create space and invite shy people to give their opinion,” Hancock says. “Just because someone is quiet and observant doesn’t mean they don’t have something to add to your discussion. Some people aren’t willing to compete with others, and they are often the people with the best ideas. They just need to be invited and given the space to comment.”
Acknowledge others’ value.
Consider taking time each meeting to recognize one or two members for the value they bring to your team. Make sure everyone receives recognition at some point.
Everyone understands the language of laughter, so incorporate good-natured humor to lessen stress levels and create bonding within your chapter. Start a meeting with a funny story, show a relevant comedic video clip, or have an impromptu celebration with food just to thank members for being who they are.
– Jessica Mozo