Thursday, September 29, 2011

Feedback: The Other F Word No One Likes

Feedback. Many say they want it, but do they really? As an advisor, this is a huge tension point for me. Students tell me that they want to learn and grow, but then bristle at the feedback. Well, in all honesty, I suppose they bristle at the critical feedback.  It's hard hearing the things that we can do better.

Last week I had a day in which several people offered me unsolicited critical feedback on how I could be better:  "Your website needs XYZ on the front page."; "You know, nobody thinks you like them."; "Have you ever thought about pulling together all of the chapter presidents for a weekly meeting to talk about issues in the community."; "You ask too many questions."; "Wow, that dress is really interesting."; etc. Honestly, it kept coming all day long.  I was tired, discouraged and depleted as I sulked to my car.

It occurred to me that my main issue with the day wasn't the feedback itself.  Instead, I found that the delivery, relevance and overall critical nature were the challenge.  Of course, being a (sometimes too much so) reflective person I started to think about how others take my feedback.  Despite the sentiments of some, I don't snack on small children's hopes and dreams.  I do have a soul and care about how others are experiencing me as a leader.  I have been in conversations where I am called to share some tough insights into situations.  As a result, I felt compelled to reach out and gather some feedback on myself.

A valued alumnus that used to receive a lot of my feedback provided me with these insights:
  • "When you mention things that I do well (positive reinforcement), that helps. Makes me feel good about who I am before realizing/talking about what I should work on. Gives a little motivation to do the hard stuff."
  • Feedback "...can make me frustrated/irritated in the moment, and even if it doesn't seem to hit me then, I always think about it later and put effort into working it out on my own." 
  • "I know even when I get frustrated with it, I still appreciate the help in realizing what I need to work on."
Interesting food for thought.  Gives all of us a good starting point for those times that we need to coach our peers or those we oversee.  The dialogue with my alumnus also reminded me that feedback should also be positive.  We all need to hear affirmation that the work we are doing makes a difference.  We need acknowledgement that others see how hard we are trying.  We need a cheerleader for our souls - someone that can keep us moving when we see the next hurdle.

This isn't easy.  It isn't a popular thing to do.  But, it is my hope that many of you will leave USD and find great success in your career.  For many, that success will put you in a position of leadership over others.  And, then, you may just find yourself having to provide both positive and critical feedback to those that call you "boss".

And, maybe, just maybe you will remember that sometimes giving the feedback is just as difficult as hearing it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Being A Gentleman and A Lady

The week that classes began was fairly busy for us in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center.  That's, at least, what I told myself when I not once, but twice, tripped over a student that held the door open for me.  Twice.  OK, Fine!  It was actually the same student twice on the same day.  Both times he graciously smiled and offered me that knowing nod of a southern fella living in San Diego.  But, it got me to thinking about being gentlemen and ladies.

The opening the door practice aside, what does it mean to be a lady or to be a gentleman? I see this as being a fairly easy question to answer.  Respect.  Respect for yourself and respect for others.  In my example, the person I was with was being respectful.  Not just because I am a woman, not just because I am older, but because I am a person that he chose to put before himself.

I don't do that as often as I would like. I wish I could say that my default mode was to put others first.

What would our community be like if we chose to put other's needs before our own? I heard a troubling story about this concept just this week. A member of our community was treating another member with disdain and judgement. The details don't matter as much as the fact that this poor treatment occurred in front of an audience. When we talk about being mature, responsible leaders, we mean treating EVERYONE well. Not just the one you like. Not just the one that can give you something. All of us.

