The World Would Be Better If…

Our new book, Social Excellence: We Dare You, starts out with the following passage.  This movement — Social Excellence — that involves individuals, organizations, and our collective impact on society — founded upon meaningful human connection, is about making the world better.  As the impending new year stares us in the face, how would you finish this statement?

*From Social Excellence: We Dare You by Matthew Mattson, Jessica Gendron Williams, and Josh Orendi

globe“The world would be better if…”  That statement, when spoken within small groups of thoughtful, action-oriented people, has sparked revolutions, incited rebellions, provoked uprisings, and birthed the movements that have shaped our society. That’s how we’d like to start off our conversation with you.

The world would be better if we were all more social, more excellent, more Socially Excellent.

The world would be better if people engaged with one another more often.

The world would be better if people were more skilled at the art of human connection.

The world would be better if we listened to the passion and enthusiasm others have about the things that areimportant to them.

The world would be better if we shook more hands, smiled at strangers more often, and occasionally surprised passersby with a high-five.

The world would be better if we had more powerful conversations.

The world would be better if more people participated in communities and organizations.

The world would be better if our interactions with one another were more human and less digital.

The world would be better if we were more genuine, more below-the-surface, and more real with each other.

The world would be better if we asked better questions.

The world would be better if we could convince more people that they have the potential to change the world.

The world would be better if more people knew how to involve others in their cause.

The world would be better if we chose to have this conversation more often—and then did something about it.

The world would be better if…

Breathe With Me

by Josh Orendi

breathe-joshMy wife and I are due on February 11th with our first child — a daughter that is showing early signs of becoming a soccer player.  This week, we took our first pregnancy preparation class.  Our instructor, Tamara, shared a piece of advice that is so relevant to leadership that I had to pass it along.  I’ll paraphrase.  She said:

“We all know the big day comes with pain.  We all know that there will be craziness around us.  Dads, this is when you need to step up.  You are her support team; her coach.  Breathing exercises are a way for the two of you to connect, calm, and focus.  You are a team.  When you notice that she is not breathing, DO NOT tell her to breathe.  She’s more likely to punch you than she is to hear your instructions.  Instead, hold her hand gently, look into her eyes, tell her you love her, and begin to breathe yourself.  Say, ‘breathe with me.’ and she’ll respond.  You can do this together….”

Breathe with me. That’s such a simple but powerful reminder.  Less instruction.  More hand-in-hand, loving, demonstration of what needs to be done together (especially on the big day).

This lesson has me thinking of campus professionals that say, “I tell them the same thing … for some reason it’s like they hear it for the first time when you say it.”  It reminds me of chapter leaders that say, “how many times do I have to tell them!?!?”  It reminds me of my headquarters friends that tell stories of feeling like they are ‘spinning their wheels’ or ‘talking to a wall.’  Our alumni sometimes say, “is it really that hard … in my day … they just don’t get it.”  The lesson even reminds me of my parents.  I was the worst offender of being dismissive or defensive when they told me what I was doing wrong.

Recruitment seasons create high tension environments ripe with these moments.

Compassionate leaders/teachers/coaches/advisors/consultants/chapter and council officers often come to realize the power of being present in the moment, listening deeply, empathizing, and doing it together.  Speaking in the voice that your recipient can hear is an art form.  Committing to do it together as a team.  Leading by example.  This is quite a bit different than dropping by to “check in,” barking direction, sending a passive-aggressive text/email, or rolling your eyes (all are examples I am personally guilty of doing).

So, whether you are having a baby or just dealing with one, a few more patient moments of brotherly/sisterly love is more likely to yield the result that everyone is looking for.  Breathe with me.

Choose Inspiration

by Matt Mattson

inspirational-images-1So, what does 2012 hold for you?

Some will answer that question with a factual statement.  Some will answer that question with a big fat “No idea.”  Some will answer that question with a concession statement to the misery of their life.  Others though…

Others will share a dream.  Others will tap into our imagination. Others will dwell in possibility.  Others will resolve to do something important–something remarkable.

The New Year is like that.

So, what do you do? (asked of an individual or an organization).

Some will answer that question with a factual statement that informs.  Some will answer that question with a fumbling response that confuses.  Some will answer that question with a defeated scowl and a complaint about what keeps them from doing anything.  Others though…

Others will inspire. Others will tap into our deepest aspirations.  Others will intoxicate us with potential.  Others will disorient us with possibilities.

Will you be some people or the others?  Will you inform or inspire?

As you try to attract others to your cause, choose the magic of inspiration over information from the very first encounter.

