Category Archives: complacency

What Jay Bilas and the NCAA Have to Do with 40 Answers

By Nathaniel Clarkson (James Madison)

The NCAA announced last week that it would stop selling jerseys and other team memorabilia on its website after acknowledging it could be seen as hypocritical, according to ESPN.

As the governing body for college sports the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from receiving financial benefits in an effort to preserve the players’ amateur status. The NCAA’s decision to shutter its online merchandise shop follows a series of tweets by ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas in which he drew attention to the NCAA’s inconsistency in profiting from student-athletes who are barred from doing the same.

If not for Jay Bilas’ tweets it’s unlikely the story would have been picked up by major news outlets whose coverage eventually pressured the NCAA to change direction. The NCAA’s reversal on selling team merchandise illustrates the potential for one person on Twitter to achieve change through mere words.

This week marks the beginning of the 4th annual 40 Answers in 40 Days, the Twitter campaign that invites participants to crowdsource answers to the 40 most common excuses for hazing in the 40 days leading up to National Hazing Prevention Week.

From the very start 40 Answers is always filled with enthusiasm and passion – Twitter users from fraternities, sororities, teams and other organizations eager to stand up and share their rebuttals to the most ubiquitous ways their peers rationalize hazing.

Equally predictable is the occasional Twitter troll who turns up each year to tell us why tweeting “isn’t actually doing anything” and “we need to actually do something.

But as we’ve seen in so many cases – most recently by Jay Bilas tweeting the NCAA into submission – Twitter and 40 Answers have the potential to achieve real change. Equipping student leaders with the intellectual firepower to change their organization is doing something. After all, you can’t change a person’s actions until you change their mind.

Falling Behind is Not a Noble Tradition

By Leadership Consultant Bill Morosco (Florida)

Throughout the course of my travels, I have seen some strikingly different sights: the mountains of Utah, the plains of West Texas, the lights of downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco, the beaches of San Diego and the breathtaking views from the Grand Canyon.

But as I began to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) I started to think about what the vastly different chapters in my expansive region had in common. The first things that came to mind of course were our values: Love, Honor and Truth, and our opposition to hazing — those qualities that make us all Sigma Nus. Next came brotherhood, the LEAD program, and the desire to become a Rock Chapter. But one very concerning similarity seemed to follow me from state to state, city to city and chapter to chapter.

Every time I met with a campus Greek advisor the same issue would present itself: IFC. Whether it was in risk management, participation, involvement, philanthropy, or scholarship, IFC was always underperforming compared to Panhellenic, MGC or NPHC.

Lately, this problem has troubled me quite a bit. I’ve continually asked myself, Why? Why do we as IFC men always seem to be the problem, the bad guy, the black sheep? I’ve finally been able to come up with an answer, and unfortunately it’s all around us.

Tradition. Our nostalgic way to relive the times of the past. As Bob Dylan pointed out quite some time ago, “the times, they are a-changing.” And he is right. What you know has become more important than who you know. GPA, diversity, membership development and community involvement have become the focus of Greek communities across the nation. Yet we still see IFC as the late-adopter, being forced into submission by universities and national organizations, clinging to traditions and the days of old. We continue to act like we live in the days when hazing was a way of life, when grades didn’t matter, when respect was given and not earned, when leadership just meant being in the “boys club.”

We have seen time and time again that those who do not evolve face extinction. There are countless examples of old traditions that have needed to change and the ostracism that faced those who refused to relinquish their ways. Our insistence on tradition has made us continue to look back to the past instead of looking forward to the future.

With this, I challenge our chapters to become innovators. Be the trendsetters. Look around your campus, your community and your world and see what needs to change. Be the force of change instead of being forced to change.

Never Settle for Second Best

When the same team wins every year it can be discouraging for the groups that fall a hair short time and time again. Why aim for the top if you’re just going to end up on the silver medal platform again?

It’s great for the groups (or chapters) that always win; the momentum from an impressive streak is tough to stop. This is, after all, excellence on display. But for the groups trying to get there, it can be a motivation killer. For those middle-of-the-road groups, no matter how hard they work, it seems that one team/chapter/company is always just out of reach.

But every so often one of those teams breaks through after years of being relegated to runner-up status.

Last week Nielsen announced that “Good Morning America” had attracted more viewers than “Today” for the first time in 16 years. It was the longest winning streak in TV history, according to the NYT’s Media Decoder blog.

The triumph of “Good Morning America” over “Today” should be uplifting news for any group that’s been striving for excellence but always in the shadow of the perennial winner. If ABC can break through after holding second place for 852 weeks, then any chapter can earn the top spot for scholarship/manpower/intramurals/campus leadership/etc. no matter how long they’ve been stuck in second place.