Our leadership wants it. Our values demand it. Our community is ready for it. Try it. Being selfless (or at least less selfish) isn't a bad way to live. Peace.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Healthy Eating, Healthy Community

At USD, one of our greatest privileges is being able to consider the holistic development of students...  Stay with me here - I am talking about the fact that we care about the growth and wellness of your mind, your body and your soul.  It always brings me a smile when I see the group of Phi Kappa Theta men gathered in the SLP Dining Room with their advisor, Father Mullen.  Spending time together - having a meal together - builds stronger connections. When we consider the wellness of your body, we think about what you are consuming.  Nutrition is a big part of healthy eating - and one that we know isn't always on the forefront of college student's minds.  Often, you are busy moving to a meeting, work, class, the library.  Some of you eat junk food, some of you skip meals, some of you only eat alone - in general, there are some unhealthy eating patterns.

For this week, I have invited Meghan McCarthy, the Assistant Director of USD's Center for Health and Wellness Promotion (CHWP) to share a few thoughts on healthy eating.  CHWP is an excellent resource for our members as we work to develop all parts of our members - healthy mind, body and soul. Enjoy!

The U.S. as visualized by the nearest McDonald's
Do you know the farthest distance you can be from a McDonald’s in the contiguous United States? 107 miles (South Dakota).

This is a part of why
for the first time in modern history, children's life spans are expected to be shorter than their parents.  Most people eat communally, with family and friends, so understanding nutrition basics is not only important for you but for those who you share a table with.

Here some other healthy eating strategies to keep in mind…

  • Think about what you had for lunch when deciding on dinner. No veggies yet today? A salad will help you get in the daily-recommended amount of 2 and half cups. 
  • What you eat every day is more important than what you do once in a while. Follow a good weekday breakfast routine and then enjoy Sunday Brunch.  
  • No matter how much you eat in one sitting, you will be hungry again 4 hours later. That is how the human body is wired.  
  • Learn how to read a nutrition label. It is the only way to know what fuel you are giving your body.
The Center for Health and Wellness Promotion offers a drop in Nutrition 101 class every Thursday in UC 161 at 1 PM.  It is a semester of college nutrition packed into one session.  Everyone has to eat, you might as well do it in a way that gives you energy and makes you feel great!

Meghan McCarthy is the Assistant Director for the Center for Health and Wellness Promotion.  She can be reached by email at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Message from the NIC

I received this email today from the North American Interfraternity Conference.  Please take a moment to  watch this video and think about how YOU can be a part of the Fraternity Call To Action.

If you're having trouble viewing this email, you may see it online.

Share This: 
Interfraternal Partners,

The NIC has shared the following video message with its 
member fraternities for extended delivery to 
undergraduates and alumni. As our interfraternal partners, 
we encourage you to share this message with our peers 
and colleagues. 
Unfortunately, across North America this year, our 
behaviors, actions, and events have been obscuring the 
true essence of fraternity – to build better men. As we 
enter into a new school year, a time for welcoming a 
new generation of fraternity men into the bonds of 
brotherhood, we all have a role to play in restoring 
true fraternity.
This video is available via YouTube at:  
Please contact us if there is anything the NIC can do 
to be of assistance. As you know, we offer resources 
and  programs that target IFCs. Additionally, we are 
happy to discuss specific items of concern at any time.
Sincerely yours, 
Andy HustonDirector of Member Services

North-American Interfraternity Conference3901 West 86th Street, Suite 390
Indianapolis IN 46268
317.872.1134 fax

a d v o c a t e   I   c o l l a b o r a t e   I   e d u c a t e

Founded in 1909, the North-American Interfraternity Conference is the trade association representing 75 International and National Men’s Fraternities. Through advocacy, collaboration, and education, the NIC works to ensure that fraternities can operate in an environment conducive to their success.

Like Us On Facebook  Follow:  @nicfraternity   @fraternityinfo
3901 West 86Th Street Suite 390 | Indianapolis, IN 46268 US
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bro Tip #935

McRee and one of my favorite Alpha Chi Omegas
One of my favorite professional friends is a man named Mike McRee.  He is smart, progressive, thoughtful and just an out-n-out funny fella.  Among a multitude of other things, he works for LeaderShape.  If you have a moment, click on this link – the Intro alone is worth the time.  He is pictured here, to the left, with one of my favorite Alpha Chi Omega friends. Despite that it appears he creeped into the picture, we were all sitting together and, most certainly, laughing at something.  I know, I know – he looks innocent enough, but when he gets on a roll - he can really call it like it is.  He has visited USD as a speaker to fraternity and sorority members.  He knows us and "he's good people". With all of that introduction, below is a statement he had posted on Twitter recently.