This blog was inspired by this post from Seth Godin and a fun Email exchange this morning with my friend Alex Koehler.

Does Phired Up Help Culturally-Based Greeks?

by Matt Mattson

We often get asked, “Does Phired Up Productions do anything for culturally-based fraternities & sororities (like NPHC, NALFO, NMGC, NAPA, etc.)?”

The answer is, and always has been, a resounding YES.  And we do it well, but there is more work to be done.  I’m proud of the work we did a couple years ago with a task force of innovative professionals in the field who helped us build more educational resources specifically for culturally-based Greek Letter organizations.  For now, we wanted to make sure we shared a bit of our philosophy…

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”  This oft-quoted phrase explains the inspiration for our company, for our philosophy, and for our work.  It also goes a long way toward explaining the genesis of most culturally-focused fraternal organizations – groups of driven individuals with a shared cultural background gathered together to change their world in a meaningful way.  Culturally-based fraternities and sororities were founded to make a meaningful impact on society — to change the world — and the best way to do that is to ensure that there is always a high quantity of high quality people to achieve that mission.  That’s what we do — we help cause-based membership organizations find the people they need to change their world.

The word “recruitment” is often frowned upon by some members of some culturally-based fraternal groups (and for good reason).  Often that word is related to the style of organizational growth that NIC and NPC groups utilize — and that style doesn’t match the values of some culturally-based fraternal groups.  However, that doesn’t change the need for culturally-based groups to attract people to their cause.  So, it is important to not necessarily connect the word “recruitment,” and all it’s Greek connotations, with attracting high quality people to an organization.  Let’s simplify it.

  • Culturally-based fraternities and sororities are membership organizations (made of people and purpose).
  • Membership organizations need a consistent amount of high quality people to be successful.
  • Culturally-based fraternities and sororities were founded to change the world in a meaningful way.
  • The more people (members, raving fans, supporters) an organization has to support its founding mission, the better it typically does at achieving that mission.
  • Phired Up teaches cause-based membership organizations the art and science of organizational growth.

We will launch more resources in the future to meet the unique needs and opportunities presented by culturally-based fraternal organizations.  We see that the future of the fraternal movement is tightly tied to the success of the organizations that are most relevant to today’s (and tomorrow’s) students. Thanks to all the organizations and universities that have brought Phired Up’s messages of Dynamic Growth and Social Excellence to their culturally-based fraternal leaders.

Give First (Phired Up Uses its Own Lessons at AFA)

Our whole Phired Up team is traveling to an important conference for college fraternity/sorority advisors this week.  We’re very excited to go to the educational sessions, listen to the keynote speakers, and enjoy the festivities.  But we know that if we want to deeply connect to the best people who can help us change the world, we need to go to the conference in the spirit of GIVING FIRST.

Organizations that give first will find themselves connected to a lot of amazing people, so that’s our plan. We’ll be using the lessons we teach about Dynamic Recruitment and Social Excellence throughout this big conference of over 1100 people.  Want a sneak peak at how we’re giving first (and some ideas you could use for your organization)?  Here you go…

At this year’s AFA Annual Meeting in St. Louis, many attendees spot Vince Fabra and Shira Tober wandering around with Polaroid cameras.  It isn’t an official part of the conference, but these two Phired Uppers thought they’d create an in-the-halls Social Excellence experience for everyone.  They’ll be working hard to snap pictures, engage people in Fun Zone/Deep Zone conversations, and then give them social challenges to build quick, new, fun relationships throughout the conference.  We’re secretly serving as unofficial hosts!

Other select attendees will receive secret Social Excellence dares designed just for the conference.  Will they or won’t they take the dares?  Will they or won’t they choose Social Excellence?  It is up to them.

About 20 specially selected AFA members will be recognized as Social Excellence Superstars at Phired Up’s exhibit booth, with their names and pictures on display — we’re trying to make our booth about the movement, not about how awesome we are (although we are awesome).

Several Phired Up team members will be conducting video interviews with conference attendees about the way they’re helping organizations grow and change the world. We want to give others a platform to share their messages.

We’ll be making a big donation to a charitable organization we deeply support — giant over-sized check and all!

We’ll be giving attendees an opportunity to share their recommendations for chapters who should take our upcoming FREE CHAPTER RECRUITMENT DIAGNOSTICS TEST. This will be launched officially later this week!

We’ll be giving free Good Guys or I Heart Recruitment books to all the graduate student attendees!

We’ll be modeling Social Excellence.  We’ll be introducing old friends to new friends.  We’ll be asking interesting questions.  We’ll  be handing out prizes (copies of our new book).  We’ll be building our names list of relationships and friends.  We’ll be tweeting like crazy about all the amazing stuff we’re learning and people we’re meeting.

