The culture of a Yearbook staff can be the difference between a successful year and a year of missed deadlines, disinterested students, and an unsatisfactory book. Much of that culture begins with the student leaders, and so we sat down with four leaders of a Yearbook team who produced a quality book that came out on time and sold well, and asked them what lessons they had learned and what they’d pass on to others.
Samantha, Ha, Jackie, and Hannah, team managers of the 2015-2016 Garden Grove High School Yearbook, are close friends, but more than that, they are like family to each other, and “family” was the model they used in building their team. These accomplished young ladies shared their insights in an interview with United Yearbook.
Hannah found that working around each person’s schedule and finding time where everyone overlaps is very important. She teaches her teammates how to understand and focus on their assigned task, but still allows them to have freedom to "do what works for them.” Hannah places a high priority on creating opportunities for her team to grow personally and have autonomy in projects. Her goal as a leader is for students to be open to trying different jobs and tasks on the project. She encouraged team members to develop new skills and not to focus exclusively on one specific area.
Jackie believes in allowing people to complete their work without “mothering” them. At the beginning of the year, she admitted that she was afraid to let others do independent work, but as the weeks went by, her fear lessened and her confidence in her teammates grew. But Ha was different; she did not have this fear at the beginning of the year. From the first day, Ha believed that each member had the ability and skill to do their job. She focused on developing people and their confidence in their work and tasks, believing that the job will be completed in the end. Her advice is to know your team members and how they view life.
Samantha learned that team members’ problems and personal issues transfer into the yearbook classroom, and cannot be left at the door. Therefore, as a manager, she models how to get along with others. She uses her skill as a mentor to understand her team member’s problems and help guide them in finding answers.
The key lesson Samantha wanted to pass on to others is to communicate honestly with your team members and encourage them to be open with each other. She sets an example by contributing positive critiques, including explaining how each member can do better work. Samantha emphasized how important it is to not change something a teammate has completed without first discussing the change with him or her. In order to grow as a team and in relationship with each other, it is vital to communicate and discuss progress and changes together. Her advice is to not be afraid of each other, but, like family members, work side by side.
Jackie agrees, and encourages team members to act like family by being honest and open with each other. She used team building activities to help build trust, and if something happens that breaks the trust, she feels it is important to take initiative to heal the break, not ignore it or expect it to get better on its own. There will be moments of disagreement between team members and differences of opinion, but it’s important not to put someone else down or speak badly of each other. Jackie says the ability to keep harmful words to oneself and to respect others is a high value and priority which should be imparted to all team members at the very beginning.
Ha believes that there may be too much energy spent on getting a grade in the class, which can stifle a student’s creativity. She tries for family unity with her team by focusing on the “journey” and not on specific technical points. According to Ha, if a student aspires to only the class grade, he or she will do just enough to meet the goal and not push to go above and beyond. She believes that creating a system of accountability as part of the grading process will keep people responsible, fulfilled, and creatively challenged. Her recommendation is for the teacher and team managers to work together to create such a system.
Allowing creativity and flexibility, coupled with responsibility; open, honest communication and facing issues head-on with respect and encouragement; focusing on the work and the end goal, not the grade; these were the ingredients for success for this team, and probably any team! As advisor Joon Kim put it, “This team was guided by vision and united in purpose.”
Our thanks to Samantha, Ha, Jackie and Hannah (and Joon Kim) for sharing their wisdom with us!