• Fraternity Pledging
    Fraternity Pledging Thoughts from the Chapter Services Department of Sigma Pi Fraternity, International

As the year comes to an end and with 2015 quickly approaching, it is important to understand that every organization experiences some sort of transition around this time.  Chapters within Sigma Pi have recently selected new leadership (new Executive Council) and as with any new group of leaders, establishing a sound team can be quite challenging and difficult.  Team dynamics are interesting and as with any new group common dysfunctions arise.  Team members who are willing and able to understand team norms and address these dysfunctions can aid with establishing a united front-something advisors of Greek-lettered organizations aspire to achieve with their respective organizations. This post will aid newly elected student leaders, chapter advisors, and other pertinent members within our organization gain valuable insight from two theorists/authors on organizational management and team dynamics.

Stages of Team Development

Many students leaders may be familiar with Bruce Tuckman’s stages of group development (1965), and similar to any corporate team, this same theory applies to fraternal organizations.  As mentioned in his revised model, the phases a team experiences are all necessary and inevitable if a team wishes to grow, tackle problems, and deliver results.  Currently, newly elected Executive Councils (EC) in our chapters are experiencing the forming stage, or the first stage of team building. During this phase, the team begins to organize who does what, when to meet, and essentially initial first impressions of the team are established.  The team typically avoids conflict and is typically agrees with everything, especially when it comes to goal setting.  This stage involves a lot of team building and creation of relationships.  ECs and advisors should spend a substantial amount of time during this stage early on to ensure that everyone is on the same page and members are able to do their respective role for the overall betterment of the organization.

Following the forming stage, groups experience the storming stage, in which members of the team have differing opinions and competing priorities and interests.  This phase is inevitable and serves as a way to help get the team back on track and solidify collaboration as opposed to having members work independently from one another.  Storming is necessary for growth to occur, it may be unpleasant at first but with some true vulnerability and accountability from advisors and upper leadership, such as the Sage, a team can move out of this phase. Setting ground rules, expectations, and deadlines help when trying to get the team to refocus and move out of the storming stage.  The true success of a team is determined by how long the storming stage lasts and when groups are able to move into the norming stage of team dynamics.  The norming stage, unlike the storming stage, typically has the team members take responsibility of their actions and the willingness to do work for the success of the team’s goals is achieved.  Ideally, the EC should discuss key and vital goals for the organization and prioritize them for the overall success of the organization and ensure that everyone understands them. Teams that determine the most pressing issues and then delegate action items to the membership aid in the success of the overall team’s goals.

 Ideally, Sigma Pi would be fond of all of its ECs to reach the performing stage, but as with any organization, especially fraternal organizations, this may be difficult to achieve in such a short amount of time- in our case one calendar year.  It is possible however, and these high-performing teams are able to function as a unit and find ways to accomplish tasks effectively and with little to no inappropriate conflict or the need for external consultation.  The team is highly motivated, committed, and dedicated to the overall progression of the organization and the members take initiative and support one another with most decision making processes. The final and fifth stage of Tuckman’s model explains the departing phase of a team or the adjourning stage.  As with most things, there will be a point when the team departs, but it is important for the group that is leaving to transition the new leadership: transition documents, shadowing experiences, and end of the year reports aid the new team tremendously, and ECs should both incoming and outgoing should create a time to discuss the challenges and successes of the prior year as a collective.

So how does a team achieve this idealistic phase of performing?

Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, (1998) constructed a list of five dysfunctions that teams experience and offered recommendations to creating a healthy team.  As with any team, an Executive Council in fraternal organizations, especially within chapters of Sigma Pi have multiple personalities, interests, and differing thoughts, opinions, and priorities, yet must work together to support the overall objectives and operations of the organization.  The five dysfunctions of a team are as follows:

1. The Absence of Trust

2. The Fear of Conflict

3. The Lack of Commitment

4. Avoidance of Accountability

5. The Inattention to Results

Since the ECs of our organizations were nominated and elected by the membership, they represent the overall organization and are considered to be the driving force and decision-makers to propel the organization forward.  Poorly function teams or ECs are populated by individuals who seek recognition and attention at the expense of others (keep this in mind for future elections).

