The Parable of the Bricklayers

by Josh Orendi

Have you ever heard the parable of the bricklayer?  An Australian company launched a campaign using an online children’s book and an old fable to move people toward their cause.  Before going on, read the short fable here .

That got my wheels spinning.  A series of questions came to mind:

How do we communicate with our members and prospects?  For that matter, what is the dialogue in our own minds about the daily things we’re doing on behalf of the organization?  Suffering bricklayer? Laboring volunteer?  Grateful contributor?  Perspective is a powerful thing.

The same activities (paperwork, Names List, recruitment meeting) can be defined as menial painful tasks or critical next steps toward the purpose of the organization.  What we choose to believe becomes our reality, impacts our productivity, and draws/repels people to/from our cause.

Bonus Thought: How would the story of your organization be told through a Children’s book?  If we could only communicate our recruitment message through a children’s book, what pictures and words would you choose to tell our story?  Or, here’s a blended fun zone and deep zone question:  How could the story of YOUR organizational experience to be written in a real children’s book that you would someday read to your own children?

Matter To The World

by Matt Mattson

We all want to matter, don’t we? I do. Someday when I leave this world I want to know that the life I lived meant something. I want to know that I’ve left a mark on the world.  I want to know that I’ve mattered.

I’m willing to guess that’s a pretty universal desire. But how do we matter?

I’m reading Blake Mykoskie’s book, Start Something that Matters right now, and that question is really ringing loudly in my ears at the moment.  How do we really matter?

There are a lot of ways to matter.  We matter to our loved ones.  We matter to our pets.  We matter to our workplaces.  But the more and more I think about it, one of the best ways to truly matter to the world is… 1) be about something — some cause, some purpose, 2) inspire others to also be about that thing, 3) gather those people together to act on that thing.  This is Social Excellence .

Here’s an excerpt from our new book, Social Excellence: We Dare You ; How Hand Handshakes Can Change The World .

If you want to leave your mark; if you want to establish a legacy; if you want to be remembered; if you want to look back on your life at 109 years old and know that it was all worth it, gather people together around a purpose that matters to you and go. Change the world based on your vision of how it should be.

All great movements started with one or two people sitting around saying, “The world would be better if…”

Sometimes they started slightly smaller with phrases like:
“This town would be better if…”
“Our people would be better off if…”
“This company would be better if…”
“I wish someone in this school would …”
“What really pisses me off is …”
“Why the $#@! doesn’t somebody just …”

All these statements are about changing some part of the world, but ideas alone aren’t enough. Many people have dreamy ideas and do nothing with them. True revolutionaries understand two things:

  1. You have to actually DO something.
  2. You’ll have more impact on the world if you don’t do it alone. In fact, the more people you have helping, the larger your impact is likely to be.

Right after that section of the book, we share the story of Blake Mykoskie and TOMS shoes as an example of Social Excellence.  See, so many people think Social Excellence is just about being nice to people — it’s about that, but about so much more too.  Connecting with people, shaking hands, having conversations, building relationships are the building blocks that make it possible to gather others together around your cause.

Want to matter to the world?  Start by shaking some hands today and see where it leads.

Don’t Grow Up

by Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre, Ed.D.

I am often around kids. I have a child, spend a lot of time in the local Children’s Hospital, and truly enjoy the presence of little ones in general. I think children and good researchers are the most curious populations currently in our society. I love the way children wonder about the world and believe in limitless possibility. It is impossible for children to fake much of anything. Kids are authentic and are rarely afraid to show their feelings.

Think about when a child gets hurt or is scared or is excited- it is almost unheard of for them to be shy about their emotions- they are quite comfortable with being vulnerable and are generous with their time and, depending upon their personality, are sometimes generous with their affection.

This evening as I was watching my little nieces play in the park I noticed something- kids instantly connect to one another just because they are kids. I watched as my six-year-old niece went right up to a child she had never met and said “wanna play?” To which the other child responded “sure- let’s run.” They ran for 20 minutes, laughing the entire time- just running. I watched in wonder at my two year old niece as she bashfully played hide and go seek with another child whom she had never met. She does not even really talk but can make a friend in a moment just because they are both kids. The park was full of them- children everywhere being Socially Excellent.

There is a whole subset of our society that is naturally authentic, vulnerable, generous, and curious.

