Issues with Upcoming Leadership Elections

Hi, I am a current Robotics Member (of three years) and lead (of one year).

Context: My team has been active and running for almost two decades; However, we are currently facing major issues with the lack of knowledge being passed down each year, mainly due to the pandemic and the absence of mentor and alumni support. Within the years I have been on the team, our mentors and alumni do not partake in the work that we do, resulting in the lack of knowledge being passed down and barely-trained students handling the robot. The pandemic hit us hard, where it feels like there was a “missing generation”, making us essentially a rookie team in experience and robotics knowledge.

The subgroups that have been hit the hardest are the technical ones, including Mechanical. Within Mechanical, there are only four veterans: three of them only have one year of experience on the team- one of the three is the current lead- and the fourth veteran has two years of experience but is chronically absent and unenthusiastic. The two veterans with one year of experience are both good mechanical members; However, neither has shown any significant leadership qualities, especially since they are both often absent and not outgoing/communicative with the rest of the team. The rest of the around six mechanical members are all rookies.

With the leadership elections for 2023-2024 coming up, our Mechanical Lead has expressed their interest in taking an Admin role of Project Administration/Management while avoiding the captain role since it is more likely that another member would be voted into that position.

This administrative position will lead to time and work constraints that will prevent them from aiding the Mechanical Subgroup anymore. With this, they will not be able to help mechanical during training and build season. This is an issue, especially since we did not have a working robot until the second round of regional competitions (ten weeks after kickoff) due to constant mechanical issues and a lack of efficiency/experienced members building the robot. Considering all these factors, I do not think that our Mechanical Lead should go for this role since it would only damage and worsen our mechanical team. They are the most essential mechanical member and the only one qualified enough for the Mechanical Lead Position.

As a result, should I continue with my stance on this matter and push our mechanical lead to stay in their position or should I let it go? What is the best way to go about this? Any help and/or past experiences are appreciated!

I don’t have much to add here because I haven’t ever been near a similar situation so don’t lend my words too much weight. However, I have been thinking about this for a bit now as it’s an interesting issue.
I think it’s important to think about why they want that role. Is it the increase in the leadership hierarchy? Is it feeling like they earned a new position? Deserve more responsibility? If I was in that position I’d certainly want the leadership position because of its importance.
However, they might also be burnt out of mechanical. Maybe they don’t enjoy it as much, or maybe they just want to try something new.
Granted, none of that may be true. But whatever it is, it seems like in your eyes it’s coming down to chosing what’s best for the member or potentially team.

IMO, this is a fair concern. And I’m not sure of something I would definitively do here, given I’m not a part of your team. But is there a way to compromise? Let them take on an increased role while still lending their experience to the mechanical side of the team? Maybe a split role where they have some mech lead and leadership team split? Maybe focus more on a sort of training session in the off-season to help prepare the new mech lead?

I definitely wouldn’t push them to do something they don’t want to do.

I think this is a time to ask them to start that leadership role by talking about how theyre going to prepare their successor. And maybe find out why they arent going so far as the team captain. That way you arent trying to shoehorn them back in to their old role. None of us here know them as well as you do, so why they want to change roles is a conversation between you is necessary.

And while that section will be potentially losing some that means there is room dor growth, and maybe a more direct teaching spot for a mentor.

We had 3 very active students, one regularly participating student, and two seniors that were barely there in rhe 22 season. Our lead mechanic, electrical, safety, and pit manager was a freshman with no experience who kept the 3 juniors on track and spent 7 hours on CAD designing our bot in a single Saturday, and knew that bot inside and out. While yes I’m bragging about one of mine, it’s also to make the point that your kids are capable of learning and there’s s good chance of one of them stepping up to fill the void.

Have you tried expressing your concerns with your mentors and asking them to be more involved? If it is within their skillsets and and availability that is. If they are technical and are already volunteering a lot of their time to the team, maybe they don’t recognize this gap. Adults make mistakes too!

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