Finally…it’s time to Make Leadership F.UN.!So you increase involvement in your student organizations and keep your current leaders involved longer!!
By Mike Fritz, America’s Leading Authority on Making Leadership F.U.N.
I have had the honor to speak to college campus just like yours all over the country. Almost every campus asks the same question, and maybe you are too: “How can we engage more students in our campus organizations and increase campus involvement at our events?” What is the cause of this massive decline? Is it because students are just too busy? Is it because student organizations aren’t connecting with their campuses on the relevance level of today’s college students? Does the typical college student even understand what being involved in a student organization or attend campus events can do for their campus experience and life after college? What do we need to improve to start increase engagement in our student organizations and?
According to research that I have personally done, students remain distant from campus organizations/involvement because they perceive that the organization either doesn’t offer them anything they want or it seems “boring”. In the research two questions were asked in reference to a particular event that was held on campus: did you know about the event (this tells me if the events are being promoted properly) and the second one assuming they did know about it is why they didn’t attend.
It is easy to write this response off, however, I think it would be prudent to explore the “statement behind their statement”. What are these students really saying when they say that campus organizations and campus activities are “not fun” and/or “boring”? More times than not, they are saying the organization and it’s events just aren’t “fun.” Depending on the person there can be many different ideas of what it means to have “fun.” To some it could be completing projects with friends, while others it is laughing etc. Don’t think of the word “Fun” as a word that diminishes your mission, but rather implant fun into your mission for the purpose of engaging the maximum number of students on campus!
Whether we like it or not, students will get involved in your student organizations and attend student activities events based on whether they believe your event is going to give them what they want while accomplishing what you want – student engagement and leaving an impact on people’s lives. We must remember the number one perceived desire of a stressed out college student is to have fun.
So what is the answer? How do we develop the kinds of leaders that can spearhead these kind of initiatives. I believe the answer is found in three words: Friends, Unique opportunities and what I call a “Next Level Structure”. This is the acronym for F.U.N. that I have used to help shape and shift the way college students think about how they run, talk about and think about the organization of which they are a part.
(1) Friends – there is no greater draw (getting people involved) and glue (keeping them involved) to an organization than deep friendships. Even though I like Facebook as much as the next person, Facebook has redefined the word “Friend”. It has created an illusion that a friend is just a click away, when we know that most of us only have a few TRUE friends in our lifetime. This is the most powerful element of an organization. So part of every member’s job in the student organization is to connect with and deepen the relationship with those who are on their team. This certainly doesn’t mean that everybody has to be BEST friends, however, there is a direct correlation between the closeness of a team and their success! One of the exercises I put students through who attend the campus events that I speak at is what I call “gathering the ‘Whats Up’ session.” A “What’s Up session” is simply giving other people a chance to share what is going on in their life that they are excited about. I have built relationships with people very quickly by letting them talk about their favorite subject (it’s all of our favorite subjects) – themselves. It tells them that I care about what is going on in their life and (and I really do). The cool thing about doing this is that students learn about each other, and then a couple of weeks later they can ask a question that references the “brag session”. For example, “Hey, you said you were trying to land a job with Apple. Have you had any breakthroughs with that? Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.” This is a huge friendship builder. Imagine if this was the practice of your entire team; how would this change your organizational culture and thus your campus culture?
(2) The next major element to your team’s success is to create Unique Opportunities. What this means is that your organizational leaders get to do things that only those who are involved in the organization get to do. For example, maybe you take your team to the White House and they get to meet some amazing leaders in Washington DC (um… that’s where the White House is…just making sure you knew); Then you come back and post pics all over campus of what “YOUR” organization got to do. And why did you get to do it? Because you made a sacrifice to be on the team; therefore you got to reap the benefit. You post the pictures so others see it and begin to think, “Man I wish I could go there. I wonder what I would have to do to be a part of that group.” You want to make sure you don’t make exceptions and take people to your organizational outings who aren’t a part of the organization. This is called “Inclusion by Exclusion”. You exclude people and then they want to be a part of the group; just because they can’t!
(3) The last key element in organization involvement and retention is having a Next-level structure. This means that the longer you are involved in an organization, the more responsibility and more benefit you get. This might look like your first year on the team you get to help out with events, the second year you get to lead one of the event teams, the third year you go to the programming conferences and the fourth year you are on the executive team where you are spearheading the major decision making. This keeps people involved longer because there is always something new to look forward to the next year.! !
The top three reason colleges and universities from all over the country have me come to their campus to speak is because they want to increase involvement, increase retention of organizational leaders and get more people to their campus events.
There is no better way than adopting the FUN philosophy of leadership! You can get more information about Making Leadership FUN and review Mike’s speaking availability at www.mikefritz.net. Hope to see you on your campus soon. Making Leadership F.U.N., Mike Fritz.