The battle for morning show supremacy is also a cautionary tale for chapters that have dominated their campus for years – and there are plenty of them. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. NBC was smart enough to know it couldn’t rest on its laurels, yes despite some major strategic moves in recent weeks it couldn’t keep from being supplanted by ABC as owner of the top morning show. At least for the time being, that is.

How Your Chapter Can Benefit from the Hacker Culture

Earlier this week, as his company was filing its historic IPO, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg published a buzz-worthy letter explaining the company’s “hacker” culture for potential investors.

Though often associated with unlawfully accessing computers, “hacking” has taken an entirely different meaning in recent years. “In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done,” Zuckerberg explained. “Hacker” culture has been in the tech/DIY lexicon for a number of years now thanks in large part to the popular DIY site Lifehacker.com.

“The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration,” Zuckerberg continued. “Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete. They just have to go fix it — often in the face of people who say it’s impossible or are content with the status quo.”

The spirit of hacker culture, particularly the idea of continuous improvement, resonates closely with Sigma Nu’s vision statement Excelling with Honor. Additionally, embracing the concept that something can always be better fits right in with Regent Durham’s focus on chapter strength.

“We all have an obligation to make sure our chapters operate at the highest level of excellence, delivering our mission, pulling their own weight, and always striving to improve,” Regent Durham said in a recent interview. “[Sigma Nu's Founders] were not interested in mediocrity or being average.”

So you might say Sigma Nu was practicing the hacker culture before it was cool (that is, rejecting the status quo in favor of continuous improvement).

Even companies outside the tech industry are starting to realize the importance of testing the boundaries of how something should be done as they strive for excellence. And, more to the point, so are many of our collegiate chapters.

//Nathaniel Clarkson

Give your chapter meetings (and chapter culture) a makeover

Here’s a small excerpt from a must-read piece by Martin Lindstrom:

The first thing I do during the course of my change-agent work for Fortune 100 companies is to establish the 4:30 rule. The maximum number of people in any meeting should be four, and meetings should never last any longer than 30 minutes. No phones allowed. You may think this a little radical but, if you want to act entrepreneurial, then these are the most important steps to take.

If you’re able to get the right people into one room over two days, the stage is set. Make sure the room is far from the office and prep everyone on the notion that it’s essential to not only come up with ideas for change, but actually lock them in by the end of the second day. If the incentive is great enough, and everyone’s prepared to roll up their sleeves, in my experience, it will happen.

Do yourself a favor and set aside 5 minutes to read the full story.

How could you apply Lindstrom’s other ideas to your chapter?

What your chapter can learn from a resurgent magazine

By Nathaniel Clarkson

Print is dying, we’re always told, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Magazines and newspapers are losing readers–and revenue–to blogs and other forms of new media. There’s just no way print can compete when everything is stacked against them. Or can they?

The unfolding story of The Atlantic offers a refreshing counterexample to the idea that print is helplessly disappearing.

More generally, the magazine’s resurgence during a particularly hostile climate demonstrates for our chapters that achieving success against the odds is quite possible (and the perceived odds are often illusory).

The following story also provides a number of other lessons for student leadership organizations looking to reach the next level.

Reports Ad Week:

For eight years, [Bradley] been trying to staunch the flow of red ink at what was then called the The Atlantic Monthly, only to see the losses increase (one year, to more than $10 million).

On recruiting the right people (values-based recruitment):

When the story of The Atlantic’s turnaround is told, the credit tends to go to the 58-year-old Bradley. But Bradley himself believes his greatest talent is finding talent, and he gives the majority of the credit to Smith, who he calls “unmatchedly gifted.”

On the importance of innovation (i.e. not getting caught up in what “everyone else is doing”):

By rethinking everything about the company, however, Smith found a way to make that pay. Think Silicon Valley, but without the free food and massages. (Smith did away with perks like free bagels in the mornings.) “We don’t have foosball machines, but we filter for entrepreneurial talent,” Smith says.

On admitting mistakes:

Bradley, looking back, is candid about his own failings.

The Atlantic’s losses mounted quickly under Bradley’s hands-off ownership style, growing from $4.5 million to more than $10 million. [...] Realizing he had to be more involved, he then tried every fix he could think of: He upgraded the paper stock, moved subscription prices up, then down, took advertisers on exotic retreats, to no avail.

==> People make mistakes and chapters err. Acknowledge the mistake, fix it and move on.

Again on the importance of innovation and reinvention:

“One of the great flaws in traditional media companies is they pay lip service to innovation,” Smith says. “They can’t restructure because they’re supertankers. They don’t reinvent themselves to their core.”

