Tag Archives: values

Undercover Founder?

CBS has a new show – Undercover Boss – airing Sunday evenings at 9:00 p.m. EST:

Each week a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.

In a Valentine’s Day episode, Hooters, Inc. President and CEO Coby G. Brooks goes undercover to work as an entry-level employee in four different restaurants in the Dallas, Texas area.  The episode can be seen in full on CBS’ web site.

The lessons that Mr. Brooks learns during his time undercover are easily applicable to fraternity life (and I’m most certainly not talking about wings and beer).  For instance, during his second stop, Mr. Brooks accompanies two Hooters waitresses on a promotional tour downtown.  He provides free wing samples to passers-by downtown and engages them in discussions regarding perceptions of Hooters.  One woman is not too bashful about letting Mr. Brooks know that she finds his restaurant chain “degrading to women.”  Following this encounter, Mr. Brooks admits that “…there is a public perception that’s out there (but I’ve) never seen it firsthand.”

As fraternity men, we know there are public perceptions out there regarding fraternity life.  Popular culture movies, literature and the unfortunate actions of some members that create poor publicity all fuel the perceptions that we battle on a regular basis.  But when was the last time we engaged our stakeholders in an honest discussion about our chapter, or even the state of fraternity life on our campus?  Having regular communication with alumni, non-Greek students, members of other fraternities and sororities, parents, college/university administrators and neighbors can ensure that you’re getting the most honest feedback about your chapter.  But just hearing it isn’t enough.  Mr. Brooks launches a marketing campaign following his experience to re-educate the public on the Hooters brand.  Sometimes, an effective marketing campaign is necessary to ensure that a stakeholder’s perception is indeed the reality.

Additionally, Mr. Brooks observes one store manager who requires his waitresses to play his ‘reindeer games’ in order to earn privileges, such as going home early.  He requires the waitresses to eat a plate of beans with their hands behind their backs and, prior to the start of the day, has all the waitresses line up for an inspection in which he comments on their overall physical appearance.  The activities seem innocent and well-intentioned to the store manager (indeed, this is a way for him to ensure dress code is being followed and a fun way to determine who goes home first); however, to an outsider such as Mr. Brooks, they are disrespectful and not congruent with the mission and values of the organization.

It is a lesson that should not be taken lightly.  Next time you are thinking about a questionable activity (be it an offensive social event theme, derogatory philanthropy or suspect candidate activity), imagine how the activity would be perceived if Hopkins, Quarles or Riley were in the room.  Would they approve?  Could they shrug off the activity as a ‘funny joke’ or ‘innocent fraternity stunt?’

You represent more than just your members, your campus or your region of the country.  You represent an international organization with a proud vision of ‘Excelling with Honor’ since 1869.  Ask yourself: is my chapter driving the organization forward toward this noble mission, or are we holding it back with our own ‘reindeer games?’

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Do You Practice Sustainable Values?

An interesting article in the NY Times this morning discusses the difference between situational values and sustainable values.  The theory comes from LRN – a consulting firm committed “to help inspire principled performence in business:”

Dov Seidman, the C.E.O. of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, likes to talk about two kinds of values: “situational values” and “sustainable values.” Leaders, companies or individuals guided by situational values do whatever the situation will allow, no matter the wider interests of their communities. A banker who writes a mortgage for someone he knows can’t make the payments over time is acting on situational values, saying: “I’ll be gone when the bill comes due.”

Does this sound like members of your chapter?  Especially toward the end of an officer’s term or the final few months of a brother’s collegiate career, the drive to work toward implementing sustainable programs and ideas dwindles.  After all, it’ll be someone else’s job in a few months.

Your chapter must promote sustainable values.  Perhaps this will sound familiar:

People inspired by sustainable values act just the opposite, saying: “I will never be gone. I will always be here. Therefore, I must behave in ways that sustain — my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my environment, my country and my future generations.”