A healthy team trusts one another.  This originates from admitting weaknesses and mistakes, asking for help, offering and accepting apologies, and most importantly supporting moments of vulnerability and establishing true authentic relationships vested in sincerity and genuineness. Healthy teams also have lively, interesting meetings that foster conflict. Members that are able to voice their opinions openly and discuss controversy respectfully create teams that enjoy discomfort.  EC meetings that are solely updates and information that could be solely shared in an email do not allow for this conflict to occur.  Conflict doesn’t always have to be negative; debate is healthy and disparate thoughts encourage conversation.  ECs that have strong commitments create clarity and direction for an organization thus creating a functional team.

Aligning the team on common priorities helps the group focus on what truly is important.  One area that majority of ECs struggle with is holding each other and members accountable.  Healthy teams ensure that poor performers feel the pressure to improve and addressing their lack of input while emphasizing their importance to the overall goals and objectives aid in riding this problem.  A functional team establishes respect when members of the team are all held to the same standards as everyone else and prevents favoritism and biases.  Lastly, teams that minimize individualistic behavior and instead celebrate team achievements and progress fail less frequently.  Sharing results with the active membership also helps with the overall success of an organization and thus minimizes the potential dysfunction that exists in a team.

Theory to Practice

Providing insight on group development dynamics and addressing dysfunctions for these groups serves no purpose unless these teams are able to put this information into practice.  Since our groups are in a state of transitioning new leaders into their respective Executive Council roles, it is essential that these newly established teams set goals that are representative of the collective and that every member has a role to propel the organization forward.  In my opinion, newly formed teams should dedicate a day or two (retreat) from reality to establish the team and create those authentic relationships and work collaboratively to create goals for the organization, task lists, action items, deadlines, and methods for accountability.  Unity is integral in establishing a team but sustaining the unity is the challenge.  My charge to ECs and chapters as they are about to enter 2015 is to ensure that the leaders of the organization unite and remain united when making decisions.  Eradicating dysfunction takes time, but the sooner these teams move as a united front then can the organization truly prosper and move towards performing.

When I attended SIUe, I pledged Delta-Omega Chapter in Fall of 1993, and it was a wonderful time. I loved everything about my experience, from my pledge brothers and the actives to the alumni that I met. After I initiated, we had let the house that we were renting go, and I thought I would make a plan to contact alumni to ask for money. I mean, they went through the same thing we did, they have money presumably, and we need a new house. Little did I realize that we had not done the greatest job with communicating with our alumni over the years. Not only were they not going to buy us a house, we were lucky if we got $100 from them. I always said to myself, “It will be different when I become an alumnus. I will donate.”

 Many years later, I have made donations to my chapter. We still don’t have a house, and I have no idea where the money went to. Well okay, I have a good idea. My money would have been better served if I had given to the Sigma Pi Educational Foundation. I mean, I had been an alumni volunteer for over 13 years, but I always felt my time and commitment was my donation. It is to a certain extent, but I know I could have done more. I had that conversation with Former Assistant Executive Director Jonathan Frost (Delta-Omega, UMSL ’02) on many occasions. When will we realize that we have to contribute our part to our fraternity? If we want more from our fraternity, then we must do our part.

Still I did not give, and I always told myself that I would someday. Then I went to Mid-Year Leadership Conference in 2013. I attended the alumni session as always. Most of the sessions were the same over the years, but this time there was something different. PGS Larry Rovira (Epsilon-Nu, California State University-Fullerton ’85) was speaking on behalf of the SPEF. He talked about how important it is to donate to our chapter, but we also have a responsibility to donate to our foundation. He talked about just donating $18.97 one-time could get you started. That is a nice dinner that you might skip or a night out drinking for some. I then remember him saying “because…If not you, then who? Who is going to make our foundation stronger? Who is going to donate towards the scholarships out for our brothers? Who is going to make that commitment? If not you, then who?” I thought about that for a few days, and I decided on February 26th, 2013 to make a donation of $18.97. It felt good, and I even received a phone call from PGS Rovira to tell me good job and to keep it up.

A few months later I began to work on staff and knew that my commitment was even more important. I decided to make a monthly donation of $18.97 a month. Now I am starting a Chapter Educational Fund for my chapter. I plan on making an additional donation along with other brothers from my chapter. If we don’t do it, then who will? My challenge to you is this. Take a look at what you can do for your chapter or the SPEF. Look into making a donation by starting a Chapter Educational Fund, where the donation is tax deductible, and it is only for your chapter or a tax-deductible donation to the SPEF. If you are an undergraduate then join the Delta Society with a one-time $20 donation to the fraternity. All of this information can be found here:

http://sigmapi.org/sigma-pi-educational-foundation/

I was not asked by anyone to write about this. I just wanted to tell my story and my decision. All I ask of you is to read about it and reflect on it. Then ask yourself this question. If not you, then who.

mylc

Progress, it’s the first word in the Sigma Pi motto. We often use that word to describe how we are moving Sigma Pi forward year after year. We make improvements to our undergraduate’s college experience, providing more opportunities for our alumni and improve our organization’s standing within the fraternal world.

