It’s time for a chapter check-in

Summer is still one of my favorite times of the year. There seems to be a different kind of balance between work and relaxation. It is a time when we are reunited with friends and family on vacations or perhaps making new friends at National Conventions or summer leadership programs. For me, it has also been a time for reflection, planning, and learning from the past semester in preparation to tackle the next.

As a student leader, I can remember the summer being a time to exhale and finally pull out those goals our officer team wrote in January. While there were some high notes seeing all that we had accomplished, there were some frustrations at the fact we had not accomplished more. When I thought about why, it came back to the fact that we had gotten distracted.

Those distractions may have been:

  • Discussions about the event that didn’t go well because the of the handful or people that got out of control
  • Members who we worried drank too much
  • Conflict between members which divided our organization
  • Tracking down the members who owed the chapter money before they graduated
  • Keeping up with the stories we told to hide what was really happening with our new member program or the socials we knew we shouldn’t have been having

It was stressful knowing what was right and too often doing what was popular or desired by the larger group. I found myself disappointed in myself for not taking a larger stand for what I knew would keep our members safe and still ensure we had fun. Energy and valuable time was being spent on crowd control because we weren’t upholding our own standards. We were getting what we tolerated.

Despite the realization of the barriers getting in the way of achieving the great goals, I don’t remember ever really asking for help. I can remember feeling like my job as a leader was to protect my chapter and protection looked like hiding what I knew was wrong so we didn’t get in trouble. The result was the conduct at socials continued, louder members lead the organization down a risky path, members didn’t pay, and the stress and worry continued about someone getting caught or worse, someone getting hurt.

What I have found since college is that I was surrounded by people who could have helped if I’d just been confident and courageous enough to own my concerns. When I get phone calls from students who are honest, vulnerable, and simply needing some direction, those are some of my favorite conversations. Putting time and energy into helping leaders who wants to improve their organization and address the barriers preventing them from achieving their goals is some of my best time spent.

I often wonder what would have happened if we had:

  • Set clear expectation and educated members on why those expectations were important
  • Confronted the members in the moment who weren’t upholding those expectations
  • Used resources to help our judicial boards implement effective goals beyond the standard apology letter

More importantly, I wonder what would have happened if I’d asked for help. I find that most of the time I spend with student organization is helping them identify and understand the problem. This helps ensure their energy and solutions are focused on the true issue instead of addressing symptoms of the problem. The result is a series of simple steps to move toward better. When we feel like we are going in circles, it might be we are trying to address symptoms instead of the problems themselves.

Chapter Check-in

So, what’s going on in your chapter? Summer is a perfect time for a Chapter Check-in. Think about what your members value in their membership and how can you add more value to your community. A good chapter is happy where they are, but a great chapter is always looking for ways to elevate what they are doing and have an even greater impact. Planning now will allow you to build on your strengths instead of just solving problems that come up.

Credit // Author: Lorin Phillips

Lorin Phillips is dedicated to improving the Fraternity and Sorority Life experience. She’s seen it all – no issue is too small or too difficult for her to tackle. She uses a proactive, values-based approach to take chapters to the next level. Ready to face your members and challenge them to move forward? Learn more about Lorin’s keynotes at