BroTip #935: The good news is one person has what it takes to change the world. The bad news is you haven't realized that it's you.

How can I show you that you have this power?

Not just the power to influence Greek Life.  Not just the power to make your chapter better, strong, more effective.  Bigger.  More impactful.  You are the one.  You can make the world a place of justice, a place of peace, a place of learning. I love the fraternity and sorority experience.  I believe in it so strongly, that it is my vocation. But, Friends, your undergraduate experience is a way to prepare you for life after USD.  A life where Truth, Honor, Diligence, Integrity, Love all mean something.

YOU have what it takes.

YOU can change the world.

Now, today.  And, every day after that.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

You Are What You Wear

One of my favorite fraternity leaders emailed me this summer asking for some feedback about their recruitment t-shirt theme.  I appreciated that his message said, "I know you're not really in the business of approving shirt designs but I thought it was a good idea to double check."  God bless those that care...  But, that's another post for another time.  His email reminded me of an important lesson I learned in college - you are what you wear.  Or, at least, you are perceived as what you wear.

Picture it...  Summer of 1991. (insert gasp that this was the year you were born...  or before)  I had secured a job after my first year of college working full-time as the Children's Ministry Intern at the church where I grew up.  I couldn't have been more excited - home from college, a job I loved and a year of experiences from my new life in San Diego.  The office environment was somewhat casual, so I was wearing several of my sorority t-shirts.  As a proud new initiate of Kappa Alpha Theta, I showed up to work/church one day with my Mai-Tai Massacre Date Party shirt on.  It was navy blue with white and bright pink printing. I remember it clearly.  On the front was the name of the event and the date.  And, across the back was a huge picture of a Mai Tai glass.  Even more clear in my memory was the conversation I had with my supervisor that morning.  It went something like this:
Patty: Good morning.  Can we talk for a second?
Me: Sure.
Patty: What are you wearing?
Me: Oh, this is one of the events my new sorority had right before the end of the year.
Patty: It was an event about drinking?
Me: (Kind of laughing...  In my mind she was so naive) Oh, no...  That is just the name of the event.
Patty: Why?  And, why would you wear a shirt with a giant drink on it?  Is that was this group is - just one big drinking event?  And, you want people to see that's what you are about?  Especially as an Intern?

Well, wow.  Just wow.  Here was this woman I respected and trusted.  She loved me enough to let me know what the world saw.  And, the reality was...  I was reinforcing every stereotype of Greek Life.  I was shocked.  I really had never thought about it before.  What I was wearing was sending a message to those that saw me.  Whether they stopped to ask or not, I was advertising that Kappa Alpha Theta was connected to alcohol.

Now, at 18 years old, I didn't really "get" this to the extent that I do now.  As an advisor, I have had this same challenging conversation with students.  Frankly, the same conversation over and over.  You are seen as the message you put out about yourself.  Whether it is an alcohol theme, a theme with sexual overtones, or just a message that "I'm better than you", we must be careful.  As you pull out that shirt or tank, ask yourself, "If I am what I wear, who am I seen as today?"

Some of you may be rolling your eyes already.  I can almost hear the reaction, "USD is so concerned about image."  Well, yes, we are.  And, frankly, you should be, too.  Your image (both personally and as an organization) depends on you caring.  If you don't, that is your choice to make.  But, don't be complaining that "Greeks never get any good press..." or "Everyone hates Greeks..." or "People just assume all we do is party..." or  "We are unfairly judged as being too exclusive..."  Because, team, You Are What You Wear.