The same could be said about our Mid-Year Leadership Conference (MYLC). Year after year MYLC continues to be our signature leadership conference providing high quality officer training and networking opportunities for our undergraduates and alumni. The Executive Office makes changes to the conference each year to better serve and educate our undergraduate students. 2015 will be no exception as the Executive Office prepares to roll out numerous improvements and changes to the program.

Read more: Mid-Year Leadership Conference 2015

SOESIGMA PI FRATERNITY believes that our men will strive for excellence by living our core values and individual chapters will be most successful through fulfilling our Standards of Excellence (SOE).  This program will advance man’s Quest for Excellence by supporting the values and principles upon which our fraternity was founded.

 

To ensure that our chapters promote fellowship, develop character and leadership, advance heightened moral awareness, enable academic achievement, and inspire service, this program will set forth the Standards of Excellence for every chapter of Sigma Pi Fraternity, International.

 

The fundamental purpose of this program is to encourage our chapters to return to our founding values, which are crucial to the rich development of fraternity men.  The Standards of Excellence is comprised of 10-focus areas; one for each of the stars in our Radiant Triangle.

 

It is strongly encouraged that all chapters review all of the criteria and due-dates as soon as possible.  Several components of this program are due at various points during the academic year and others are due no later than June 1st.  Additional information including the expectations, reporting system and samples are available on the Standards of Excellence website.  This information is also easily accessible from our homepage.

 

SOE Screenshot

 

Similar to our previous accreditation programs (The Gold Standard and Efficiency Points), the Standards of Excellence will be used for awards and to calculate discounts and increases on chapter’s semi-annual dues.  A new SOE recognition program will be instituted to recognize our chapters achieving Gold, Silver and Bronze levels.

 

goldsilverbronze

 

At Convocation 2014 this past summer in Orlando, the Grand Chapter voted to move to a new Semi-Annual Dues structure to provide for the Fraternity’s liability insurance and programming. 

 

Bylaw 5 – Obligations of Chapters and Colonies, Section 5C now reads: “The amount that each chapter is charged for Semi-Annual Dues shall be adjusted based on the chapter’s actions as defined by the following criteria:

 

  1. Insurance Claims

      5% increase for each claim within the past 4 years.

  1. Risk Management Violations

      5% increase for each violation within the past 4 years.

  1. Mid-Year Leadership Conference attendance

      1% discount per attendee (up to 4); or

      5% discount if all required student leaders attend

  1. Chapter Size

      50-99 Members – 5% discount;

      100+ = Members - 10% discount

  1. Chapter Accreditation Program (As defined by the CEO)

      If ≥95%, then 20% discount;

      If 90%-94%, then 10% discount;

      If 85%-89%, then 5% discount;

      If 60%-69%, then 10% increase;

      If <60%, then 20% increase

  1. 3rd Party Collection Service or other method approved by the CEO 5% discount”

 

We have received many questions and comments regarding the new Standards of Excellence program that rolled out in August.  I hope to address some of those questions and comments here in this article.  Overall, there really are not many new expectations of chapters in our new accreditation program; most of the expectations have rolled over from the old Efficiency Points and Gold Standard. 

 

I am presenting a lot of information here.  I strongly advise our chapters and alumni volunteers to take some time to read through all of the information contained here and on our website.  Everything you need to know is there.  A lot of this information comes from questions or comments that we have received regarding the new program.