All in all, we’re going to try to be as generous as possible.  We’re going to reach out and try to make everyone feel welcome and connected.  We’re going to choose to be the company that isn’t there to sell stuff, but is there to make the conference a little more fun, a little more personal, and a lot more social.  We figure if we do that, people will like us and our business will take care of itself.

This is what we teach organizations to do.  So, this is what we do.  Give first.

Announcement: 2011 Limitless Possibility Grant Recipient (and 1/2 Price Program Opportunity)

[In honor of this year's recipient (and to bring the donation up to a nice round number), we're proud to offer a one-time opportunity.  The first college campus to send an e-mail to requesting a women's-specific program for its students (consider a Social Excellence program to empower women's leaders, or a Dynamic Recruitment for Sororities program) will get the program for 1/2 price AND 100% of the payment will go directly to Circle of Sisterhood (1/2 price program = $1,875). E-mail must include a commitment to booking the program and proposed dates, and must be received by 12/1/11.  Go! ]

circle_of_sisterhood1Phired Up Productions is proud to award its 2011 Limitless Possibility Grant to The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation. Circle of Sisterhood is a powerful exemplification of Social Excellence in action, and Phired Up is honored to make a $10,000 donation to the organization, which will be formally presented at this year’s Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) Annual Meeting.

The mission of Circle of Sisterhood states that the organization “will leverage the collective wisdom and influence of sorority women to support entities around the world that remove educational barriers for girls and women, uplifting them from poverty and oppression.”

Just as the new book about Social Excellence from Phired Up teaches: Handshakes lead to conversations. Conversations lead to relationships.  Relationships lead to collaboration.  Collaboration leads to organization.  Organizations change the world. The founder of Circle of Sisterhood, Ginny Carroll, has demonstrated that progression of handshakes changing the world through her work creating Circle of Sisterhood.

From the website: “Founder, Ginny Carroll was inspired to create the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation because she is a strong proponent of the sorority experience and is well aware that the sorority movement came forth out of oppression. She was also motivated by a November 2009 Oprah interview with Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, authors of the book Half the Sky, who shared their first-hand accounts from visits to poor countries across the globe where women are subjected to violence and oppression solely because of their gender.

“Ginny realized, as a college educated woman, that she had a responsibility to do something to help girls and women around the world get an education and she knew that she could not do it alone – that as just one person, her impact would be insignificant. But she was well-acquainted with a very large community of college educated women she knew would help – sorority women.”

Ginny Carroll is an icon in the fraternity/sorority world, and is someone the Phired Up staff has looked up to for a long time.  She embodies Social Excellence with her ability to connect with young students and experienced professionals alike — with her warm smile and fantastic conversation skills, with her understanding of the power of deep relationships, and with her recognition that sororities (like all organizations) can make a meaningful impact on society if they choose to focus their energies there.  Ginny and the other amazing Circle of Sisterhood leaders are putting in real work (not just talk) to challenge collegiate Greek organizations to matter to the world.  This is what Phired Up means when we teach Social Excellence — look to Ginny and Circle of Sisterhood as an example of how Social Excellence is done!

When Phired Up launched its Limitless Possibility Grant in 2010, the company’s President said, “We believe that organizations can change the world.  We believe they can do that in innovative ways.  Phired Up wants to teach the groups we work with about the power of creatively investing in causes you believe in,” Matt Mattson continued, “Launching our Limitless Possibility Grant is an exciting demonstration of those beliefs in action.”

The Limitless Possibility Grant from Phired Up is a one-time annual gift given to a cause the Phired Up’s employees choose.  The first ever recipient (2010) was

Say Yes To Adventures

by Branden Stewart

swing-dancers-1Before I left Grand Rapids to attend graduate school at Ball State back in July, I went out with my close friend (and Phired Up guest blogger) Keith for dinner downtown.  We stopped by one of our favorite restaurants and enjoyed a great dinner served by a fun waitress.  We reminisced about our years going to school at GVSU, reflected on our time together as active members of Delta Sigma Phi, and looked ahead to talk about the future.

As we began to walk back to the car, we heard some loud music coming from down the street.  Walking toward the music was definitely out of the way from where we had parked, but for some reason we were intrigued by what could possibly be going on downtown in the middle of the week.  As we turned the corner to see what was happening, we were stunned to see hundreds of people laughing, talking, and… swing dancing.  Keith and I quickly made friends and asked a few people about what we were seeing. We found out that it was actually the Grand Rapids Original Swing Society.

