Building upon a previous article on the elements of a successful ISOC, this post will inshaAllah help you to become more productive students during the ISOC/MSA (Islamic Society/Muslim Students Association) meeting process, and lead to success for the ISOC/MSA as a whole.
You might think that a meeting can be a last-minute event and still be a success; but as the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” It can be helpful to think of the meeting in stages: before, during, after. These categories can help you to break down what needs to be done at each stage of the meeting process. Remember that adding more stages to the planning aspect is not meant to overwhelm you and add extra work; on the contrary, by planning stage by stage, the whole process will be easier, smoother, and most importantly, more productive.
This is really important. Without an agenda the meeting is likely to not only extend beyond the allotted time, but also stray into irrelevant territory. Keep the agenda brief – mention the main points to be covered in a numbered list and also, if possible, the members of the team that are going to be present. Circulate a copy of the agenda BEFORE the meeting begins.
2. Time blocking
This might sound a little strange as, surely, each meeting is likely to be different. True, all meetings have a different amount of information to cover and therefore some might be longer than others. However, if you block out times for the meeting, then you know that you have a set time in which to cover all the points – something which will help to keep the meeting focused, efficient, and ultimately, productive. Allah reminds us many times in the Quran how quickly time passes:
“And on the Day when He will gather them, [it will be] as if they had not remained [in the world] but an hour of the day” [10:45].
A good way to ensure you are not wasting time is having a set amount of time for the meeting; for example, one hour before Maghrib. Once it’s time to pray, the meeting is done and you can all end on a high note and make du’a for the success of all that was discussed. Remember that
“prayer has been decreed upon the believers a decree of specified times” [4:103]
– so salah times are the perfect way to organise your day.
3. Time and place
Plan a time and place suitable for all. If you find that the same time each week, or fortnight (however often you have meetings) works well for all members, then stick to it. After all,
“the most beloved deed to Allah is the one which is done regularly even if it is little” [Bukhari].
Keep it consistent and you can reduce the possibility of people showing up on the wrong day!
4. To segregate, or not? That is the question…
Know how your meetings work: e.g. sisters and brothers in one room? Separate meetings, and the coming together of ideas? There is no right or wrong way; simply keep it within the bounds of Islam and know what works well for your ISOC/MSA. Also, remember you can’t please everyone, but taking into account all opinions and suggestions is a good idea. There’s nothing worse for team morale than a president who brushes aside other team members’ comments/suggestions, and doesn’t take the time to listen to others. Remember there is a difference between a good leader – as exemplified by our Prophet Muhammad – and a tyrant!
5. Structure, structure, structure
The previous article spoke of having a structured ISOC/MSA, and before the meeting has even taken place it is important that everyone knows what their role is. For example: have you arranged for the secretary or somebody to take the minutes of the meeting? Have you allocated somebody to draft and send the agenda prior to the meeting each time? Who books the venue?
If the ISOC/MSA is structured in advance and everyone is clear on what their roles are, then you can avoid the awkward moment when two members of the team thought the other was meant to book the venue. Learn from the example set by our Prophet and have a leader to guide this process.
6. Break the mould
When we think of meetings, we often think of a stuffy seminar room, with all sitting round a table with at least one member of the team trying their best not to fall asleep. Why not break the mould? If you live somewhere where you can rely on the weather, then why not take the meeting outside? A place where everyone is happier and more relaxed is definitely the right venue for a productive meeting.
Do not forget the beauty of nature and its close link to Allah :
“And [He has subjected] whatever He multiplied for you on the earth of varying colours. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who remember” [16:13].
Always start the meeting in the name of Allah . Perhaps even a du’a that the meeting be a success and Allah guides you to work hard, with sincere intentions, and most of all work towards what is best for the ISOC/MSA, and therefore the students for whom you are having the meeting.
2. Adapting the plan
Although you have planned what is to be covered in the meeting, if a new issue arises then tackle it, or make a note for next time. Don’t be rigid with the plan and therefore ignore important points arising from the meeting just because they don’t appear in the agenda.
3. No ‘I’ in Team
Are there any housekeeping points of discussion? The president needs to arrange the all-important one-to-one meetings with various team members – and the end of the meeting can be a good time to arrange this. However, it is important to remember that everybody does not have to stay behind to listen to these parts.
I’ve been to plenty of unproductive meetings in my time to know that things irrelevant to the needs of the team as a whole do not need to be tackled in the meeting itself.
4. Remember the vision
Whatever the agenda of the meeting is, it is important to ensure it is in tune with the vision of the ISOC/MSA; and if not, how can it be adapted? Is the vision still relevant? Does it require updating?
It is important to involve all members of the team if adapting the vision, otherwise there is the risk of the meeting turning into a one-man band.
5. Keep it relevant
Camaraderie and getting along with other group members is great, but the ISOC/MSA meeting is NOT the place to discuss how your final essay of the term is going, or what you are doing for your holidays. By all means have these conversations, because the better team members get along, the more likely they are to work hard towards a shared goal. Being socially productive doesn’t necessarily lead to a productive meeting though. Keep these discussions separated from the meeting itself. Along with the person keeping the minutes of the meeting – depending on the size of the team – it might be worthwhile having a chairperson who can help guide the meeting according to the agenda, and keep a check on time.
At the end of the meeting, re-cap, and make action points for next time. Importantly, in the name of Allah thank everyone for making the effort to turn up to the meeting and their continued efforts in being part of the ISOC/MSA committee.
Learn from the life of our beloved Prophet and pray your salah together. InshaAllah you will all feel the benefits of this for team building.
Re-cap and rearrange
Send a re-cap email – this is helpful for those members that couldn’t make it, but also provides a reference point for those that did. It can also be beneficial to use as a means of checking progress throughout the year – to check if the ISOC/MSA is on track for meeting its goals. If not, then you know what to cover in your next meeting!
Use this re-cap email to also confirm the meeting time and place for next time (even if it stays the same every time). To keep this process productive, the person whose task it is to distribute the email should have a template saved in their draft folder so that information required every time doesn’t have to be typed out repeatedly.
In addition to the above tips for a productive meeting, do you have any more? Share them with us below!