Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Best Leadership Strategy We Never Use


Once upon a time there were two sorority chapter presidents whose organizations were right next door to each other.  And each was dealing with a similar challenge.  Within each sorority, a handful of members had stopped attending meetings and other functions.

At the first chapter, the president stressed about this issue privately, trying to develop ways to re-engage these lost members.  The more she thought about it, the more frustrated she became about these members’ lack of commitment.  She pulled every leadership book she had and every binder from every leadership event.  She studied and thought and decided that she needed to take this issue head-on.  It's important for leaders to inspire action, right?

The next chapter meeting came and the president closed it with a speech about commitment and motivation.  She stood up and raised her voice, trying to use passion to deliver the message clearly:  this apathy would not be tolerated any longer!  Most of the members in the room nodded their head.  The missing members were…still…missing.

As such, things did not improve.  The disengaged members still did not show up to meetings and other events.  

A week later, the president took her frustration to the executive officers for their ideas.  After a long discussion, one of the officers brought forward the idea of fines.  “Let’s fine any member who doesn’t show up to mandatory meetings” she suggested.  The other officers considered this and decided this was a great idea.  Money talks.  If there is a financial penalty, then the members would start living up to their commitments.  A good leadership strategy is to hold people accountable, right?

And so, the president announced the new fines at the next meeting.

In the following weeks, fines were levied against the disengaged members.  But, there were other members affected as well.  Soon, fines were applied against not only those who never came to meetings and events, but also those who had to miss occasionally as well.  Soon, the fines started to become a source of anger and frustration in the chapter.  Good members were feeling the pain, and were not very happy about it.  Soon, a few of those good members pulled away from the chapter completely.

The executive officers reconvened and decided that the fining system had become too negative.  “Why not reward good behavior?” offered one officer.  "As leaders, shouldn't our strategy be to recognize the behavior we want to see?"  As they discussed it further, the idea of a points system began to emerge.  The members could get points for attending the events as well as doing other things, such as getting a good GPA, etc.  If a member's points were too low, then the fines would kick in.  

At the next meeting, the president introduced the points system.  There was some approval, and mostly skepticism.

In the following weeks, the points system seemed to be working okay.  But, the attitude towards the program started to turn negative.  Members became tired of keeping track of points.  It started to seem ridiculous that every action would have a point value.  The program became the butt of jokes, and soon good members started to rebel against it.  It ultimately became so confining, that some of the good members started to feel like the sorority wasn’t worth it any longer.  

And, the disengaged members who caused the initial frustration continued to be disengaged.

The executive board reconvened and realized that the chapter was in chaos, and much worse than a few months ago.  They were lost as to what to do.

Meanwhile, at the second chapter, the president was also frustrated by her disengaged members.  After some thinking and reflecting, the president also decided on a course of action.  Her decision led to many of these members re-engaging with the fraternity and some valuable information that the president could use to develop ideas for involving older and disconnected members.  It was a strategy that also incorporated inspiration, accountability, and recognition.

Word of this success traveled to the first chapter, and the president there ran over to meet with the president of the second chapter.  

“I’ve tried everything!” the first president exclaimed.  “How did you do it?  Did you give a big speech?”

“No,” replied the second president.  

“Did you use fines?”  

“No.”  

“Did you use a points system?” the first president asked.  

“Are you kidding?  Of course not,” was the reply.

“Well, how did you get the disengaged members involved again? What was your leadership strategy?”

“I had individual conversations with them.”

“Conversations?”

“Yep.  And I listened.”

[pause] 

“Hmm.  Wish I had thought of that.” 


The End 

“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”
~ Mark Twain 

 


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