Case Study: Patrick McGovern

As the Executive Director of the Acacia Fraternity, Patrick McGovern oversees all daily operations of the Fraternity’s International Headquarters – chapter operations and expansions, membership records, Leadership Consultants and office staff.

The Acacia Fraternity is unique among men’s college fraternities, offering a membership experience that is similarly unique.

With over 1,000 collegiate Acacia brothers in 29 active Acacia chapters and four colonies across North America – plus over 50,000 alumni around the world – their members are leaders on their campuses, diligent students, and active volunteers in their communities.

The Challenge

“I needed help. I was overwhelmed.”

That’s how Patrick succinctly explains why he first reached out to BELAY.

As an Acacia brother as an undergrad, Patrick has now worked for the headquarters in a few different capacities for the past 17 years. 

Its headquarters typically staffs 6-9 people responsible for the educational programs they host for their undergraduate members and the educational resources they provide on how to operate the chapter to work with members on becoming effective leaders.

“We’re a small staff [for] about 1,700 undergraduates and about 25,000 living alumni,” Patrick explains. “So there are lots of things coming at me from all directions all the time.

“We deal with the whole spectrum of being a membership association – insurance legal, financials, public relations. So overall, we’re tasked with operating the organization, supporting our members, advocating for our members, and educating our members.

“There was lots of little detailed work that I [wanted] done, but maybe only I knew how to do it. And didn’t really have anybody to delegate to because the rest of the staff had full plates – and that was just really dampening my optimism and enthusiasm. 

“I was living out of my email inbox and scheduling meetings, [and it] seemed to take up all my time and drain me of the energy to do higher-level thinking and [casting] vision. It got to a point where I was having trouble making progress on some things that were important.” 

In a word, Patrick and his staff were busy

So Patrick decided to look into getting help – but the universe had other plans. 

“My initial outreach was leading up to the pandemic,” he shares. “So in February of last year, I teed this idea up to our board and made a case for it. But then when the pandemic hit, and we had lots of financial uncertainty about what resources we would have. 

“And then once we got into fall, our membership levels stayed really pretty strong and our financial position was good.”

It was finally time to get help.

The Solution

Thankfully, after reaching out to BELAY and being paired with Virtual Assistant Kate, Patrick was a “trust-the-process type of guy.”

“We rely on [trusting the process] in our organization quite a bit and from everything I could see from [the BELAY] website and testimonials and the materials I was sent, it all just looked like a sense of relief to me,” he shares.

And that shared trust – and grace – has been the lynchpin to their success.

“I think the biggest thing was we gave each other a lot of grace,” Kate adds. “Patrick has been such a great mentor [as] it took a lot of training for me to get up to speed. But we just trusted the process and sat down every day and, ‘OK. What are the priorities?’ And in a pretty short amount of time, we made a lot of progress!”

Working 45 hours a month with Patrick, Kate now manages his email and calendar, while also facilitating a database migration. 

“Our goal is trying to take more and more off Patrick’s plate,” Kate says. “And the more I get to know him and the more I get to know the people in the organization and how to prioritize that, I’m starting to be able to be proactive [and] stay a step ahead of him.”

And email is where Patrick felt his first sense of relief.

“Our work is email heavy,” he shares. “There’s just a lot of email that comes in that we have to deal with and decide how to respond to. So it’s been really helpful to have her filter it into a few different folders for how soon I need to review it. 

“[Now,] I feel like I go in there less frequently, and I also feel less anxiety when I’m not in there because I know she’s keeping an eye on it,” he shares.

But there was more Patrick was encouraged to entrust to Kate – but it took some time and convincing as he juggled his professional obligations while tending to his father’s health issues.

“[It took] me hearing several times that I should be incorporating my personal stuff, like scheduling doctor’s appointments” he admits. “[Now,] every time that happens, there’s a little spark of joy in my mind that I didn’t have to do that.”

The Results

And the results of the trust Patrick extended Kate have not gone unnoticed.

“One of the staff members sent me a private message saying he couldn’t believe how I’m still managing to be an effective leader at this time with personal and family challenges,” Patrick shares. “And I accepted the compliment, but a lot of that compliment goes to Kate because she’s been keeping things going and keeping things moving when I haven’t been able to.

“Otherwise, everything would have stopped with me kind of having to pay attention to my dad. Whatever the priority is for me on [any given day] day, it gets done. [There’s a] sense of momentum and getting the right things done. [It’s] been huge and makes a big difference for me.”

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