David Stollman blog article Six steps to a chapter enema

Tired of working so hard for your chapter when it seems like nobody notices or cares? Frustration is a natural part of leadership. So much so that if you’ve never even once thought about quitting your chapter, you might not care enough. Those of you who have felt this frustration long enough will understand that “burnout” isn’t caused by how much work you do. It’s caused by how much work you look around and see others NOT doing!

Why do we tolerate it? Why do we allow others to inject their poison into our fraternal experience with poor attitudes, reckless acts, and blatant hypocritical behavior that mocks the oath that was once freely sworn?!

Now, imagine instead a chapter that is filled with members who can look at each other and feel confident they are moving toward the same end. That trusts each other’s motives, if not always their methods. The more a chapter membership is on the same page with respect to shared values, the more positive each member’s experience will be. That chapter develops, encourages, and retains their members through each stage of their experience. Sounds great, right?

For over 10 years I’ve been empowering chapters to tell their members to “Buy In or GET OUT!” What happens when you realize they aren’t taking the hint, and those that need to leave are sticking around? Well, you can add a lot through subtraction. Here’s a simple, not EASY… but SIMPLE, gameplan to get rid of those problematic members.

1. Build a Coalition to Implement Change

  1. Start with one person you trust
  2. Each of You Get One More Person (Maybe Two)
  3. Stop! This needs to be a small committed group, not a large segment of the chapter (If you can get a large segment of the chapter, you’re likely not trying to change all that much.)

2. Tighten Language

  1. Find Constitution – Yeah, this really is a step for too many people.
  2. Review current member expectations – Every chapter has something in their documents about “Good Standing.” Find or create the line between “good” and “bad” member in terms of their behavior.
  3. Insure expectations are REASONABLE (better to have low standards you enforce than impressive ones that are ignored)
  4. Tighten language to create MEASURABILITY of the standards. Objective, not Subjective judgments on performance is essential for systemic credibility.
  5. Create or Implement Enforcement Structure – For every legislative branch there is a judicial. They should be separate from overall chapter leadership. Don’t have the executive board serve as those measuring performance as well or it can hinder their ability to lead the chapter.

3. Review Performance

  1. Period reviews not just at the end of the semester when it is too late to make changes. Empowering your members to succeed by giving them feedback on how they are doing.
  2. Fair, balanced & equal review. The system and its implementation BOTH need to be credible. Try having campus judicial officers train the chapter judicial board members.
  3. Warning with enough time to fix problems. Provide specific and timely feedback

4. Enforce Penalties

  1. Objective & fair or the credibility of the whole system is shot
  2. TAKE AWAY VOTING RIGHTS FIRST (& VOICE at meeting) They must be excluded from the democratic process that would be able to vote the membership standards or officers enforcing it out.
  3. Prepare for the drama and the pain. The drama is coming. As soon as someone is penalized severely the drama will explode. OK.
  4. Use a collection agency or third party. Where possible insert private contractors into operational areas of accountability to insure that transition of officers doesn’t mean a weakening of the will to hold members accountable.

5. Raise the Stakes

  1. Insure they are reasonable, but when met will lead to higher overall chapter performance. Lead members to the question will I… “Buy In or Get Out?” either way you win!
  2. Immediate and Long Term

6. Recruit New Blood. It is easier to recruit people who will be good members when all they look around and see, are good members to model the way. – For some great resources on how to recruit Better, and MORE new members go to TheLaunchPoint.org.

If your chapter can use these step to enact reasonable membership expectations that reflect your values and then have the courage to hold members accountable, you’ll find that most members will step up and perform at a higher level. Some simply won’t. Either way, your chapter wins.

Credit // Author: David Stollman


David Stollman has energized students at over 500 campuses, and numerous fraternal conventions. Learn more about David and his fraternity & sorority life keynotes at campuspeak.com/stollman. You can also follow him on Twitter @David_Stollman.