When do we lose the ability to turn strangers into friends? Is it 3rd grade? High school? College?

When does it become socially unacceptable to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation?

When do we lose that childlike wonder and why do we lose it? More importantly, how do we get it back?

While there are probably a lot of folks telling you to “grow up” I would say maybe the best thing you can do is “get younger”- at least in the sense of relationship building and values. Somewhere along the line we unlearn an inherent birth right which looks suspiciously like Social Excellence to me…

“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”- Alvin Toffler

Meet the Fastest Growing Fraternity in the Nation … Alpha Sigma Phi, 60% Growth Rate Per Year!

[This post is one of several in a series of "Recruitment Spotlight" articles highlighting successful organizational growth]

by Josh Orendi

If your reaction to that title was “really!??” or “how is that possible” or “Alpha Sigma who?” you’re not alone. It’s hard to believe that a fraternity founded in 1845 could fly under the interfraternal radar with barely 50 chapters for the last 100 years then suddenly explode on the scene by nearly doubling its chapter count and more than doubling total membership in the last 3 years (that was not a typo, go back and read the last sentence again). Alpha Sig is challenging the status quo of what fraternity growth is supposed to look like. Their high-octane expansion is paired with an innovative support model that is producing sustainable, record breaking results.

I sat down at Starbucks in Carmel, Indiana for an early Wednesday morning interview with Alpha Sig’s Executive Director, Gordy Heminger, and the Director of Chapter & Colony Development, Matt Humberger. These guys are the real deal – full of intensity, passion, focus, and a unified vision. It turns out that’s true of their personal lives as well as their business lives. As I walked in the coffee shop I immediately noticed they were in a forward leaning, heated discussion and to my surprise, they were wearing gym clothes and hoodies complete with Alpha Sigma Phi embroidered baseball caps….

Phired Up: Good morning.

Alpha Sig: [Matt] Hey, Josh, do you know what major league baseball team has the longest streak of failing to make the post season?

Phired Up: I’m guessing you know I’m from Pittsburgh … the Pirates?

Alpha Sig: [Matt] Good guess, but no. They’re the third worst. It’s actually the Washington Nationals. They haven’t made the playoffs in 28 years! Most people wouldn’t guess that because they changed cities from Montreal in 2005…. I love baseball season. By the way, thanks for agreeing to meet with us an hour earlier than our original time.

Phired Up: My pleasure. Are you guys heading to the office from here (sarcastically)?

Alpha Sig: [Gordy] Not until I hit the gym. (looks at his phone) Personal trainer is meeting me in 32 minutes.

Phired Up: I didn’t realize I was on the clock. In that case, let’s jump in. Are the rumors true? I heard a well informed volunteer say 60% growth per year and that Alpha Sigma Phi has doubled in the last three years?

Alpha Sig: (devilish grin) Yes. We’re really proud of the hard work that our undergraduates, professional staff, and volunteers put in the last few years. We’re experiencing unprecedented growth. Here, we brought you the numbers:

Total New Members

2008/09 – 854

2009/10 – 1282

2010/11 – 1330

2011/12 – 923 (Fall only); will be over 1700 new members this year

Total Chapters/Colonies/Interest Groups

2009 – 64

2010 – 76

2011 – 85

2012 – 100

Growth Projection

2013 – 16 new groups

2014 – 16 new groups

2015 – 20 new groups

2016 – 20 new groups

Phired Up: I’m pretty sure these numbers make Alpha Sig the fastest growing fraternity in the country! How did you accomplish in 3 years what hasn’t been done in the organization’s previous 165 years?

Alpha Sig: Our board and staff are focusing our resources – human and financial – on supported growth. In the past we were stretched too thin. Today, we choose to use volunteers or outsource anything that we can’t do with excellence on our own.

Phired Up: You said, “supported growth.” What did you mean by that?

Alpha Sig: We’re proud of the numbers, but Alpha Sig is not a fraternity that goes everywhere and recruits anyone. We have a targeted, intentional approach and we take pride in the experience we provide for each member. Our chapters are receiving unprecedented levels of training and volunteer support.

Phired Up: Are you leveraging technology to do more with less or is there something else?

