By Hailey Mangrum and Matt Mattson
Are you a chapter advisor who cares about helping your chapter grow? If so, you might have found yourself expressing exasperation, befuddlement, or vexation that the students you’re advising won’t do the work to grow their chapter.
“Don’t they want to grow?!”
“Don’t they get it?! If they don’t do the work, they won’t get the results!”
“I don’t want my chapter to die. I need these students to get to work!”
Holding undergraduate student leaders accountable to their growth goals can be hard. We don’t have any magical fairy dust, but we do have some key pieces of advice that we’ve learned in our work educating, coaching, and consulting with not only undergraduate students… but also with chapter advisors. These 5 pieces of advice for advisors are focused on growth-related advising, but we believe they’re transferable to a lot of areas of chapter advising.
They Really Don’t Know (Yet)
Your first job as an advisor is to be an educator. Remember, they don’t know what you know. They don’t have the context or the content to understand what you understand. Your first job is to provide an educational framework — not everything you know, but instead teach them a way to understand. For instance, you might teach them that there are 5 questions you will always ask them as their advisor (use this resource as a guide). Or perhaps you’ll focus them on 6 Beliefs of Dynamic Recruitment. Whatever it is, create a framework for them to understand growth, and then help them fill in that framework with their ideas.
Moments not Meetings
Great advisors in today’s modern world don’t build their work around meetings, they focus on moments. Now, to be clear, meetings are great. But the real advising work often happens between meetings… through quick text messages, face-to-face interactions, quick video chats, fast phone calls, and quick messages via social media or growth-related technology. It’s the moments that get the results, not the meetings. And the more these moments are uplifting, care-filled, timely, and include check-ins about the member’s personal life, the better they are.
Little 48 Hour Tasks
How many times have you written a list of things to do for the week and forgot about it?! Imagine if someone reminded you of the goals you set. Maybe a quick text, a screenshot or asking how did it go this week? Maybe it could’ve empowered you to push through and achieve the goals you set. Maybe you would have invested more because someone else was counting on you. Advisors have the unique opportunity to serve as a coach, advocate, and mechanism of support. The best advisors follow-up with the students they advise within 48 hours to ensure the goals have not been forgotten and are on track to completion. They don’t make a five year plan, a 5 month plan, or even a 5 day plan. Great advisors realize that today’s student is overwhelmed and underprepared. They need bite-size strategies, not mega plans. A quick check-in, reminder, or follow-up creates a culture of accountability, care, and support. It reinforces the concept of values alignment with doing what you said you were going to do.
Hope Is Required
Groups cannot be what they do not believe they can be. There has to be a deeper sense of purpose and connection to the desired outcome. And that deeper sense of “why does this matter” needs to be reinforced all the time. First, students need to name their desires, hopes, and goals. Then, advisors can attach results-driving tasks to the achievement of the student’s hopes. If you think that a student will do work to achieve your objectives you’re kidding yourself (remember they’re not getting paid, they don’t have the perspective you have, and they have a million other pressures on them).Students have to buy-in to the expectations they set for themselves and one another. Hope allows groups to approach issues with a values-based mindset and strategy towards success amidst the inevitable things that may occur. Once you require hope, a paradigm shift towards a empowering and enabling culture is created.
Measurement Manifests Miracles
It’s easy to desire something and not work to achieve it. For instance, it’s easy to say you want to be healthy. It takes intentionality, conscientiousness, and discipline to do the things necessary to become healthy. And one thing that is definitely required — measurement. In general terms, to be healthy, you might measure what you consume and how much you exercise. The same is true in fraternity and sorority growth. The proof is in the pudding (no pun intended) or in this case … the data. Data allows us a real, raw look into whether or not we really want to accomplish the goals we set. Great advisors focus on measurable data (which also has a side benefit — it isn’t personal). They look for key performance indicators that are likely to lead to the growth results the chapter desires. Measure daily behaviors. Gain buy-in around the importance of tracking interactions and information. Growth is a fun thing to advise because the things that produce results can almost all be counted. Once we begin to use data as a measurement for creating the strategies needed to grow, we can experience the organizations we deserve.
Being a chapter advisor is a thankless job for a person with a huge heart. Many advisors learn that 90% of their job is to pastor to students as they discover their own potential through trial and error. It’s more love than blame. It’s more patience than pestering. It’s more sisterhood and brotherhood than boss or supervisor.
As an advisor you deserve to hear one more thing: THANK YOU. You are the reasons our organizations thrive. You are also the reason students are developing lifelong skills and values through their membership in our chapters. THANK YOU!