Get Them Off the Couch!

I like my couch.  It's comfortable.  It's familiar. If it were possible, I could lay there for weeks at a time. It's in exactly the right spot in my living room, and everything I need is at my fingertips: my Chex-mix, my drink, and the remote control. At some point, though, it will be time to snap into action. There's no question: work needs to be done - I need to move - I'll be happier later for getting up now. But there are a million forces sucking me back down. There are only 15 minutes left in this show. My head hurts. I'll have time to do that later. There's another episode of Jersey Shore on next.

It's not so different when you're a student leader driven to achieve something meaningful and profound in your organization. You're excited, energetic, and ready to bring new ideas to your members, but they often sit there on the couch, reluctant to get up, waiting around for a really good reason to move. Despite your great ideas, it is easier to avoid all that work by tossing out excuses one-by-one until you go away.

So how do you finally get them off the couch? Consider this: deep down, they know it's time to move. They truly want the same energy, excitement, and meaning that you're promising. They're just waiting for a really good reason to snap into action. Something that will benefit them. Something significant to accomplish. Something that all their friends are doing for fun. There will always be a better reason to get up off the couch to do something meaningful. So arm yourself with the right responses, stand your ground, and show the leadership they're waiting for!

Two weeks ago, I led an incredible activity with the fraternity / sorority presidents and council leaders at the University of Pennsylvania. We did an exercise to prepare them to follow through on the plans we developed during the program. They brainstormed nearly 300 unique responses to 18 of the most common excuses members use.  Here are the 31 best responses they came up with:

"It's Tradition"

  • Change can be good, learn to accept it.
  • Sometimes traditions should be changed to make them better.

"That sounds like a lot of work"

  • Which means I can’t do it alone!
  • You get out of it what you put into it.
  • If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.  The “hard” makes it great.

"It's too expensive; we don't have the money."

  • Find other sources of money (university, student government, etc.).
  • Let’s reevaluate the budget and prioritize this event.
  • Fundraiser!

"The timing won't work; this is too short notice."

  • We work best under pressure.
  • So let’s get going!

"It's no use; that'll never work."

  • Why don’t we try and see what happens.
  • Okay, so try and prove me wrong.
  • If we plan out the details, it has a chance.

"We've never done that before."

  • There's a first time for everything.
  • We need to do something fresh.
  • Ask someone who did it before for guidance.

"No one will show up / no one will like it."

  • Well let’s make it better.
  • That’s nuts, it’s fun!
  • I like it, and I will be there.
  • Quit whining.

"If it ain't broke..."

  • ...we can make it better / more sustainable.
  • will break.
  • ...break it.

"I can't go; I'm too busy."

  • We’ll schedule it weeks in advance so you can plan around it.
  • Me too.  Make time.

"That's dumb / boring / lame / stupid / silly."

  • Why is it dumb? Please, elaborate.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t think it’s dumb or boring or silly or lame!
  • Do you have a better idea you’d like to contribute?

"People will think ______ about us."

  • No, people will think we’re awesome!
  • It doesn’t matter what they think, it’s how we feel about it.
  • It’s never comfortable being a pioneer.

There are many more ways to respond, and I'm sure you have a few of your own to add.  Drop them into the comments below and share them with other leaders.