Student leadership: Building a culture of accountability

Angela Lu, MBA ’19, is president of the Graduate Business Student Association and wrote this for the Olin Blog.

One hundred and fifty-three days left in office.

We’re past the midway point of our term “in office.” I know because I laid out the timeline for the academic year over my summer, and installed a countdown timer on my web browser. It’s not that I can’t wait to graduate and move on from Olin; quite the contrary, I wanted to make sure that my team and I do not lose sight of how many days left we have to make an impact while still on campus.

So as the fall semester draws near its end, what have we been working on? How have we been doing?

We kicked off this year with three lofty goals: first, to increase Olin pride; second, to increase connectivity; and third, to increase accountability. The first, in many ways, we deem a natural derivative of the second two. In particular, we’ve really focused on increasing accountability.

I noted from the start that it wasn’t going to be easy. Holding others accountable for their actions sounds reasonable in theory, but few if any of us really enjoy starting a conversation, “Hey, you didn’t deliver on your promises and that was uncool.”

I am immensely proud of and grateful to my colleagues—the vice presidents of social programs, club presidents, etc.—who have boldly stepped up to the plate and enforced stricter RSVP policies for social as well as professional events. Together, we’ve turned away classmates without tickets at the door of Pin-Up Bowl (for our Welcome Back Party) and withheld food and beverage from walk-in event participants until the registered attendees had had their fill.

We’ve heard lots of grumblings. We’ve been questioned: Is this really necessary?

Here’s why we’re fundamentally trying to build a culture of heightened accountability: no one likes a flake. And while some events are more “informal” than others (such as social get-togethers), I firmly believe that they too are occasions for decorum. Since our integrity is built upon the sum of our consistent actions, we are behooved by our shared values to honor our commitments—and proactively communicate if we no longer are able to.

After all, it is exceedingly simple to change an RSVP response—it costs nothing save a few seconds. However, an accurate headcount for any event makes life much easier for an event organizer. It is an invaluable piece of data, but only if it is reliable. True professionalism stems from our ability to consider and be sensitive to the needs of others we interact with.

We fully acknowledge that the status quo—in companies, among friends, at school—may be less than ideal. Calendar invitations may be accepted and disregarded. Event registrations may frequently result in no-shows.

What is “normal” isn’t desirable—and here at Olin, we’re pushing ourselves to do better, and to be better. That’s why we’re tackling these tough conversations head on in building a culture of accountability and professionalism. We painstakingly seek to hold ourselves to higher standards so that we can all become our best possible selves. That is the growth and development we came to Olin for.

Pictured above: About 112 Olin graduate students at the GBSA club officers’ bootcamp in early October 2018.

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