Category Archives: goal setting

A tale of two chapters – the opportunity cost of hazing

While your chapter was designing this year’s recruitment t-shirt (another beer logo, of course), my chapter was having lunch with prospective members and their parents.

While your chapter was creating demeaning nicknames for each pledge, my chapter was taking the time to learn each candidate’s name, hometown and life story.

While your chapter was debating what embarrassing costume each pledge should wear for this weekend’s party, my chapter was helping each candidate set personal goals for the semester.

While your chapter was out buying family drinks for Big Brother night, my chapter was arranging a mentoring program for each candidate to work with an alumnus in his field of study.

While your chapter was holding the weekly line-up in the basement to grill pledges on arbitrary questions they can’t answer, our brothers were at the library studying with the candidates (our candidates learn Fraternity history from the brothers).

While your pledges were out stealing road signs, defacing property, and breaking into campus buildings during the annual scavenger hunt, our candidates were listening to a guest speaker talk about time management skills and effective study habits at our weekly chapter meeting.

While your pledges were running errands and performing arbitrary tasks to complete their interview books, we were hosting a parents’ dinner to learn more about our candidates and their families.

While your brothers were harassing pledges in front of their dates at last weekend’s mixer, our chapter was hosting an etiquette dinner with the top sorority on campus.

While your chapter was trying to coordinate manufactured stories for the upcoming “nationals” visit, my chapter was updating our strategic plan to free up time for feedback and guidance during the leadership consultant’s visit.

While your chapter was searching for loopholes in the risk reduction policy for this weekend’s off-campus party, my chapter was hosting a speaker on alcohol education open to the entire campus. (We hosted a party that weekend too, except we followed our insurance guidelines.)

While your members were swapping stories of drunken female conquests from the previous night, my chapter was hosting a campus-wide program on preventing sexual assault.

While your chapter accepted mediocrity, we sought excellence.

While your chapter slowly fumbled everything away, we gradually earned our way to the top.

And while your chapter looked for someone to blame, we resolved to reach for the next level.

Rock Chapter recipients proudly display their awards during the 64th Grand Chapter in Boston.

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.

When Players and Stakeholders Have Different Expectations

By Nick Claghorn

The sports business industry ‘happenings’ frequently are microcosms of society. Sport teaches us important lessons about teamwork, work ethic, and other important behavioral sciences that relate to other facets of life.

I recently viewed a Harvard Business Review interview with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, about a chapter of his new book, “Fixing The Game.” His book is an explicative insight of the National Football League’s relativity to capitalism.

In business, there are two games. The first is the ‘real’ game, which involves building factories, creating products, selling those products, and making a profit.

The second is the ‘expectations’ game. Shareholders create a provisionary statement of where they believe the company’s bottom line, among other things, will stand over a certain period of time.

Martin goes on to explain how these relate to the NFL by indicating the CEOs are the company’s quarterbacks.

These games exist in the NFL, as well. The ‘real’ game is the winning versus losing concept. The quarterback is out there to win the game, regardless of the score. But, in the second game, ‘expectations’ are set throughout the week to create a point spread so bettors can gamble on the outcome of the game.

This is largely the reason athletes are prohibited from gambling, to preserve the integrity of the game. If they had a vested interest in the expectation that they will win by a certain margin, they may gamble the ‘real’ game for the ‘expectation.’

In professional sports, players and gamblers often have different sets of expectations. Gamblers hope for the point spread; players don't care about the margin of victory as long as they get the win. The same scenario often plays out in the business world, where shareholders and employees hold different expectations of the company's performance.

As an alumnus who works closely with one of our chapters, I find the ‘expectations’ game to be dangerous, not only for business and the NFL, but also for the fraternity chapter. Think of a time you were upset with the active chapter. Were you a fan or were you a shareholder? Which one do you think elicits the best reaction from the active chapter’s executive committee?

It might serve a chapter best to communicate expectations of the alumni while understanding that the ‘real’ game is what creates winners. Reward the chapter for a great recruitment process by providing a barbeque for initiation. Publicly recognize the chapter for a job well done (e.g. increased manpower from last year), even if they may not have met your expectations (say, 25% increase in manpower). The real indicator is the growth of improvement.

