Are you too irreplaceable?

Successful chapters are, no doubt, built around successful leaders.  But what happens when those outstanding individuals fail to transition their successes?  TIME Magazine featured an interesting article on small businesses, ‘Don’t Become Irreplaceable.’

A close reading demonstrates many similarities between small business and our own chapters:

“Small business owners have always viewed their firms as the key to a comfortable retirement…they have poured most of their extra money into their companies, believing that their value would grow.”

While a fraternity might not necessarily be the key to a ‘comfortable retirement,’ it can nonetheless arm you with the skills necessary to be successful in your first interview, first job and subsequent employment manuevers.  And while most of us don’t ‘invest’ our extra money in our chapter – though I’ve met with many Recruitment Chairmen who pay out-of-pocket for numerous recruitment-related expenses – we do invest our resources (namely time and talent) in an effort to increase the value of the chapter to potential new members.

The article focuses, however, on individuals becoming so skilled and involved that they create a situation where other members of the organization are unable to contribute.  Think, for example, about the ex-Philanthropy Chairman who might still be getting calls from service organizations – is he passing those along to the new officer?  Or the LEAD Chairman who was supremely successful in implementing Phases III and IV, but didn’t document any of the sessions?  How about the ex-Commander who goes behind the back of chapter leadership in communicating with alumni, the Greek Advisor or younger brothers of the chapter?

Chapters need to focus on being irreplaceable.  Indeed, officers change, at least, annually so new members need to be able to step in and easily resume the work of the previous officer.  This involves identifying a service or product that scales beyond an individual (for instance, don’t focus on the  previous LEAD Chairmen; rather, focus on the strategies he used to implement LEAD).  A scalable product will meet three criteria:

  1. “They are teachable. You can explain your process to someone…to deliver your system while you sleep.
  2. They are valuable. Customers want what you’re hawking.
  3. They are repeatable…needs to have a consumable element that forces customers [members] to repurchase it regularly.”

As you approach your officer transition periods in the next few months, consider your work as an outgoing officer – can you teach what you’ve been doing?  Is there value in your work?  Can someone else do it?  Answering yes to all three of these questions will ensure that the officers can be replaced without sacrificing the quality of your chapter’s programs and services.

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