Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Chapter President’s First 25 Days

As chapter president, you likely ran for your position with priorities and goals in mind. Thus, your term might be defined by how well you achieve these objectives. And with only a year, the clock is ticking.

During the recent U.S. presidential election and in the days hence, much has been made of what the new Commander in Chief will do in his first 100 days. This is a common talking point for candidates and an easy way to frame the most urgent priorities perceived by the soon-to-be president.

So, it’s a useful exercise to think about how you – as the new chapter president – will make use of the first few days of your “administration.”

For sake of discussion, let’s consider the first 25 days (since a chapter president has only 1/4th of the term of the U.S. President). What are you going to do in your first 25 days? Not considering holiday breaks, perhaps it could be mapped out this way:

Days 1-5: Assemble the officers and build trust within the group.
Your officer team is the team you have the most influence over, and who has the most influence over you in return. This is also the “management team” or “leadership team” for the chapter, and hence, its judgment and decisions require a high degree of trust and respect. If you pay attention to the early development of this team, and keep attention on this, the rest of your year will be smoother. Some best practices might include:

  • As soon as possible after the election, take the group to dinner to celebrate and immediately start to build some bonds.
  • Hold a 2-3 hour teambuilding retreat. Use a leadership styles assessment or tool like Strengthsfinder to increase awareness of each other’s leadership tendencies. Set some group expectations for how the officer team will work together.
  • At the retreat or a different setting, invite the officers to share with each other their campaign promises or goals, and which ones were most important to them. Lay them all out and begin discussions on how to prioritize the list.

Days 6-10: Assess the fraternity for needs and challenges.
In order to lead effectively, you need a better understanding of what your chapter needs. Who better to tell you than the members themselves? Plus, you can get feedback from other stakeholder groups, including advisors, campus and headquarters professionals, and council leaders. If you offer the opportunity for others to give voice to the direction of the chapter, they will likely get on board faster with your goals and priorities. Some best practices might include:

  • Do an online survey to members asking them to evaluate the current state of the fraternity, and to provide their assessment of where it needs to go. The consolidated report of this data becomes the perfect launching pad for your officer team to use for goal-setting.
  • Set up listening sessions. Ask each officer to set aside a time for members to give them verbal input into the state and direction of the chapter. Perhaps do this around meal times. Then, the officers can get together to share notes.
  • You as president should take on a special task – individual outreach to “lost members.” Choose five or so disengaged members who you think could offer value to the chapter and set up times for coffee or lunch to chat with each person individually. Find out why they disengaged and what the chapter should be doing to keep members involved.

Days 11-15: Officer team establishes the annual priorities for the chapter.
Now that you’ve done the assessment phase, it’s time to gather the officer team back together to download the information. Look for patterns and themes. Invite officers to each share the greatest insight they gained from their listening sessions and/or the survey data. It will all come together to reveal the biggest areas of need for the chapter. Combine these with the goals that the officers had as candidates and the priorities for the year should start to take shape. Best practices might include:

  • Use the following framework (Start-Stop-Continue) to help guide the discussion:
    • What things should we START doing, since adding them to our chapter would make a difference in its effectiveness and success.
    • What things should we STOP doing, since they no longer offer value to the chapter, the members don’t like them, or they are actively inhibiting our success.
    • What things should we CONTINUE doing, since they are positive aspects of the chapter, the members like them, and are contributing to our success.
  • Aim for a number to start with – say 5-8 priorities – to help you move the work along. It’s not a good idea to do more than that, since a year goes fast. It’s better to focus on a few big wins for the chapter and work harder to achieve those.
  • Under each priority, establish 3 goals that influence that priority. For example, if the priority is recruitment, 3 goals might include (1) grow the chapter by 10% this year, (2) challenge each member to introduce 5 potential new members to the chapter this year, and (3) redesign all marketing pieces to reflect our values and official brand.

Days 16-20: These priorities are tested by sharing them with the general membership, the chapter and campus advisors, and national office staff. They are then finalized.
A great way to gain buy-in is the initial assessment stage you already conducted. Another great way is to go back to those stakeholder groups with your list of priorities to make sure you heard them correctly. Share them at a chapter meeting and invite discussion. Send them to your national office and ask for feedback within a week’s time. Meet with your Greek advisor and review the priorities with him/her. After this is done, gather your officers back together and settle on a final list of priorities.


Days 21-25: Committees (including the officer team) are tasked with executing particular priorities.
So now you have your priorities and the goals that will achieve those priorities. It’s time for action. Determine as an officer team which priorities are most relevant for which committees in the chapter. Obviously the recruitment committee would take on any that deal with recruitment. The Ritual committee might be best for those that deal with the culture of the chapter and issues of values. Big new initiatives might be best held by the officer team itself, or a short-term task force can advance them forward. The first step for each committee is to add any goals they think are necessary for the priority they have been given. Next, they should add in up to 5 tasks underneath each goal that the committee can undertake to achieve it. The chapter president and vice president can sit in on these initial discussions to make sure the spirit and integrity of the priorities are upheld.


There you go. Now, you have 340 days left to make these priorities, goals, and tasks become real. If goals are achieved early, the officer team can revisit the priorities halfway through the year, and add a couple more

What you do in your first 25 days can set a powerful tone for your term. Whether you follow the framework above or develop your own, be intentional, focused, and driven. If you aren’t, you might blink and find yourself standing in your final 25 days, wondering how it all moved so fast.

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