There will always be some reason to explain away poor chapter performance. “Numbers were down for everyone this year.” “Every other student organization hazes too.” “Our university president is anti-Greek.” (Have you ever asked her why?) “We’re waiting for the seniors to graduate to fix problem X.”

So what. The odds were against The Atlantic and they made it happen anyways. How will your chapter rise above the everything-is-against-us narrative and defy the trend to achieve excellence?

Senioritis: searching for the cure

By Nick Claghorn (Indiana)

As of now, most colleges and universities have started the 2011-12 school year, which means thousands of students are in their senior year. You may be one of those seniors and you look back on your college career and see that you’ve accomplished a great amount. Senioritis may kick in (or already has) and you’ll experience a lack of motivation. Don’t let this be the death of you as an active fraternity member – there’s still plenty for you to do!

Thanks to my graduate professor, I have been introduced to a theory called the ‘Equity Theory’ which states that ‘individuals think about what they put in to the organization and then think about what they receive in return’ – pretty simple. The more you give, the more you receive. However, common sense would tell us that this is not always the case.

In the fraternity, there is a democratic society of executive board members and committees. The group decides what is best for themselves by establishing order and fairness, and the votes go as the company/organization go. If it goes well, you create an environment conducive to ample opportunities for organizational (and personal!) growth. Here’s where I believe motivation can be the most successful. I’ll go over motivation by discussing three common myths about motivation:

Myth #1: “I can motivate people”

–Not really.  People have to motivate themselves.  An organization can set up an environment where motivation produces positive results for the fraternity member. Many seniors slack on their influence because they believe that they’ve put in all the effort they can during their time as a chapter member. One of the reasons they may think like that is because they don’t see the return value for them because they’ll be out of school in a few months anyways. Younger members look to the senior members, see their apathy, and reflect it in their treatment of the organization. If you, as a senior, find yourself in this situation, remind yourself that this is a lifetime commitment to Sigma Nu and that the rewards will continue past your student years.

Myth #2: “Fear is a damn good motivator”

–Fear can be a great motivator for a short period of time. ‘Can be’ and ‘short’ are two fragments in the last sentence that tell the tale. Putting fear into someone to complete a task or assignment will not produce results for worthy, established chapters in the long-run.

Myth #3: “I know what motivates me, so I know what motivates my [chapter brothers].”

–Different people are motivated by different things. Not everyone moves at the same pace or creates the same opportunities for themselves, but, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, everyone is motivated by the same five categories of needs!

  1. Physiological: Need for water, food, and air
  2. Safety: Need to be safe from harm
  3. Social: Need for friendship and acceptance
  4. Esteem: Need for recognition and respect
  5. Self-actualization: Need to maximize one’s potential

Numbers 1 and 2 are almost 100% the same for every individual and it is believed that necessary fulfillment of these needs must come first in order to satisfy the remaining needs. It is numbers 3, 4, and 5 that compound the complexity of the human character.

You, as a senior, have seen the ups and downs of the chapter throughout your time as a collegiate member and may be the best person in your chapter to identify what needs are not being met.

We normally achieve high levels of positive social need through Sigma Nu but not everyone experiences it the same. Are there members who may be struggling in this area? Have you tried to help?

The fraternity provides opportunities for organizational achievement and recognition, which can positively influence respect. Is your chapter recognizing the outstanding performers?

And self-actualization deals internally within the individual. He must recognize that he can achieve better and, by doing so, will strive to make himself (and others around him) better.

Your chapter stands by the same values as all the others: Love, Honor, and Truth. Motivating your chapter to get the most out of your fellow members may be the most rewarding – and challenging – task you will attempt in your young life. By doing so, you may satisfy your own need for recognition and respect, as well and realizing that you are maximizing your own potential.

Leverage the power of feedback loops

Wired is currently running a story about how one California city got speeders to slow down in school zones, all without the consequence of earning a speeding ticket:

In five Garden Grove school zones, they put up what are known as dynamic speed displays, or driver feedback signs: a speed limit posting coupled with a radar sensor attached to a huge digital readout announcing “Your Speed.”

The results fascinated and delighted the city officials. In the vicinity of the schools where the dynamic displays were installed, drivers slowed an average of 14 percent. Not only that, at three schools the average speed dipped below the posted speed limit.

The signs leverage what’s called a feedback loop, a profoundly effective tool for changing behavior. The basic premise is simple. Provide people with information about their actions in real time (or something close to it), then give them an opportunity to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors.

They are in fact powerful tools that can help people change bad behavior patterns, even those that seem intractable. Just as important, they can be used to encourage good habits, turning progress itself into a reward. In other words, feedback loops change human behavior.