Alpha Sig: Technology has certainly helped. We were the first NIC fraternity offering cutting edge, online member education through our partnership with Big Fish. Also, we were the first national organization to provide every chapter with a free account with WebGreek for website services and backend chapter management. Oh, and Facebook has been huge. But, mostly we’ve gotten better at connecting our base of alumni with our chapters in a way that both are excited to work together. Our volunteers have taken over doing a lot of things the headquarters staff used to be responsible for – and quite frankly they’re better at it than we ever were. Technology helps but we never forget that we’re in a relationship business.

Phired Up: Tell me more about the volunteer and training pieces.

Alpha Sig: 62% of chapters and colonies attended our Burns Leadership Institute, 97% of chapters attended Academy of Leadership, and the Elevate conference became more professional in design while quadrupling its impact to reach nearly 250 undergraduate members. We’ve responded to the growing needs of our growing membership by more than doubling our professional staff and growing our volunteer network. In fact, the fraternity has increased the number of recognized chapter advisory boards from two in 2009 to 50+ in 2012. The coolest part of that statistic is that our chapter advisory boards now require 6 volunteers as opposed to a requirement of 3 in the past. Only a handful of chapters just have one advisor so even the chapters that don’t have a recognized chapter advisory board have more than one volunteer involved in supporting the group. Our standards and support model are increasing at the same time we are increasing our membership.

Phired Up: So this isn’t all about getting as big as you can as quick as you can through expansion?

Alpha Sig: No! We’re serving our current chapters at a high level and offering hands on recruitment help to those in need. Since 2009 we’ve helped 7 chapters with a headquarters led recruitment. We’re working hard to make sure our growth is sustainable for new and existing chapters. In fact, our retention rates are up in our expansion efforts from roughly 75% in 2009 to nearly 93% this past year. To be blunt, we’re recruiting better men at the same time we’re recruiting more men, and we’re giving them all a better fraternity experience.

Back Story & Disclosure: Phired Up co-founders Matt Mattson & Josh Orendi served on the Alpha Sigma Phi national fraternity staff as Leadership Consultants and Directors of Expansion between 1999-2002. Gordy was a Leadership Consultant on the professional staff (and Josh’s roommate) from 1999-2000.

Phired Up: Why now? Gordy, what is Alpha Sig doing different now than when you and I served on staff after college – let alone the 150+ years before then?

Alpha Sig: Here’s one big difference: We rarely hire guys right out of college. Today, Alpha Sig’s consultant team includes a guy with a law degree, a past employee in sales, and a guy with business experience. We only have one staff member that joined staff straight from his undergrad experience. Five members of our team have master’s degrees and Four members of our headquarters staff have masters degrees in higher education … three are former Greek Advisors. That’s important since 87% of our chapters received visits from headquarters this academic year.

Phired Up: What!? That hiring model is so different from what Alpha Sig used to do, and it’s very different from the traditional consultant/expansion model of other fraternity headquarters.

Alpha Sig: We’re hiring professionals to do professional work. We’ve recently hired two staff members who are not members – Tabatha Sarco and Danny Miller. We like that type of diversity of thought and experience. We think the number of staff members we have with higher education degrees and Greek advising backgrounds puts us in a position to better understand how we can improve upon the partnerships we have with our host institutions.

Phired Up: I feel like Alpha Sig has been under the interfraternal radar. How have you been able to keep all this success and change a secret?

Alpha Sig: We haven’t been trying to keep it a secret. We just weren’t talking about it. We wanted to wait until we had evidence and a story to tell before we started sharing what we’ve learned. And, to be completely honest, we’ve just been too busy doing the work to realize others didn’t know what we were doing.

Phired Up: Is there anything you know today that you wish you had known three years ago?

Alpha Sig: I wish we would have started with our 4 step process for expansion from the beginning.

Phired Up: Four step process. What is that?

Alpha Sig: We have a 4 stage business model for new groups. There are benchmarks with each step. The biggest change was moving initiation before chartering. We stopped treating colonies and interest groups like “pledges” for 2 years before they could charter. Now we train and educate new groups the same way we want them to educate new members. We’re modeling the way so they’re operating like a successful Alpha Sig chapter from the very beginning.

Phired Up: Let me tee one up for you. Hundreds of campus professionals are likely to read this article. Why should a campus pursue Alpha Sig for expansion?

