March 11, 2014

Collegiate Perspective: Surviving Your First Semester on Executive Council

Becoming an elected officer in Alpha Phi is an honor but also a responsibility. As a new leader in your chapter, it can often be difficult to determine where to begin. The first semester in your position is where you establish yourself as a leader and as an Executive Council.

Throughout my years in Alpha Phi, I have served on two Executive Council as the Director of Administration and the Vice President of Risk Management. These two positions were challenging but certainly rewarding. I was able to make a difference in my chapter and also make a difference in myself. Through my experiences in both officer roles, I have noticed that some Executive Council members occasionally become discouraged and frustrated with their positions when first starting out. The following are some tips and tricks to having a successful first semester in your new role: 
  1. Bond with your Executive Council. My chapter advisor always plans a special retreat when we first take office. Through fun activities, you can learn how to interact with other members of the Executive Council as well as break the ice. Examples of potential retreats include seeing a play, laser tag, bowling or taking a glass blowing class.
  2. Create long-term and short-term goals for your position. Whenever I take a new position, I always create a list of ideas to implement or changes to make while I am in office. Then, I divide this list into my short-term and long-term goals. My short-term goals are focused by semester. Long-term goals are ideas and changes I want to make by the end of my term. Differentiating your goals is imperative to surviving your first semester of exec because trying to implement too many changes at one time will frustrate your chapter and cause you additional stress. Focus on three to five major changes you want to make each semester. This could include updating your chapter’s social media policy or creating a new point system.
  3. Always present a united Executive Council front. Whether you agree or disagree with an idea or policy, support the policy if it is implemented. It is okay to disagree behind closed doors but when presenting ideas or changes to the chapter always support your fellow exec members. Your chapter can sense when an Executive Council is divided. Also, divided Executive Councils breed animosity and inefficiency and the changes you want to implement could be suspended.
  4. Ask the previous Executive Council for help. There is no harm in asking your predecessor for advice. Often, previous exec members can tell you what did and did not work well for them while they were in your position or suggestions on how to best complete your goals. These women have been in your shoes. They know what your job description entails. However, be careful not to fully rely on your predecessor or feel pressured to take their advice. Past exec members can be helpful but they may also have their own opinion of how the chapter should be run. Be prepared to take their suggestions with a grain of salt.
  5. NEVER TALK DOWN TO THE CHAPTER! This is the best advice I can possibly give you. No one responds well to negativity, yelling or sarcasm. As an exec member, you should strive to maintain a professional tone with the chapter and remember they are your sisters. You may have a large position but your sisters elected you to govern them and they expect to be respected. When addressing a sensitive or important issue, use a calm yet firm tone of voice.
  6. Use your resources. The chapter is your greatest asset! Some of the best ideas I implemented during my exec terms were ideas I received from the chapter. If you are struggling to come up with goals for your position, ask your chapter what they would like to see  accomplished during your term. You can also assess the chapter’s culture and think of ways to either improve or sustain your chapter’s culture.
  7. You will never be everyone’s best friend. As an Executive Council member, there will ALWAYS be someone who does not agree with you. Do not cater your exec agenda by trying to please everyone in the chapter. If you do, you will never achieve anything. Sometimes, you will have to make the tough decisions in the chapter and you will feel as if everyone is against you. Maintain your professionalism and continue to work towards your goals. Eventually, the uproar will subside and everyone will accept it as normal.
  8. Be a listener. Often there is a stigma attached to Exec. There is a perceived distance between the Executive Council and the chapter. This comes from a lack of open communication. Exec should be consistently communicating with the chapter and remain as transparent as possible. Also, be honest with the chapter and appreciate their ideas and suggestions. The chapter will be your greatest critic and your greatest supporter. Take criticism constructively and learn from it.
  9. Set the example. Do not expect the chapter to follow your new policies or procedures if you do not follow them yourself. As an Executive Council member, you must hold yourself to a higher standard and you must be the change you want to see in the chapter. It can be difficult, but it is your duty to uphold the standards of your chapter as well as the values of Alpha Phi International.
  10. Do not sacrifice your relationships in the chapter. Serving in a leadership role can be difficult but it does not mean you can only be friends with exec members. Make sure you still foster your big/little relationship as well as your relationship with other sisters in the chapter. It is also imperative to learn how to separate your leadership role from your personal relationships. You may have to make a tough decision regarding one of your friends or even your little.
My years on my chapter’s Executive Council were some of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life. I truly learned to appreciate myself as a leader and became grateful for the opportunity to serve my chapter. As a member of the Executive Council, you will be challenged. Just remember that you will make a difference in your chapter. You will help make your chapter the best that it can be. 
Tara Bresette is a collegiate member at Kent State University (Beta Omega). Learn more about Tara by clicking here.

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