This story got us wondering – how can our chapters apply the idea behind feedback loops to improve their chapter’s performance? Here are a few possibilities we came up with:

1. Post the grade for every exam on the wall above your desk.

2. Track the number of hours you spend studying vs. playing video games (or whatever variation suits your work vs. leisure habits). Post the numbers in a place where you’ll see them throughout the day.

3. Tally the number of minutes your chapter spends discussing social events vs. philanthropy planning or LEAD programming and post in a central location in the chapter home. Ask the chapter – what do these numbers say about our chapter’s priorities?

4. For the wellness-inclined, track the progress of your workouts and post them in your kitchen.

Use the comments section below to share some other ways your chapter could employ the idea of a feedback loop.

As the article notes, the more effective feedback loops rely on automated data collection (such as Your Speed signs or other automated sensors). Still, feedback loops present an innovative opportunity to help chapters change negative behaviors and encourage good ones.

The full story is a must-read.

The Fraternity Stock Market

Pandora, Groupon, LinkedIn, and coming soon to a portfolio near you: Facebook. If you’re a business major or just generally someone who keeps up with business news then you’re well aware of the recent scramble of tech companies to the IPO cash cow. Just the other day, Facebook was given a valuation estimate of $100 billion. These companies are searching for capital, which will hopefully result in both a better product and higher profits.

However, these companies also have to prove their worth both literally and figuratively. That’s what the stock market is all about, isn’t it? Is Company A worth so-and-so amount or is it not? Product recalls, poor leadership, bad money management, and failing to achieve benchmarks will result in a dropping stock value. On the other hand, the opposite of these negatives will attract confident investors eager to throw some money your way in return for an anticipated increase of value.

All business talk aside, isn’t this a rather nifty metaphor for a fraternity? If I run chapter A and we have strong leadership, a strategic plan, defined goals, rock solid dues collection and budgeting, and of course providing the best fraternity product on our campus then why wouldn’t others want to “invest” and join us? For a nice cherry on top of this sundae we also mention that those who invest with us will see an increase of value. With each bid signed and an additional investor we can use that capital to fund brotherhood retreats, run an effective LEAD program, host safe social events, and the added bonus of developing as a scholar, leader, and gentleman.

Now let’s say I run chapter B and we don’t have a very organized group of leadership, we’re in debt because we don’t collect dues very or bother to follow a budget, we don’t have any goals (which means we’re either in neutral or sliding backwards), and our overall product is mediocre at best.

In fact, to hide our downfalls we like to throw up the smoke-screen of parties and the image that everything is A-Okay (Sounds like Enron might have pulled a page from this playbook, actually). But then we had an incident thanks to our risky social practices. Now we’re wondering why no one wants to sign a bid and invest in us (or why we’re only attracting people who want to party).

Millenials are smarter than your average bear. If anything, to follow the running stock market metaphor, they’re smart bulls looking to invest in something that is going to provide them value for the capital they invest. So as you enjoy your summer vacation and reach that point of excitement to return back to school to see brothers and rehash your summer exploits, think about your answer to two simple questions: If your chapter were to launch as an IPO what would it be worth, and would it ultimately boom or bust?

RIP “Quantity vs. Quality” Recruitment Myth

ESPN reported today that Butler’s men’s basketball team earned top honors among this year’s Final Four contenders:

On Tuesday, the NCAA released its list of academic overachievers, and Butler was the only team among those that reached this year’s championship round in Division I football, men’s basketball or women’s basketball.

Butler head coach and class act Brad Stevens (an Alpha Tau Omega) explained why excelling in the classroom is merely a basic expectation:

“To be real candid, that’s an expectation of mine, so we’re not going to do cartwheels or shoot fireworks because this is something we achieved,” coach Brad Stevens said after the release. “That’s an expectation and that’s what we’re going to strive to do. I’m proud of our guys, but they came to Butler to do well in the classroom, on the court and in the community, and that’s what we expect.

Butler could have repeated their version of the we-go-for-quality-not-quantity narrative (e.g. “we can only recruit athletes OR scholars, not both”), but they didn’t. Excellent basketball programs–and excellent chapters–don’t make excuses, and certainly not the quantity vs. quality excuse.

High performing groups embrace what Jim Collins famously called the “genius of the AND” over the “tyranny of the OR.”

Look at our most successful chapters: they earn top GPA rankings AND win intramural champions; their chapter size is double the average AND each member outperforms his non-Greek counterpart in the classroom; they are the most respected group on campus AND they actively confront hazing.

It starts with an attitude–the realization that it’s possible for quality and quantity to increase in tandem. There are too many counterexamples to believe otherwise.

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