I’ll admit that I have no idea how to swing dance, yet I was absolutely amazed by what I was seeing.  Hundreds of people had gathered together around a shared purpose and were having an excellent time.  They were meeting new people.  They were dancing with new partners.  They were stepping out of their comfort zones.  They were being Socially Excellent.

One of Phired Up’s “Be the person” sayings is, “Be the person who says yes to everyday adventures.” So, of course, Keith and I looked for an opportunity to participate. At one fun point in the evening as we were looking on with awe as the music slowed down and the DJ began to play “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.  Suddenly the crowd was lying on the ground, looking up at the sky, engrossed in the lyrics and surrounded by friends both new and old.  Almost everyone participated, Keith and I included.

When I moved out of Grand Rapidsswing-dancing-2 later that weekend, I couldn’t help but think of my last night in the city I loved.  I had spent countless nights at restaurants, events, comedy shows, concerts, and athletic events downtown that were planned and most times paid for.  But how often did I take a moment to smell the roses, listen to my surroundings, and take a different path?  Diving into this “everyday adventure” gave me a powerful memory, a fun story to tell, and deepened my friendship with Keith. This is the fun of Social Excellence.

The picture is a little blurry (I have a better phone now!), but hopefully you can tell what’s going on. This group of people barely knew each other, but had gathered around a purpose and had a blast doing it. They were demonstrating Social Excellence without even knowing it! Let’s all try to be intentional about where we go, who we meet, and how we interact with others.  Let’s intentionally take a different path.  Let’s learn from our swing dancing friends and be a bit more Socially Excellent. Say yes to an adventure today — you never know who you’ll meet or where it might lead.

Socially Contagious

by Shira Tober

Social Excellence is contagious.  And it should be.

holding-the-door-openI think living a lifestyle of intentionally getting to know someone, having meaningful conversation, and cultivating relationships should be the most wide-spread, quick-moving epidemic our world has ever seen.  Being Socially Excellent opens the door to limitless possibilities of interactions, relationships, and game-changing action.

Organizations full of socially excellent people can change the world, but also, individuals can take actions that set in motion truly magical chains of events.

I’m always inspired by the Liberty Mutual commercials and the power that one person’s actions can have. Take a look here or here.

One person can inspire others to strive to be better.  When I meet Socially Excellent people or hear stories of Social Excellence, it motivates me to be better, do better, and live better.

I recently read this Facebook status of a chapter sister, Alex, who after graduation went to work for Teach for America.  (Yes, I am freely admitting to Facebook stalking; what can I say, I’m a product of my generation):

“A man saw me buying 75 notebooks and folders for my students and insisted on giving me $10. My students and I thank you very much, Jaclancey from Georgia.”

I think Jaclancey is a real life example of the power one person has to further the spread of the Social Excellence message.  You see, Jaclancey was curious and generous.  He saw a young woman buying 75 notebooks and folders, a sight one doesn’t see every day, and instead of letting an opportunity pass him by, he was inquisitive and asked the question that was burning inside of him.  By inquiring about the purchase, Jaclancey started a conversation with Alex.  A question and introduction led to conversation and that conversation led to a collaboration of the two working to educate our future leaders.

In our everyday lives it would be great and generous if we opened our wallets to help others, but generosity can be simpler.  We can go out of our way to make someone smile or make their day a little bit better.  We can linger a little longer while holding open a door, we can let someone go head of us in line at the grocery store, or we can be the person that inspires others to be curious and generous.  We can be a little more like Jaclancey from Georgia.

Create An Experience for Others

By Jessica Gendron Williams

heronhouseMy husband and I recently took a short vacation to Key West, FL to celebrate my birthday.  We wanted the vacation to be quiet and relaxing.  We made no official plans except to spend time with each other and see what each day brings us.  In an effort to have a quieter atmosphere, we decided to stay at a bed and breakfast tucked in an area of Key West called “Old Towne”.  This is the oldest part of Key West 6 blocks north of the bustling Duvall St.,  and two blocks in from the Harbor. 

We arrived the night of our check-in after all the staff had left.  On the front door of the B&B was a envelope with our names on it.  Inside, handwritten instructions of how to get our keys, where our room was, what time breakfast was, all the “need to knows” of the home, and a final note that said, “We’ll get you all checked in after breakfast tomorrow.”  The next morning, we walked out to breakfast sad down with a cup a coffee and a man from behind the front desk says, “You must be Ben and Jessica.  Welcome.”  He stood up from his post, walked over to us and introduced himself as Roman and shook both of our hands.  We assumed that he wanted us to check in immediately, sign our forms, get our credit card, and get on with his other duties, but he didn’t.  He told us to enjoy our breakfast and that we could get to checking in later.

