By Andrew Norrie
If you’re reading this and you’ve ever been an officer in your chapter, think back to the weeks after you were elected to your role. Odds are, you didn’t have a ton of mentorship, and you and your fellow officers were left in a period of limbo where you were required to figure things out and catch your stride as leaders of your chapter. During this period of acclimatization and learning, your chapter can experience a slowdown in operations, your members can be left questioning their decision to elect you, and you can be left feeling overwhelmed with the many responsibilities of your position; this may cause you to waste time “reinventing the wheel.”
While Phi Delta Theta has a number of resources to assist you in excelling in your roles, such as your Chapter Advisory Board, PDT U resources, and your chapter support coordinator, the best resource for your success is chapter-specific guidance and strategy building with your campus and your members in mind. That requires the outgoing officer to work with the incoming officer and collaborate on a smooth, efficient, and productive transitioning of roles.
When a chapter effectively transitions their incoming and outgoing officers by encouraging collaboration between the two parties, the chapter won’t experience a slowdown in operations and the incoming officers will feel more prepared and equipped to fulfill their roles.
The best method to ensure a quick and efficient transitioning of officers is to host an officer transition retreat. The best time to do this is shortly following elections and prior to the newly elected officers assuming their roles. It can be completed in a matter of hours and is critical to a successful transition. Implementation of successful officer transition retreats will net your chapter a culture of continued excellence, consistency of competent and prepared officers, and a system that will see officers easily adopt their new positions.
To begin, ensure that both incoming and outgoing officers are present at the officer transition retreat. Find a space, ideally off campus, to conduct the retreat. Feel free to invite members of your Chapter Advisory Board, and even your province president, too, if you’d like.
An effective model for a retreat is as follows:
Ice Breaker – 15 Minutes
Kicking things off with an ice-breaking activity can loosen up the attendees, fill the room with energy, and help build a casual and friendly environment prior to diving into business. The type of ice breaker is at your discretion.
Group Discussion – 30 Minutes
Following the ice breaker, host a group discussion about how the previous term or year went. Discuss where the chapter succeeded and where it fell short. This activity helps you identify the strengths and weaknesses of the past term, and begins the conversation of what the incoming officers will need to focus on the coming year.
Officer Evaluations – 15 Minutes
Have both the incoming and outgoing officers complete the linked evaluations. This activity will help guide the next activity and is great for the chapter’s vice president to have, as he will be responsible for ensuring officers are productive and effective.
One-On-One Transition Time – 30 Minutes
Have the group break into pairings of the incoming and outgoing officer for each position. Use this time as an opportunity to have a conversation about the position, its responsibilities, and current resources available. Identify a prioritized list of focus areas and the budget typically allocated to that role. Advice from the outgoing officer to the incoming officer is typically well-received in this environment.
Dismiss outgoing officers following this activity.
Officer Goal Setting – 30 Minutes
Give the incoming officers time to create a list of goals for their position. Encourage officers to reflect on both the chapter-wide and one-on-one discussions that have already occurred, in order to create goals and objectives for their own positions.
Officer Goal Presentations – 60 Minutes
This is an opportunity to give each incoming officer the floor to present his prioritized goals for the role. Following each presentation, allow those in the room to provide input and feedback on these goals. This exercise will help each officer perfect his narrative that can then be shared in a future chapter meeting.
Review Chapter Budget – 15 Minutes
Together, review the chapter’s budget to identify allocations for each officer position and whether adjustments need to be made based on past spending levels. Understanding officer budgets gives your officers a valuable frame of reference for what their spending can be in a year. Using his goals created for the role, challenge each officer to build out his budget for the upcoming year and report back at a future meeting.
Officer Expectations – 15 Minutes
Begin wrapping up your retreat by determining broad expectations of chapter officers. This could include things like being present at all chapter and executive meetings, adhering to the risk management policies of Phi Delta Theta, and demonstrating leadership at all times. Remember, your chapter will look to its officers to set the tone of the chapter.
Closing – 10 Minutes
Finish the retreat by answering any pressing questions anyone has, clarifying anything that needs to be clarified, and challenging the officers to use what they learned that day to immediately begin pursuing success once they’ve assumed their positions. Passing the gavel is also a great way to end the retreat. Finally, displaying all flip-chart work in the chapter house and a summary of the retreat with as much detail as you feel fitting in the chapter’s internal communication network is beneficial.
Creating a process that results in successful officer transitions should be a high priority for your chapter. This simple framework can provide the momentum needed to springboard your newest officers to success.