 

Here is a summary of the new items included in the Standards of Excellence:

  • Most items are now measured on an annual basis (unless otherwise indicated) as opposed to term or semester to assist our chapters that are on trimester and quarter systems in setting accurate goals and benchmarks.
  • All expectations and standards are now phrased based on what a chapter must do to achieve the highest amount of points possible.  For example, the expectation of each chapter member to raise $50 for philanthropic causes has always been in place.  However, in the Gold Standard the benchmark started at $10 per man but in order to receive the most amount of points, each man was asked to raise/donate $50.  Expectation 90 now reads “conduct or participate in 5+ philanthropy projects AND $50+ donated per man for philanthropic causes”.   Please note, Sigma Pi is not asking our members to reach into their pockets and donate $50 directly; members can fundraise or host events to raise this money.  If the chapter hosts a large philanthropy project, the total dollars raised can be divided by the number of members that participated.
  • Business attire has always been expected at formal chapter meetings and formal ceremonies.  As an undergraduate fraternity chapter, this is a great expectation to have to help professionally develop our members.
  • We are now asking our chapters to submit their bylaws (updated within the last 2 years), Risk Management Plan, Academic Success Program (Scholarship Plan) and New Member Education Program on or before October 15th as opposed to June 1st with their Gold Standard.  This will allow our staff to have this information accessible when working with our chapters.  Also, for the first time ever at the Mid-Year Leadership Conference, our student leaders will have hands-on workshops to learn best practices for these programs and have time to further develop their materials with trained experts in the field.
  • A Membership Contract is now expected for each of our chapters.  This document, centered around the 10 Obligations of Membership, will help the chapter manage expectations with their members.  By having each member sign an agreement with the chapter, he will be informed of the expectations and obligations of membership as well as the corresponding consequences as set by the chapter.  Many chapters already have a document like this; some are called a “Chapter-Designation” Man Contract.  We are simply asking to submit one master copy of this contract with all chapter member signatures to help the chapter leaders manage expectations.
  • Standards/Judicial Boards are asked to have at least 5 members when hearing a case.  This allows for a majority vote to take place when deciding cases.  The 5 members can rotate, but we ask our chapters to enlist the help of at least 5 members when deciding sanctions.
  • The Chapter Workbook will be a one-stop-shop shared record keeping system for the chapter.  This tool will help track meeting attendance, grades, finances, community service projects/hours, philanthropy projects/dollars raised, workshop attendance, ACE Project participation, committee assignments and involvement in other organizations.  Many chapters track this information in different locations, however this tool will now help our chapters track this information throughout the year in Google Spreadsheet that will be shared with the chapter’s executive council, committee chairmen, alumni volunteers and the Executive Office.  This will really help our alumni volunteers and Executive Office staff provide performance coaching to our chapters.  This tool should be rolled out in the next week.  Chapters will be asked to enter information retroactively.  When the tool is finished being constructed, chapters will be asked to start using it on that date.
  • To access most of the SOE reports, a Sigma Pi email address is required.  This is to ensure that our chapter leaders are using this email account because important communication is sent to this address.
  • As an educational organization, it is very important that we our developing our members with programming.  The expectation is now that each chapter host or participate in a workshop with a non-active chapter member speaker on the following topics: harm reduction, financial literacy, academic success, etiquette, professional development, goal setting and men’s health.  All of these workshops should be completed each academic year in an effort to help develop our members.
  • We have made some changes to the officer’s monthly reporting system.  The information that we are requesting has been revised and is now more relevant and less repetitive.  We are now requesting that each chapter submits all of their meeting minutes once a month.  This will allow the alumni volunteers and executive office to be more informed on the chapter business that is being conducted as opposed to only receiving one meeting’s minutes each month.  Also, we have now created a 1st Counselor report.  Visit our Monthly Reporting page to learn more about each of these reports.
  • Each year at MYLC, we teach Phired Up’s Dynamic Recruitment model to our chapters.  This is a proven method of fraternity recruitment that we have adopted as our best practice.  Through Dynamic Recruitment, our chapters learn about values-based member selection; using a man’s values as criteria for membership.  We are now asking that each of our chapters identify at least 4 values they will use for selection and we are continuing to ask that the chapter has their recruitment plan in writing.  We are a values-based social organization and it is important that our chapters use Sigma Pi Values and the values of the individual chapter when selecting members.  In addition to utilizing values-based recruitment, we also ask that our chapters are actively using a Names List.  This interactive and shared document allows chapters to track their potential new members.  If a chapter already utilizes a names list, simply share it with your alumni volunteers and Regional Director.  If not, your Regional Director will provide one for you to use.
  • It is very important for our 2nd Counselor to work with their committee chairs to set expectations and goals.  We are now requesting that each 2nd Counselor completes the Committee Expectations & Goals Report to share this information with their alumni volunteers and Executive Office.  This goes back to the same thought with the membership contract; it is very important to manage expectations with our committees as well as our members.
  • In addition to recognizing the founding dates of the sororities on campus, we are now expecting our chapters to recognize the founding dates of the fraternities as well.  It is important that our chapters are contributing members of their respective community and take opportunities to build relations with both the sororities and fraternities on campus.  Recognition can be as simple as a post on social media or some other special observance that the chapter wants to perform.
  • In an effort to further develop our members in their campus communities, we are now expecting each chapter to host at least one social with a non-fraternity/non-sorority organization.  This will help us battle the notion that the fraternity and sorority community is exclusive.  We want our organizations to be more inclusive and this is a great way to do potentially aid in recruitment efforts and institutional relations.
  • On a campus that recognizes fraternity life and has a dedicated campus professional to assist our chapters, it is very important that our chapters take the time to meet with that professional to improve communications and operations.  We are now expecting every chapter that the above mentioned criteria applies to submit a Campus Professional Meeting Confirmation in place of getting an ink signature confirming the frequency of the meeting.  Our expectation is that our chapters are meeting with their campus professionals at least once a month. 
  • The Annual Financial Review Verification is now an online form for the alumni volunteer to complete that confirms a chapter audit has been completed.  Instead of getting an ink signature, like in the Gold Standard, there is a simple form to complete confirming the audit took place.
  • The expectation is that all chapters complete at least two fundraisers a year.  The fundraisers can be for philanthropic projects or for the chapter.  The chapter has full autonomy over this and is encouraged to fundraise as much as possible to help defray from the cost of dues that individual members are paying.
  • Most of our alumni update their contact information with their individual chapter as opposed to the Executive Office.  We are asking that our chapters share their alumni database with our Director of Alumni Services by June 1st so that we can ensure our membership database is up-to-date and our alumni are receiving important communication like how to get involved, fraternity news, The Emerald, Sigma Pi Educational Foundation updates, etc.
  • Membership numbers are now phrased as highest among all IFC fraternities on campus because we want our chapters to strive to be the largest on their respective campus.  The chapter reserves the right to make their own decision regarding the number of members they have (over 25 as required by the bylaws).  The highest amount of points has always been awarded based on this criteria, however the expectation was just worded differently in the Gold Standard.
  • GPA rankings are now phrased as highest among all IFC fraternities or the all-men’s average, whichever is higher, on campus because we want our chapters to strive for academic excellence.  The chapter reserves the right to make their own decision regarding GPA requirements (over 2.25 as required by the bylaws*).  The highest amount of points has always been awarded based on this criteria, however the expectation was just worded differently in the Gold Standard.
  • Province Workshops are a great way for our chapters to network with other chapters in the same geographic area.  Province Archons put a lot of work into developing these leadership opportunities for our members.  We now expect that 50% of the chapter attend their respective annual Province Workshop.

