Category Archives: strategic planning

7 Books Every Fraternity Leader Should Read This Summer

1. The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo

Creator of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment asks, Why do good people commit evil acts? Zimbardo explains how cognitive dissonance, groupthink and other elements of behavioral psychology contribute to breakdowns in group decision making.

For fraternities, self-awareness can be a powerful anecdote to hazing. Mere knowledge of these group psychology phenomena is sometimes all it takes to change a chapter for the better.

2. Building Leaders the West Point Way by Major General Joseph P. Franklin

Think one of the nation’s premier leadership labs creates leaders through hazing? Think again:

“I handled this abuse as well as anyone, I guess, but I couldn’t help wondering what was going on. On the one hand, I was required to commit to memory this great pronouncement by Schofield and his farsighted, thoughtful approach to discipline; on the other hand, my day was an endless barrage of insults and threatened punishments. There seemed to be a clear and obvious contradiction, and yet nobody bothered to express it!

3. Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement by William Duggan

A refreshing complement to strategic planning. The best ideas often arrive as a flash of insight when we least expect it.

4. Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

“A provocative new book about the psychological forces that lead us to disregard facts or logic and behave in surprisingly irrational ways.” –New York Times

5. Mistakes Were Made (but not by me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

“A revelatory study of how lovers, lawyers, doctors, politicians–and all of us–pull the wool over our own eyes. The politician who can’t apologize, the torturer who feels no guilt, the co-worker who’ll say anything to win an argument–in case you’ve ever wondered how such people can sleep at night, Mistakes Were Made supplies some intriguing and useful insights…Reading it, we recognize the behavior of our leaders, our loved ones, and–if we’re honest–ourselves.” -Francis Prose

6. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Confusing correlation with causation is a common source of ill-advised decision making, leading us to make important decisions based on a false interpretation of data. By explaining the “hidden role of chance,” Taleb encourages readers to consider the possibility of randomness in attempting to connect the dots of life’s everyday events.

From chapters that credit hazing with creating a strong brotherhood (rather than the shared positive experiences) to the recruitment chairman who mistakenly concludes that parties produced a record candidate class (ignoring a campus-wide increase), Fooled by Randomness holds insightful parallels for fraternity leaders.

7. The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

What could tennis possibly have to do with student leadership? This sports psychology classic was written to help players improve their tennis swing, but each lesson begs a parallel to leadership. From creating self-awareness by filming and watching your own swing (evaluating your chapter’s progress) to creating a vision of your ideal shot (strategic planning and visionary leadership), The Inner Game of Tennis teaches leaders to watch for advice from unexpected sources.

BONUS: The Story of Sigma Nu by John C. Scott (Purdue)

The story of three men who challenged the status quo.


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?

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.).

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.




Can Fraternity Leaders Find Inspiration from a Hipster Clothing Company?

Struggling chapters are often quick to blame their underperformance as part of a bigger trend.  “Sure, we only recruited three guys this semester but numbers were down for everyone,” or “grades were down across the board this year, it wasn’t just us,” I often hear.  And as you might expect, chapters that repeat this narrative to themselves remain mediocre.

On the other hand, high performing chapters find a way to defy the trends.  When recruitment numbers are down campus-wide, excellent chapters increase the quantity AND quality of their membership.  When the IFC average GPA takes a nose dive, excellent chapters find a way to increase their scholarship performance.

Like most struggling chapters, underperforming companies are quick to blame their weak performance on larger economic trends.  But occasionally we find a company that refuses to bow to the patterns around them.  From Economist magazine:

Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, is Japan’s biggest clothing company, with sales of $9 billion forecast this year. Whereas many Japanese businesses are ailing because of the stagnant domestic economy, Fast Retailing is flourishing. Last year sales grew by 17%, despite the recession, or because of it: its clothes combine a touch of style with enticingly low prices.

The Economist article offers another lesson in enduring success and leadership transition:

Mr Yanai himself may also create problems. A brilliant strategist with uncanny fashion instincts, he is also unable to delegate, say Fast Retailing executives. He controls all decisions, down to approving samples and colours.

This micromanaging has pushed talented executives to quit the firm, leaving no obvious successor to Mr Yanai, who plans to step down as boss (but remain chairman) in four years, at 65. Previous attempts to cede day-to-day control have been aborted.

It’s too early to tell whether the perceived micro-managing of Fast Retailing founder and CEO Tadashi Yanai will harm the company in the long run.  But this example reminds us of Jim Collins‘ famous observation of clock building vs. time telling.  It would be great to have someone who can tell us the time of day merely by observing the angle of the sun, but how will we tell the time once he is gone?  Clock builders, or leaders who prepare the organization to succeed after their departure, are far more valuable than time tellers.

The article offers one final inspiration for chapters reaching for the next level, the courage to break tradition:

When pressed, Mr Yanai says that he has decided not to hand the company over to his sons. They will be big shareholders with board seats, but will not take operational roles. In this, he once again defies traditional Japanese business practices. Firms that rely on primogeniture, he notes, perform poorly. So, in the long run, do those that rely on a domineering leader.

Breaking tradition isn’t necessarily good, but the courage to abandon an arbitrary one is praiseworthy.