Pressure can be a great motivator or a great de-motivator. Fellow alumni advisors should expect excellence from their chapters, but celebrate the wins along with the milestones. As the post-game press conference saying goes, a win is a win.

Read the full HBR story here.


To Achieve Big Goals, Do *Something* Every Day

99% has some solid advice on achieving daily goals here.

This advice in particular complements some wisdom offered by Oregon tight end David Paulson (featured in the spring 2011 issue of The Delta).


Are you scheduling time daily to focus without interruption?
Set aside at least one time period during the day – no more than 90 minutes at a time (and as close to that as possible) – to focus without interruption. Time, in other words, to do something important but not urgent – to write something, reflect, strategize, imagine, work on a longer term project.

David Paulson:

“If you really want to make a goal, you have to work for it every day. Set aside some time each day when you are going to do something to reach that goal, even if it’s small one day and bigger the next.”

If you want to bring big changes to your chapter, do something towards that goal every single day. Same goes for your personal goals (e.g. applying to grad school, finding your dream job, etc.).

How Wikipedia reminds employees of the organization’s mission

The April 2011 issue of Fast Company profiles Sue Gardner, the new executive director of Wikimedia Foundation, which operates the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. The full story is worth reading as an example of “officer” transition and setting ambitious goals for growth.

One paragraph in particular stood out to me as an innovative and symbolic way to remind Wikipedia employees and volunteers of the organization’s mission:

Recently, Gardner spoofed Wales’s evangelical zeal by putting a picture of the founder in the employee bathroom above the aspirin and dental-floss basket and typing up a mock plea from Wikipedia’s benevolent founder. “This basket exists for one reason: the free and open sharing of personal-grooming items. For many of us, most of us, this basket has become an indispensable part of our daily lives. Help protect it now. Please make a donation.”

The crowdsourced Wikipedia is, of course, produced entirely by volunteer editors who donate their knowledge and talents for the greater good (aside from a small staff to run the organization). This sharing box in the bathroom constantly reminds Wikipedia employees of the organization’s mission to share free information.

This small example got me thinking – what are some similar ways your chapter can constantly remind members of Sigma Nu’s mission to produce ethical leaders inspired by Love, Honor and Truth? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

(By the way, Sigma Nu’s Wikipedia page could use a few good volunteer editors.)

Masters Weekend

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

This year’s Masters tournament may go down as one of the best if not one of the most interesting. The storylines alone were prime fraternity house gossip topics. The superstar who fell from grace and was trying to reclaim his rightful place at the top; the young-guns storming up the leaderboard before the weekend; the Aussies attempting to make history late Sunday; and of course the former champion from Argentina looking for a second jacket as his playing partner self-destructed. There are tons of lessons we can draw from the tournament but I’ll focus on three in particular here.

The first is that competition is always good. Sunday was fun to watch for several reasons but the biggest one was that there were so many excellent competitors. I hear from chapters now and then that they don’t want another fraternity on campus because they’ll essentially make it harder to be good. That’s a cop out. What makes winning so thrilling and rewarding is not only how much work you’ve done but also the competition you faced.

The second lesson is that when things get tough be prepared for it to only get tougher. Nothing is easy in this world, whether it be achieving career success or winning a Rock Chapter award. We watched as Rory McIlroy quickly self-destructed when just that morning he was holding the lead by four strokes with steady play the previous three days. This isn’t to bash on McIlroy (he lost the Master’s at 21, I’d say he’s a step ahead of many people in his age group) but to show that you can’t let a stumble turn into a nose-diving crash. Suck it up and push forward. To McIlroy’s credit we never saw him quit. He never said “Well I’ve lost this year, I should probably stop now and just hang out with Jim Nantz for the rest of the day.” Is your chapter on a Plan of Action? Is your chapter in debt? Did your chapter not get the grades it expected? Suck it up and push forward. The Masters wasn’t the nail in the coffin of McIlroy’s career; don’t let one mistake completely derail your chapter’s success.