 

This is a pretty comprehensive list of all of the changes that have been incorporated into the new Standards Excellence.  As a student affairs professional and the new Director of Education & Leadership, I am confident that this new program will help build better members and create stronger chapters. Participating and completing the Standards of Excellence will increase communicate, create stronger chapter operations and promote academic excellence just to name a few benefits.  Also, chapters that do well with the SOE Program will qualify for discounts on their Semi-Annual Dues.

 

All of our chapters can easily track their performance through the Standards of Excellence Progress Tracker.  Each chapter has their own individual tab at the bottom of the document.  As the Executive Office receives your reports and submissions, your points will be entered.  Executive councils and alumni volunteers should use this tool to monitor progress and work together to ensure they are achieving to the level they choose.

 

Many of these new reports are explained in detail with samples provided on our SOE page.  I encourage you to take some time to review this information and work with your alumni volunteers, members and Regional Director on developing these programs, documents and reports.  All the information is available; you just have to take some time to read it over.

 

For additional information about the Standards of Excellence, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or your Regional Director.

 

*Please note that the fraternity’s GPA requirements are still under review by the Grand Council and are subject to change.  This information will be communicated once a final determination has been made.

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About Chapter Services

The Chapter Services Department consists of five Regional Directors that oversee each active chapter in Sigma Pi.  This blog consists of thoughts from the Regional Directors, as well as Assistant Executive Director Jason Walker. Founded in 1897, Sigma Pi Fraternity is the leading, international men's collegiate fraternal organization which provides training, guidance and innovative opportunities for Leadership Development, Social and Personal Development, Academic Achievement, Community Service and Heightened Moral Awareness for its brothers throughout their lives.

Contact Jason Walker:

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: 615.921.2300

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