Sigma Nu is a lifetime commitment – you will never be ‘gone’ from the values of our organization – and accordingly, chapter leaders should practice sustainable values to ensure that the chapter is moving forward toward Sigma Nu’s vision of ‘excelling with honor.’

Where can you go to practice these ‘sustainable values?’  Why not start with the LEAD Program, Sigma Nu Fraternity’s primary initiative designed to develop ethical leaders.  Sessions that promote Values, Goal Setting, Strategic Planning and Accountability are readily available for your chapter’s implementation.

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Changing Negative Traditions: A Lesson From West Point

Tradition is the essence of fraternity.  But all too often members take advantage of our instinctive love for tradition to justify actions that contradict our founding principles.  What’s worse, when something becomes tradition–even a negative tradition–it doesn’t change easily.

Once again, Major General Joseph P. Franklin, former commandant of cadets at West Point, offers insight in his book Building Leaders The West Point Way: Ten Principles From The Nation’s Most Powerful Leadership Lab:

I should point out that plebe summer has changed over time.  While it stresses and tests even the most capable of cadets, it is, thankfully, far from the degrading experience that it was in the early part of the twentieth century.  When General MacArthur became superintendent at West Point in 1919, he viewed the summer session as an opportunity to train young people properly, rather than just wear them down until they could no longer function.  This latter practice, which had actually resulted in death of one cadet several years before, had lasted many decades and become entrenched as tradition, giving it something of an untouchable status.

The changes MacArthur implemented from the top speak volumes to the maturity and courage of Sigma Nu’s founders.  Hopkins, Riley and Quarles had enough foresight to recognize dishonorable behavior disguised as tradition when they saw it.  But what could only be accomplished at West Point by a venerable military leader, MacArthur, was attempted by our founders as mere cadets (and five decades earlier!).

MacArthur’s prescient changes also parallel  Sigma Nu’s transition from “pledging” to “candidate education” over the past few decades.  The pejorative “pledging” over time became associated with personal servitude, arbitrary discipline and often a source of entertainment for current members–none of which have anything to do with Sigma Nu’s mission.  “Candidate education,” on the other hand, is the true purpose of Sigma Nu put into practice.

In retrospect it’s not hard to understand how such practices came into being, but it’s not easy to change them once ingrained.  A lot of behavior and training techniques prior to MacArthur’s arrival had been sophomoric at best and brutal, even fatal, at worst.  Suffice it to say that things changed dramatically under MacArthur.  He implemented a system in which plebe summer represented a training opportunity not only for new cadets but also for the senior cadets who were in charge of the new cadets in Beast Barracks.  Not surprisingly, MacArthur’s reforms were resisted by many, cadets and officers alike, and he left the Academy with, in his view, the job unfinished.

Sound familiar?  It takes time to implement big changes.  Leaders who take a stand now may never see the positive impact of their actions.  But don’t be discouraged, as courageous actions will inspire others to follow.  It calls to mind the famous Jonathan Swift quote, “When a genius appears in this world you may know him by this sign, that all of the dunces are in confederacy against him.”

Franklin concludes the chapter with this timeless advice:

While mission statements and philosophical musings are all well and good, it’s crucial that we, as leaders, never cease to critically examine our behavior in the context of the principles we value as leaders.

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Leadership Lessons From MLK

Eight leadership lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Here are two favorites:

3.  Great leaders refuse to accept the status quo. In fact, I would say that this is the defining characteristic of real leaders. They are not passive; they are active. They are unwilling to acquiesce to their circumstances.

This calls to mind another famous quote by C. P. Fulford Jr: “If you are coasting, it means you’re going downhill.”

5.  Great leaders call people to act in accord with their highest values. It would be easy for the civil rights movement to change tactics and resort to violence. Some did. However, like Nelson Mandela did when he became president of South Africa, Dr. King called his people to a higher standard.

Indeed.  A lousy Commander says, “we need to do X or we could get in trouble.”  An excellent Commander says, “we ought to do X because it’s the right thing to do.”

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