Last weekend I was conducting a workshop at a fraternity leadership conference and was asked a great question – “How similar is this stuff you are teaching us to how great businesses function?”. I absolutely loved the question and immediately went through the list of ways that great fraternities and sororities are ridiculously similar to how great businesses conduct themselves – my response wasn’t based on what I read in a text book or dug up in some boring research paper, but by actual real-world experiences I have had. In addition to working with hundreds of chapters in a coaching/consulting capacity, I have also had the opportunity to do the same for businesses all the way from startups to Fortune 100 organizations.
Why is this important for members of fraternities/sororities to understand? Because having a great Greek experience and taking on leadership roles in your organization is the BEST “real world” experience you can possibly get on a college campus. Understanding and implementing best organizational practices into your fraternity or sorority will be incredible preparation for the organizations you work in after you graduate. Below are the parallels I see between great fraternities/sororities and great businesses:
They Know Quality People Drive Performance: everyone looks at Apple’s success with the iPhone and thinks that it was simply a great idea; the truth is that it was top-notch people that took a concept and turned it into a great product. The quality of people you have in your organization determines the trajectory your organization takes. You need to know what characteristics an A-player has in your organization and then know exactly how you plan on measuring a candidate against those standards. For instance, if your best members/employees are leaders, then only bring folks into your organization that have past leadership experience and did it at a high level!
They Recruit Hard Workers: I have seen it over and over again, organizations can’t find enough hard workers! I tell companies all the time to hire “will over skill” meaning that you can teach people a lot of things, however they either come to you with the will to work hard or not. There are a lot of lazy people in this world who only want to do the bare minimum and make excuses for their lack of a strong performance – great fraternities/sororities and great businesses have an abundance of hard workers and therefore accomplish significantly more than their competitors.
They Emphasize Leadership Development: in the business world, it is far easier and cheaper to promote from within your organization than to try and recruit a leader away from another organization. In fraternities/sororities, it is actually impossible to do this since you are stuck with whoever you have and unfortunately can’t trade away your worst members and hire great members from other organizations. The future of your organization is dependent on your ability to recruit top talent and then develop them as leaders so that they are prepared to take on prominent positions. How do we develop leaders? By giving them exposure to leadership (such as being on a committee) and bringing leadership training to members (such as having a successful alumnus of your chapter come to a chapter meeting and talk about the key leadership lessons they have learned in their life/career).
They Deliver a Great Customer/Employee Experience: ideally everyone in your organization will love being part of it and everyone external of your organization will love interacting with you. The companies that are thriving these days, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Tesla, all having dedicated employees who love working for the organization and work their butts off to help the company succeed. Externally, they each have millions of customers who love them because they focus on providing the customer as much value as they possibly can – for instance, Netflix spends a billion dollars on content to keep their subscribers happy. What can your chapter do to emulate these organizations? Give your members a ton of value (such as leadership development, fun social opportunities and professional development) and then do things to provide value to the community around you (such as philanthropy and campus-wide community service).
They Let Their Vision & Values Guide Decisions: all great organizations know exactly where they are going and the values that will guide their decision making. Amazon, since its inception, has been laser focused on proving a great customer experience, which means any time they are thinking about making changes to their business they look through the lens of “will this make the customer experience better” and then make a decision based on that.
They Understand What Talented People Want: when I’m working with companies, I take a detailed look at their compensation package to understand the value they provide employees. Why do I do this? Because great organizations provide compensation that aligns with the exact points of value that high performers in their industry are looking for. For instance, common things high performers look for are a competitive wage, flexible work schedule, lots of vacation and performance based incentives. In fraternities/sororities, we need to understand what our high performers are looking for and then offer that to them! Some examples that I have seen are professional networking, opportunities for internships/jobs, leadership opportunities, ways to become better at public speaking, opportunities to have fun on the weekends and regional/national leadership develop conferences. Great organizations know exactly what high performers want and provide it to them!
Hopefully this blog has given you some insight into the amazing parallels between fraternities/sororities and the business world. Have any questions? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m always here to help!
Tom Healy works with campus communities to help their leaders and organizations thrive – learn more HERE!