If you have just assumed your role as an MUN director, secretariat or committee chair, I must inform you, that you have just embarked on a journey that will undoubtedly change you forever. Few journeys in Models of United Nations can compare to this one in terms of development, responsibility and achievement.
This article pinpoints 7 qualities or building blocks, that distinguish a good MUN director from a great one. With these points in check, you can count on your director experience truly marking a change in the lives of not only yourself, but others as well.
# 1 – Be an Ambassador.
From the moment you assume your role, you no longer represent yourself. You represent your model first, your team and council second. Quite the task! Everywhere you go, every action you take must take that into account. Sometimes at the beginning, that transition can be difficult. But remember, your delegates will always be looking up to you, and your actions will be observed even out of MUN context. You are now a beacon, a role model and an ambassador of your model all over campus, and beyond. Always remember that.
#2 – Be A Developer of Others.
It is hard to describe the bounds of motivation and progress you will reach from the moment you switch your definition of yourself from a person living to develop yourself, to a person whose main purpose is to develop other people.
Your delegates are your purpose, your output, your mission.
Everything will change, including your resolve to do everything in the best way, as well as your own fulfillment and development. This is when all the late night researching, the hours of preparation, the academic paper, the training sessions and the team meetings will take on a different meaning, and you will find energy for them that you never knew you had.
That is also what truly distinguishes the job of a chair from any other. The growth you will undergo both personally and professionally will exceed all expectations. If only you changed your main purpose and self definition right now into: a developer of others.
# 3 – Feedback is your GOLD.
What makes a director/ chair different is that he is programmed to expect criticism, and after a while, needs it as a crucial part of life. Aside from delegates development, your eye should also be kept on your own learning and growth. Feedback is probably the most valuable thing you will encounter during this experience.
Feedback from your high board, trainers or supervisors, feedback from your team, and feedback from your delegates. This will be your progress checker, your insurance your goals are being met, or if anything needs to be improved.
The problem is that sometimes, we can be resistant to criticism.
My advice: Value feedback with all you have. If you truly want to be the best director/ chair/ possible, you must give yourself the chance to adapt, change and be receptive to advice at all times.
Practical Tips to utilize feedback from all sources:
*Ask for it! Ask for feedback from your high board or trainers as frequently as possible, and listen very carefully to the remarks.
*Brainstorm a creative way to let delegates give you their honest feedback anonymously. Delegate feedback is by far the most essential one. They are after all the ones all your work is directed towards.
Ideas? Pass by a special council hat or bowl, where they can place their remarks on papers anonymously. If you got to know them personally, ask them after the sessions.
It is preferable that they provide it individually. Peer pressure can be damaging in this case. Most delegates, especially first timers, are afraid to stand out, and tend to go with the flow. If most have positive opinions, they will fear adding their negative remark, and vice versa. Work around that with the way you collect their feedback.
*Most importantly, never take feedback personally or as criticism. The purpose of feedback is your own benefit. If you find yourself resisting specific remarks, ask yourself why first. if you are resisting because you feel you are working too hard and don’t deserve to be criticized, I must inform you that you are being defensive.
*And remember, you do have the choice to follow advice or not. You are a director/ chair and your council is in the end your own responsibility. Welcoming feedback from all sources doesn’t mean follow it to the last letter. The key is to honestly strive for continuous improvement, and distinguish between your own resistance to change, and what to utilize from other’s advice.
# 4 –Research is Your New Best Friend.
The definition of the word research takes on a whole new meaning once you are a director. It now comprises more than the issues relating to your council, committee, topics, or even time. Your job doesn’t stop there. It now means you attempt to become all rounded in all areas possible, broaden your horizons and always stay ahead of the delegates, at all times at all costs.
Does this mean you must know everything at all times? Does that mean you allow the pressure to corner you? Absolutely not. In this case, I mean that research in the life of a chair/ director becomes an integral part of daily life. It is an enjoyable activity, a habit, that is truly meant to be enjoyable. Don’t do it for fear of not knowing the answer of a question a delegate asks. Believe it or not, you can say “I don’t know”, and maintain tons of respect from anyone around you. But, for your own development and benefit, what I recommend is that you start putting “research” in mind from as early as possible, and work on turning it into a hobby, or passion, certainly not just a chore.
“Research” doesn’t only mean political articles, or academic journals on your committee topics. That’s why it usually gets such a bad rep. It can in fact be newspapers, interesting books, novels or even love stories that include historical or political aspects, or even Hollywood stories, or new box office hits. Yes. These are news and they will essentially keep you up to date on all the globes current issues, with all their kinds. This will become necessary when you progress throughout the year. And you will truly see its tangible benefits when you are talking with the team, entering into any conversation, writing the academic paper, and running discussions with your delegates.
Practical tools to turn research from chore to habit:
* Turn your homepage into a News website (CNN, BBC, NY Times, even The Insider) . Change it regularly to get new perspective.
* Subscribe to regular emails from as many news websites or academic journals as you can. They will be the first thing you see on your email.
* If you have a Smartphone or tablet, pack them with as many news apps and political feature apps as possible. Anything that can get you rolling into more political issues.