When we finally walked up to his desk to check in, his first comment was, “What do the two of you plan on doing today?”  I was shocked.  I travel for a living.  I am accustomed to the first thing someone says to me a hotel front desk is, “I need you drivers license and credit card.”  Roman than proceeded to pull out a map of Key West, make some recommendations of local coffee places, great restaurants for lunch, live music, and places we should see marking them all on the map for us.  As I write this I smile just thinking about that moment.  I felt like Roman actually cared about us and wanted to ensure we enjoyed our time in Key West. 

That afternoon when we came back to cool off in the pool Roman was filled with questions about what we did, how we liked it, and if we had thought about what we wanted for dinner.  He then walked us over to the dining table where he had set out menus and discount coupons for local restaurants that he loved and a stack of maps with all of the restaurant marked on it.  He asked these amazing questions about what food we liked and when he talked about the different places, he didn’t talk just about the food, he talked about the atmosphere, the service, the noise level – the things that really make eating out an experience.

This level of service continued each day that we were there.  The conversations with Roman grew longer and longer.  We found ourselves wanted to tell Roman about the things we did, our experiences, and getting more recommendations from him.  We also found ourselves just wanting to get to know Roman – and we did.  On our final day as we were leaving the B&B, Roman walked us all the way outside, gave us both a hug, asked us both to come back soon, and then said, “Jessica, have a great day tomorrow (my birthday), I won’t wish it to you yet because it’ bad luck in Germany (he grew up in Germany).”  My husband mentioned offhandedly the first day we were there that my birthday was on Monday – and he remembered.  He remembered my birthday; he never forgot our names, and Roman, made our vacation.

We had an amazing experience at our Bed and Breakfast because of Roman’s Social Excellence (and his application of “The Four Pillars of Social Excellence”).  Roman was curious about us, what we wanted out of our vacation, and how each of our days were.  Roman was generous – was kind and warm and made our day and our vacation better – because he was in it.  Roman was authentic – he wasn’t an overly helpful – just so I can get a tip – kind of guy and I felt like I got to know the real him.  He was also vulnerable – he opened up to us about what places in Key West he liked and why, about his childhood in Germany, about his partner and his friends in Key West.

Our experience at the Heron House Court Bed & Breakfast in Key West, FL was by far the best customer service I have ever received at a hotel – and that’s saying a lot because I stay and a lot of hotels.  But more than that, it wasn’t a transaction (they take our money and give us only what we paid for) it was a memorable experience full of someone caring about us.  Our experience there was largely in part due to the Social Excellence of Roman.  Being Socially Excellent isn’t just about recruiting people to a cause – it is about being good at your job, it’s about being a good person, it’s about positively impacting the lives of others. 

I wish more people whose jobs involve customer service would take a lesson from Roman in Social Excellence – the world would be a better place.

What experience can you create for someone this week because of your choice to live a Socially Excellent lifestyle?

Did You Hear the Gossip?

by Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre

gossipI have been thinking a lot lately about gossip, particularly among women in organizations.  I am not sure if it is because I am literally immersed with all women’s organizations all day everyday or because I have been a victim of gossip and am now a STAUNCH advocate against it- it is probably a little bit of both.

What I wonder is… Why do we do it?  What does gossip accomplish and how does it impact organizations?

I think that we gossip to waste time and have something to do, to feel better about ourselves and/or lift ourselves to a different standing, or to make sure other people see the world through our lens. The gossiper is often insecure, bored, mis-informed, and dramatic in nature.

If you let it, gossip has the power to transform organizations, change lives, alter view points, and take up a whole lot of time.
It has been stated that “to change a human is to change humanity.” When we gossip it negatively impacts a person — someone who was uniquely and lovingly created to impact the world. So the impact gossip makes is not only on an individual but on the rest of the world in which they belong.

You know what else has the power to transform organizations, change lives, and alter view points? Social Excellence.

I invite you to spend time checking out our message about the importance of curiosity, generosity, authenticity, and vulnerability. What would happen if women (and men) in organizations stopped gossiping and used that time to build healthy, meaningful relationships with one another?

Today, when you hear gossip, feel yourself gossiping, or find yourself on the receiving end of some juicy gossip, just say, “Sorry about this, but I’m actually trying to reduce gossip in my life. Can we talk about something else?”

The lifestyle of Social Excellence is built from momentary bold choices to live as the best version of you.  Be bold enough and courageous enough to stop gossip when you hear it today — it could change your organization, it could change a life, it could change humanity.