I find that Rotary club meetings are among the most positive gatherings around. Service-minded people tend to be more up-beat and positive (see my last posting on health effects of volunteering). The Four Way Test is front and center, whether displayed as a banner on a pole or recited at each meeting . Most club presidents go out of their way to make each meeting an engaging and high-energy.
But alas, Rotarians are human. And sometimes we forget our principles, let alone our manners. We start to complain. We hear others complain and join in. What to do about it?
- First, expect conflict to occur form time to time. Remember that your club members are leaders in their professions, organizations and have a variety of styles they bring to the table. Some leaders are better at compromise than others.
- Don't ignore complaining. Complaining may highlight a genuine issue or opportunity that needs to be addressed. Use the signal as a gift.
- Some complaining can be good. Studies show that the most successful organizations are 5:1 positive in their meetings. Take a look at your own board meeting: are you spending time and energy on moving forward, realizing a vision and serving others? What's important to remember is that 5:1 means there are times when you are not positive. Some real problems come up from time to time. Just address them and keep moving.
- Focus on consensus and fair process. Help members feel like their concerns are important and find ways to "systematically listen," whether through member satisfaction surveys, club assemblies or visioning committees. While you cannot solve every minute issue, members who feel like club leaders listen are more likely to offer their ideas.
- Take action. Excessive complaining can be toxic. Alex Kjerulf writes about the Top 10 reasons why constant complaining is so toxic in the workplace. If it's bad in the workplace, it cannot be good in your Rotary club or other service organization. If there is an elephant in the room, acknowledge it and take action. If you have an idea or an issue, take it to the club leader or committee who is responsible for that aspect of the club.
- Take the high road. Be a real leader, demonstrate the Four-Way test and don't get pulled into petty discussions. Don't let complaints poison your club.
We have big issues to work on in the world. We must attract qualified people to become Rotarians. We have visions to implement in our community and in our service projects.
Who are we to let petty complaints get in the way of doing something remarkable?