Alpha Sig: Expansion – when done right – is good for the entire fraternity community. Here are three things we like to share with campuses we’re considering for expansion. 1) We have a track record of success so the IFC and campus can feel confident we’ll produce results in quantity and quality. 2) We have a five year support model for new groups so schools know we’re committed for the long haul. 3) Alpha Sig is committed to deep campus partnerships – so much so that we have four staff members with professional higher education backgrounds.

Phired Up: I’ve heard you talk about the last few years as “transformative” for Alpha Sigma Phi. What has been the biggest challenge?

Alpha Sig: Getting people to believe has been harder than we imagined. Our own alumni have been some of the hardest to win over. We’ve literally had conversations that sound like they belong in an undergrad chapter meeting. Long time alumni volunteers have told me, “I don’t want us to get too big … we’ll have to sacrifice brotherhood/quality.” In my opinion, they’re not choosing to see opportunities. They’re letting our past or fear of the future control our destiny. Fear is hard to overcome! I believe one measure of our success as an organization is the number of men’s lives we are positively impacting. When we grow, we fulfill our mission. Alpha Sig’s motto is “To Better The Man.” If we can give the gift of fraternity and better more men’s lives, the only question we should be asking is “why aren’t we doing more of that.”

Phired Up: What next? Now that you’ve made such a big splash in such a short period of time, what’s next?

Alpha Sig: This is very much the beginning, not the end. We’re just getting started. Now that we have a winning formula – high caliber staff, strong alumni support, great campus partnerships, and a consistent recruitment system – we’re ready to step on the gas. On top of the seven re-organized chapters, we’ve opened 41 groups since 2009 and the goal is to have 180 chapters and colonies by the end of 2016. That’s roughly 10 per semester. We know we still have a lot to learn and our model will continue to evolve.

Phired Up: If Alpha Sig can turn around a franchise that’s nearly two centuries old, do you think my Pittsburgh Pirates can see a playoff birth in 2012?

Alpha Sig: You’re probably better off hoping the Washington Nationals have another rough year.

Phired Up: That’s cruel.

Written by: Josh Orendi

Interview Date: March 28, 2012

Interviewer: Josh Orendi

Interviewed: Matt Humberger, Gordy Heminger

10 Ways to Demonstrate Social Excellence Online

by The Phired Up Team

The quality of our interactions determines the quality of our personal and organizational reputations.  High quality interactions = high quality organization.  This is as true for online interactions as it is for face-to-face interactions.  Here are 10 ways to be Socially Excellent in your online interactions.

1. Be the best version of yourself – No matter how annoyed you are with the slow driver in front of you, crying baby on your flight or the bad service at the restaurant, try and refrain from being overly negative. What does complaining about someone in 140 characters solve? Not a whole lot. Be mindful of your content and try and stay positive in what you submit to the world wide web. For instance, “This dude in front of me smells. FML.” doesn’t really raise the level of discourse in your life, does it?  Choose the best version of you — even in your tweets.

2. Be curious – The internet is filled with amazing things that are more enriching than a Facebook check, youtube laugh, or Find topics you are passionate about and have a desire to learn more about them. Here are a few good places to start: TED, Seth Godin, MIT, Free online magazines, etc.

3. Be generous
- “This made me think of you…” followed by a thoughtful quote, article, photo, video, link, etc. can be a wonderful gift.  As you login to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or whatever your social medium of choice is, think about how you can make someone’s day a little brighter with your online interactions.  Make a few people’s day every day and you’ll find yourself surrounded with caring relationships.

4. Be authentic – Online, be who you truly are. If you believe in something say it, share it, retweet it, or offer a “like.” Don’t just post things you think people want to see.  But be sure to refer to idea #1 above.  Keep this rule in mind though… read twice, post once.  Make sure what you’re saying or posting really represents what you mean, your values, and who you are from the point of view of the people on the other end.  Remember, your audience is varied and diverse, consider the best way to truly express who you are so that they can understand and appreciate you.

5. Be vulnerable
– Anonymous messages or comments aren’t Socially Excellent.  Own what you say, and as much as possible, do so publicly.  Vulnerably, boldly, and thoughtfully sharing appreciation, compliments, and even constructive criticism, is a way to truly engage with the world “below the surface.”  Relationships, including on-line relationships, are built through heart-to-heart connections and those require emotional involvement.  Don’t be a troll.