The last lesson to touch upon is of course that it’s not over until it’s over. You don’t get to put on the green jacket until you’ve walked off the 18th hole. Your chapter won’t be awarded a Rock Chapter award until it’s firmly in your hands. Sometimes chapters begin working on their Pursuit of Excellence submission in mid-March. There’s still a month and a half left! That’s plenty of time to still put together an event or hold some more LEAD sessions. Fall rush week ended? Well take another week or a couple of extra days to keep recruiting. This is not to say that you shouldn’t plan ahead of time using the resources offered, but don’t throw in the towel so early.

As I said from the start, this past weekend’s Masters tournament was full of storylines. What will your chapter’s storyline be? The Rock Chapter that redefined Excellence? The under-dog who crept up out of nowhere and stole the spotlight? You’re the author of your Fraternity experience and only you will determine whether it’s an epic tale or a children’s book.

The Minimalist’s Guide to Chapter Meetings

College is busy.  Your chapter members have enough to worry about between study groups, professors’ office hours and remembering to eat breakfast or call home.  Don’t waste their time with another meeting of announcements that could have been sent by email.  Follow these guidelines to improve the efficiency of your meetings (if you have one at all).

1.  The litmus test for a meeting

Is there anything the entire group needs to discuss?  If not then don’t hold a meeting in the first place.

Begin each meeting with this (after opening with Ritual, of course): “The purpose of this meeting is to discuss _____.”  If you can’t complete this sentence then you shouldn’t be holding a meeting.

2.  Set an agenda

Ask members to submit agenda items several days before a potential meeting.  Separate the proposals into groups of discussion items (e.g. chapter goal setting) and announcements (e.g. winter formal dates).

Compile the announcements and include them with the meeting minutes; don’t recite the announcements out loud at any time during the meeting.

Resolve to stick to the agenda items.  If it’s not on the predetermined agenda then it doesn’t get discussed until the next meeting.  End the practice of running down a chapter roster asking for monotonous officer reports (i.e. announcements).

3. Use the committee system

The entire chapter doesn’t need to discuss the recruitment t-shirt design or the LEAD calendar (have you ever tried to choose a movie with more than two people?).  The committees or individual officers should be making these decisions–that’s why we entrusted them with these responsibilities.

Save precious chapter meeting time for important discussions like long-term goal setting, bid extensions and officer elections.  Again, if there’s nothing to discuss then give chapter members the night off so they can study for an exam, work on their resume or maybe just relax.

4. How to use the extra time

So your chapter discovered it can operate just fine without 2-hour meetings every week.  How do you spend all of that extra time?

Instead of listening to the same announcements you’ve been hearing for the past three weeks, host a guest speaker to discuss personal finance with the chapter.  Or ask a business professor to help the chapter develop a strategic plan.  Or invite a representative from the campus career center to facilitate a resume workshop.

Hold your resume workshop at a sorority house.  Invite your friends from class to the LEAD session on mastering job interviews.  Don’t even mention it’s a fraternity thing, because it just became a recruitment event too.  Get creative, mix it up.

With boring, redundant and unnecessary meetings out of the way, the possibilities abound for personal development and chapter growth.




The Danger of Complacency

West Point Cadet Megan Snook writing on General Motors’ complacency in The Washington Post‘s ‘On Leadership’ blog:

When a group of individuals works together for quite some time, the environment becomes comfortable. Unfortunately, a comfortable environment brings contentment, stagnation and group think. Before long, there is no striving for advancement or progress.

A new leader or team reorganization can bring innovative ideas to previously set standards. Without this cyclical development, progress eventually levels off. Large organizations, like GM, cannot afford to be content. In such a high-paced business world, there is too much competition to be complacent.

UPDATE: Over the summer several of the staff members rolled up their sleeves in the archives to research and compile a comprehensive list of all Rock Chapter Award recipients.  The project started out of a curiosity to know what chapter had racked up the most Rock Chapters Awards in Sigma Nu history.

In the process we became more interested–and alarmed–by a much different fact: the number of former Rock Chapters that are now dormant or barely getting by.  Which made me even more eager to read this book.