Skill Assessment: The Five Seeds at the Core of DECA Chapter Engagement

This is a special post for the DECA organization. DECA is a student organization for students in high school interested in pursuing careers in marketing, entreprenuership, finance, hospitality, and marketing sales and service. I speak at their events throughout the year and this post is specifically designed to help DECA students and chapter advisors understand how to grow their DECA chapter.

At the Chapter Management Academy at National DECA’s ICDC each year my company, YourNextSpeaker, LLC, works with 300 of the best chapter leaders in the nation. The following five tactics have helped these great chapters leaders understand how to get and keep their chapter membership engaged. This is not about membership recruitment. It is about membership involvement. These strategies are built on the precept that 20 really engaged chapter members make a more effective chapter than 120 “half-way there” chapter members.

Seed 1 - Focus on the Cause, not the Condition

We begin with the understanding that you and your chapter probably have the same problem that many other chapters have – low chapter member involvement. Task number one is to correctly identify the cause of the problem. In our leadership trainings, we do an activity called Balloon Toss that clearly demonstrates the importance of this step. The object of the leadership experiment is for a team of 6-8 individuals to keep 10-15 balloons in the air and in motion at the same time. The balloons are fed to the team one at a time, the balloons can't be tied together and the team members must keep one hand behind their back the entire time. After the first round of competition is over, we discuss how to improve their chances of success during the second round. We begin this by discussing possible answers to the question, "What was the main reason you were not able to accomplish your goal?"

The leaders normally begin to list conditions, instead of causes. They say things like too many balloons, we could only use one hand, we didn't have a good plan, etc. These are true, but most of the conditions they list are unchangeable within the constraints of the activity - just like most of the conditions you are faced with in your chapter are simply facts of the system and unchangeable. If the leaders get bogged down in discussing conditions they handicap their ability to recognize a cause or to make any real improvement in their strategy for round two. The primary cause for not achieving their goal of getting all balloons in the air at once was that the balloons were out of control. Once the leaders recognized this primary cause they were better able to creatively discover the best strategy for getting all balloons in the air at once!

Your task as a chapter leader is to step back and look at where you and your chapter have your focus. Is it on unchangeable conditions or solvable causes?

Seed 2 - Leverage Your Personal Power

Chapter engagement cannot just be of interest to the chapter advisor or leadership team. It must be of interest to all chapter members. At a recent conference, one of the advisors told us about a student who isn't a positional leader in her chapter and still has played a huge role in getting members involved. She does this by…

1. Being genuinely enthusiastic about the chapter and most everything going on in her life. This pulls the students in and creates energy within the individuals and within the chapter.

2. Encouraging her peers to help the chapter in small ways. This creates obligation and an opportunity for her peers to add meaning to their life by serving the chapter.

3. She makes it "ok" to be a part of the group, which is not the opinion held by most of the school. This social connectiveness meets a huge need they have in their life that they would fill anyway somewhere else.

Seed 3 – Know the Difference Between Groups and Teams

Nothing great can happen in your chapter, especially something mission-critical like membership engagement, if your leadership “team” is really just a leadership “group.” Following these steps will turn your group into a team.

1. Teams have an identified, trusted leader that enthusiastically gains the respect of the team.

2. Teams have an identified, specific goal that everyone is working towards. This goal is team created, not leader created.

3. Teams have an identified and agreed upon system for decision making. Go to the March 24, 2007 post to learn eight solid strategies for team decision making.

4. Teams make and revisit big, unique memories. This strategy also plays a huge role in creating and sustaining engaged members. Go big or go home.

5. Teams are comprised of individuals who are able to do something they love to do to help the team.

Seed 4 - Keep Commitments

Doing what you say you will do is the engine that drives all chapter activities. It is a meaningful aspect of membership engagement because it allows for momentum to happen. It is also a small way for everyone in the chapter to make a big difference. Commit to these commitment-keeping strategies…

1. Know when to say no. Don’t say yes if you know you really don’t want to do something and/or don’t have the time to do something.

2. Stick to a list of priorities.

3. Over-promise and over-deliver.

4. Gain clarity on all time and duty expectations.

5. Apologize when necessary.

6. Remember that you aren’t what you do once. You are what you do repeatedly.

7. Respect people’s time and show up early. Early is on-time. On-time is late. Late is left!

8. You make time for the important things. You have time to shower, eat, and text message don’t you?

9. If you add a commitment, take one away. Unless you are superman or superwoman, you can’t be great at everything. DECA is important. Trim down your other “non-critical” time consumers.

Seed 5 – Be a DECA chapter Torchbearer

One of our most popular leadership keynotes/workshops for student and professional elected leaders is called Torchbearers. We actually invest full days helping leaders understand how to tap into, retain and share with others the passion they have for their organizations. Review the list below to see if you qualify as a Torchbearer for your DECA chapter...The DECA Torchbearer Seven Defining Qualities…

You are thirsty for helping your DECA chapter grow.

You own a strong allegiance to your DECA chapter.

You value and foster relationships within your DECA chapter.

You gain part of your identity from your DECA chapter (you include your DECA chapter involvement when you introduce yourself to people.)

You have a clear understanding of your role in your DECA chapter.

You know and believe in your DECA chapter’s core values.

You speak positively about your DECA chapter and its leadership and members.

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