6. Be a connector
– Connect people to things they didn’t already know. Whether it be a mutual friend, an idea, an article, an event or a picture, people love receiving something personal that says, “I saw this and thought of you. You should check this out.” Now the operative word of this idea is PERSONAL. Try your best not to sound like various spam alerts. With a personal touch, being a connector goes a long way.

7. Be a supporter – Social Media translation – Retweet, repost, click the like button, #FF. People want to feel like their ideas, pictures, events and articles are worthwhile. The best way you can let them know you like is by letting them know you LIKE. That thumbs up icon on Facebook is a poster’s goal. That retweet on twitter makes that user feel special. Go ahead. Make their day.

8. Be a real person – Social media is a great way to connect with people. However, you will always fall short if you are trying to replace face-to-face communication. Use social media as an avenue to set up lunch, coffee or any other person-to-person interaction. “Hey @vincefabra, instead of tweeting back and forth about this, would you like to grab lunch? When are you free?” (with 28 characters to spare)

9. Be a wisdom seeker – Social media offers an opportunity to surround yourself with thought leaders.  Choose to have only one degree of separation from content experts.  Follow them, repost them, link to them, and then ask them for their input.  They’re likely to respond and link you to their network.

10. Be the person who gathers others together – Be about something online.  Don’t just be online.  Gather others together, or join others who are already gathered together, about things you care about.  Build a movement by tagging and linking your posts.  Attach photos, videos, and articles to make posts more meaningful. If you are about SOMETHING, you can quickly become an important go-to source for information and networking about that thing.  You can influence, you can lead.  Social Excellence isn’t just about being nice.  It is about intentionally connecting socially so that you can make social impact.  The worldwide web machine, if used properly, provides unlimited potential to do just that.

3 #Hashtags

by Matt Mattson

If you’re one of the approximately 500,000,000 (!) Twitter users in the world, or you watch TV and have noticed the little pound-sign-thingy in the bottom corner of some of your favorite shows, you know what “hashtags” are.  Phired Up is driving a worldwide online conversation about Dynamic Recruitment and Social Excellence through a few hashtags and we thought we’d help you understand a) how you can participate, and b) how they all tie together.

#DynamicRecruitment: Search this hashtag frequently to see tips, links, and ideas focused on the “science” of organizational growth — Dynamic Recruitment.  You’ll see ideas for networking, choosing people to join your group, building relationships with prospective members, and all the elements of organizational recruitment.

Please add to the discussion!  Drop the #DynamicRecruitment hashtag on stories of groups growing, examples of Dynamic Recruitment in action, ideas to add names to your Names List, and more!  We especially like one-line-words-of-wisdom from your perspective.  Join the #DynamicRecruitment conversation.

#SocialExcellence: Search this hashtag often to see tips, links, and ideas about the “art” of organizational growth — Social Excellence.  We’ve written before about how Dynamic Recruitment and Social Excellence tie together (here). This hashtag will reveal to you an ongoing conversation about how handshakes lead to conversations, conversations lead to relationships, relationships lead to collaboration, collaboration leads to organization, and organizations change the world.  Lots of words of wisdom based on the philosophy shared in our book Social Excellence: We Dare You; How Handshakes Can Change The World.

Please add to the discussion by hashtagging #SocialExcellence with everyday examples of #Curiosity, #Generosity, #Authenticity, and #Vulnerability.  Share stories and ideas about ways people can connect on a deeper level, care about each other more, build more meaningful relationships, and collaborate with one another so that we can all find a way to truly matter to the world.

#BeThePerson: Search this hashtag to explore the momentary choices we can all make every day to #BeThePerson who exemplifies #SocialExcellence.  This hashtag was born from this resource (75+ #BeThePerson statements) which was built via Twitter and Facebook.  We’re constantly seeking more statements like this, so please share yours.  These simple, small, momentary choices are what add up to our habits and eventually our lifestyle.  Share your momentary choices and choose #SocialExcellence.

#BeThePerson is also the hashtag for our exciting event happening this summer – BE THE PERSON | 2012.  The event itself is about those momentary choices…

We cordially invite you to join these conversations with us on Twitter.  You can find us at @PhiredUp.  We look forward to your #Hashtags.