* Look for your spark, your field of interest, and exploit it to get you deeper into other areas . I for instance have a passion for philosophy, more so than simple politics. I looked for articles and books that analyzed political theories, and from that, we branched a crucial part in our committee topics when I was an RC. Do not be afraid to read in different areas. You never know where you may find a connection.
* Never leave an opportunity to ask, join political discussions, and listen to people talking about history or events, even if you don’t have much info to begin with. Then go home and read about as much as you can yourself, so next time, you’re prepared.
* Watch movies that have political twists, or historical aspects. Stay up to date with current politicians lives. Read more about personal stories of people going through current political crisis, like Syria, or Africa, rather than just the main headlines or overall objective scientific political analysis. Make it personal. That will take away the idea that it is just information you need to accumulate. Create your own analysis and theories. However, BEWARE, it is highly preferable you do not offer your personal opinion in your sessions or academic topics in the Research paper or sessions, which brings us to our next point.
# 5 –Objectivity is Your New Identity
You are no longer allowed to have an opinion. Yes, that is right. By that, I mean that once you sign on as a director/chair, you are now mainly an educator. Your job is to teach your delegates How to think, rather than What to think. Please refrain from adding your personal analysis or point of view in the sessions. It may seen extremely harmless, and you may have stressed upon the fact that this is just your opinion, and your delegates can think whatever they want. But, the inescapable fact is, they will remember it, and it will forever mark the way they see this particular issue under discussion. The reason for that is because, you, to your delegates are a trustworthy source, their source of knowledge. They admire you, respect you and trust you. If you add your opinion, believe me, it will do more harm than good.
Instead, try to always remain neutral in your analysis. List the different pieces of information that are needed to form an opinion. Always add pros and cons, for and against in every sentence. Let them decide.
# 6 — Integrity of academic information Is Your Life!
Imagine a session in which you gave an incorrect piece of information. Imagine a published academic paper that has faulty facts. Imagine if it was discovered you cited the wrong source, or that plagiarism is present in your academic paper. Just imagine what this will do to the image of the model.
These little mistakes are never ever done on purpose. They are just inevitable results of the little mistake of: Not double-checking information. Just a little glitch. Disastrous consequences.
This little “glitch” happened to me as a RC. While writing a handout, I cited a very respectable news site (shall remain unnamed) without thinking to double check the information. And it turned out to be inaccurate! Another team member discovered it before distribution thankfully. But that was a lesson learnt. Always, always, double check your information from many sources. Even if you are sure this site is trustworthy. Always cite when needed, and never risk the accusation of plagiarism. Ever.
Practical tools to ensure integrity of academic info:
* At least two sources: When you look for a single piece of factual information, conform it from at the very least, one more source. preferably two or more others. This seemed ridiculous to me at the start of the year. If one website is well known, why would they offer false information? Till I learnt. 9 times out of ten, the information will be accurate. But one false piece of information you add in your academic work is enough to compromise the models (and your) image forever.
* Tabs and Bookmarks. I cannot overstate the value of them both. Tabs so that once you enter a search item, say “WW2”, you get over a hundred results. Please do not open each one, wait till you read it then go back. that is terribly inefficient. Just open as many as you can in a new tabs, skim through as many as possible, eliminate the ones you don’t want, then start reading the ones left. You should start with over 20, and end up with almost 5. Bookmarks are so that whatever you read, even if you are not 100% sure you will need later, should be kept in store just in case you later need to remember where you read it. Every single word you read will affect your memory in some way, even if minuscule. Chances are, you will need to remember where you read it, even if one in 20 times. Still, better safe than sorry.
* Chose well-established sources: Don’t cite from blogs or opinion articles and expect full accuracy. Chose well known, established academic journals, news sites and the like to begin with.
* Third eye perspective: Always have team members double checking everything that any team member writes or finds. Not to correct or to fish for mistakes, but because team feedback is always essential to gain perspective. Maybe you can enhance, or refine. And because if something is wrong, it is better if you hear the remarks from your own team that from outside sources.
# 7 –No More “I”
You are now a 1/4 of a single entity. That is exactly the right expression. Few words can adequately describe just how much this job depends infinitely on proper teamwork. With time, you will arrive to a state, in which you automatically, no longer use the word “I” to discuss council matters, or to explain a decision. You will truly not be able to tell which ideas were who’s, because of the collaboration that every single detail requires. It will always be “We”.
If this state is not reached, you will miss out on quite a lot, in terms of council cohesion and success. It may seem small, but this detail will make worlds of difference in the future. Especially in what I call “Crunch time”: Times of crisis in a session, or conference, when you’re pressured to bring the best results out possible. This is when team dynamics, solidarity, and indescribably detailed and smooth communication will become essential. When push comes to shove, your team is all you’ve got. That understanding is a separator between success or failure.
And that brings us to the end of the 7 qualities that make the building blocks of your director experience. I will be posting a more detailed series of articles on each of the pillars soon. Until then, I’d LOVE to hear your feedback! Did you think this article was helpful? What else would like to see me write on Best Delegate? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments!