By Keith Lopez – Colorado Gamma (Colorado State) Chapter Advisory Board Chairman
“I have seen a huge jump in personal growth after joining Phi Delt, and it was sort of addicting in a sense. I have experienced what my Phikeia educator meant when he said, “You get out what you put in.” It motivated me to keep going so I could continue to become a better version of myself. To put it in other words, the Fraternity has given so much to me already, and I want to reciprocate that back to it. There is no difference in how I was taught versus my peers, what matters is how I respond to those teachings.”
I asked a few of the most motivated and engaged new initiates within the chapter I advise about what motivates them to become engaged in a meaningful way as a contributing chapter member. The quotes included in this post are what I received.
Every semester, chapters initiate new members into the Fraternity with the hope that they will become the next leaders of the chapter; that they will find ways to push the chapter to greater heights, and to be some of the most engaged members the chapter has seen in recent memory. Yet, at times, our chapters look at the newly initiated members and see some who are engaged and motivated and others who disengage and rarely contribute. The chapter then looks to the next group of men they recruit and hope that results will be different.
A year passes by, and it’s no different. Why does this happen? Moreover, how do we keep newly initiated members engaged and motivated after the Phikeia education period? Below are a few tips for chapters to think about as they work to maintain engagement of newly initiated members following Phikeia education.
Know Your Phikeias… Truly Know Your Phikeias
Each summer during the Phikeia Educators College, the faculty spends time with Phikeia educators discussing how to facilitate an environment within their program that results in true learning and growth. To do this, members of the chapter’s Phikeia Education Board must build a relationship with each Phikeia individually and at a greater depth. They need to know much more than surface level information: major, year in school and where they call home. They should learn more about their motivations for joining the chapter, their hopes and wishes for membership in Phi Delt, their strengths and areas of improvement, their successes and their challenges, their background, life experiences, and what they are bringing to the Phi Delt experience.
By knowing your Phikieas at a deeper level early on, you can better identify ways in which they can be motivated and engaged beyond the new member period.
Immediately Involve Newly Initiated Brothers in Ways That Are Meaningful to Them
Committees. Committees. Committees. Scholarship Committee, Social Committee, Recruitment Committee, Phikeia Education Committee, Philanthropy Committee, Risk Management Committee, Public Relations Committee, Alumni Committee, Judicial Board, Campus Interfraternity Council Committees. There are so many opportunities for newly initiated members to be involved and engage with their chapter beyond simply attending events and chapter meetings. Find ways to provide newly initiated members with the opportunity to serve on a committee. Through this involvement, they can better understand how the chapter operates, observe motivated and engaged members in their leadership roles, and feel as if they are contributing to the future direction of the chapter.
The caution with this is not to create committees just to have them on paper, but to truly use them and engage more members in the chapter.
Do Not Pressure
We’ve all seen it. The Phikeia who joins enthusiastically, is charismatic and passionate about the Fraternity, and has incredible leadership potential and natural qualities that inspire those around him to be better. He wants to be as involved as possible the second he walks through the door as a potential new member. This is the guy who talks about how he aspires to be a future chapter leader during his Phikeia period. And then, a year later, he is nowhere to be seen. He’s not engaged, does not demonstrate motivation, and is not planning to take on a leadership role within the chapter.
So what happened?
Sometimes, the pressure of wanting an individual to be an instant leader can be detrimental. While you may be excited about someone’s leadership potential, let him ease into it. Provide him with various leadership opportunities that can help set him up for success, but do not overwhelm him. If he dives in too quickly, it can be a challenge. He may not be able to understand who he wants to be as a leader, or what he may bring to leadership roles at the time your brothers are telling him that he’s going to be the next great leader of your chapter. The result could include losing an individual with great leadership potential, because he never fully met the expectations placed upon him.
With that said, you can and should begin to have early conversations with Phikeias who demonstrate sheer leadership potential and talent. Help guide them through the experience and advise them to set realistic and timely expectations to complete their goals.
Intentional Big Brother Programs
“After my Phikeia period ended, the thought of not being involved within the Fraternity never crossed my mind. It was something I wanted to do. I believe I built such strong relationships that it made me want to stay committed to the Fraternity as a whole. I also grew a very strong relationship with my Phi Delt Big Brother which keeps me present within the chapter.”
Big Brother programs vary within our chapters. The ultimate goal of a Big Brother program is to provide each Phikeia with a mentor and a guide, who they connect with, to provide sound advice, counsel, and support. The Big Brother programs we have should be very intentional. This goes back to knowing Phikeias at a deeper level.
Some questions to think about:
- How do you create a pairing that is best for both the Phikeia and the Big Brother?
- How do you ensure that you have criteria and minimum requirements for being a Big Brother?
- How do you create accountability for Big Brothers who take on the responsibility of mentoring and guiding a Phikeia?
If you want to motivate and engage Phikeias after their new member education period, why would you pair them with an unengaged and unmotivated member of your chapter? Apply a critical lens to your Big Brother program and start making intentional pairings. Build a structure that allows for meaningful mentorship to occur between Big and Little Brothers during the Phikeia education period and beyond.
Involve Newer Members in Higher Level Chapter Conversations
When appropriate, find ways to include newly initiated members into higher-level chapter conversations. For example, invite a few newly initiated members to an Executive Committee meeting. Bring a few newly initiated members to the Interfraternity Council meeting and to meetings with the campus-based Fraternity & Sorority Advisor, the House Corporation, or the Chapter Adviser so they can start to learn the bigger picture. Seek their opinion of matters that have an influence on the chapter.
Continually Encourage Reflection on Why Members Joined in the First Place
“I found it easy to stay motivated and involved after my Phikeia semester. I can attribute it directly to Morrison’s philosophy: To do what ought to be done, but would not have been done unless I did it, I thought to be my duty.” This philosophy reminds me to continually devote myself to my chapter and to serve the chapter and my brothers to my greatest abilities. It inspires me to live out what it means to be a Phi every day.”
As a Chapter Adviser for over a decade, I have seen hundreds of members come through the chapter. I am always curious to learn why some members, who received the same educational content as their peers, choose to engage differently and exhibit greater levels of motivation. It is a given that every person is unique and provides his own perspective, but we must capitalize on this as we formally initiate our new members. Reflection is key. If you can encourage your newest members to reflect on the reason(s) they sought out and chose Phi Delt in the first place, you will be more successful in finding ways to meaningfully keep them motivated and engaged.