I have a love - hate relationship with Rotary. I think many of us do. While we love the results of what we do, the path to results has some frustrating obstacles. We all owe it to our brand to make it easier for our members to vote their energy to Rotary.
To be fair, Rotary offers a lot to love. I love the fact that I was selected to attend Camp Enterprise as a high school student. I learned a lot about free enterprise and positive mental attitude. I also met some incredible Rotary Club of Milwaukee Rotarians, two of whom became longtime mentors of mine.
I love the impact of my own club - The Rotary Club of Chanhassen, Minnesota, from the community events we support and run to our local and global service. And I am proud of the work of ShelterBox to bring shelter, warmth and dignity to disaster survivors.
I am proud of the massive effort Rotary has taken to eradicate polio. We are this close! And what we have learned from that campaign will teach us many lessons as we move on to malaria, ebola or whatever comes next.
We can travel halfway around the world to help out people we have never met, yet we find it hard in some clubs to pronounce the names of our guests. Some say that Indian names or Russian names are too difficult. Would we say that in a business context? What about increasing our diversity to represent our communities?
Despite Rotary being the place where leaders meet to exchange ideas, we have lost the 20 minute speech. Rotary clubs across the country were THE place to hear the best speakers inform us about business, politics, new technology and more. Now TED owns the 20 minute speech – and people don’t even have to wake up early or jump in the car to watch! What are we doing to improve our programs?
I still find too many off-color jokes and simple disrespect. Women Rotarians should not have to turn the other cheek. We want more women professionals in Rotary, right?
We go to great lengths to change the rules to attract “New Generations,” yet some members complain that our special incentives for younger professionals are unfair. Are we serious about our recruiting strategy or not?
We have one of the largest private foundations in the world, yet we have lowered our standards for new members. “Show up for our 3-meeting hazing process, fog a mirror and you are good enough for us,” we say. But is that good enough? Whom do you want submitting and approving grants, supervising projects and ensuring that RI Foundation funds create their intended impact?
And despite all of our so-called best practices, we still haven’t cracked the code on how to attract and retain members. In the business world, a true best practice is an approach that has been found to be exceptionally successful compared to alternatives. Most of the best practices I find on district and zone websites are lists of someone's favorite ideas, but not proven success methods. To be sure, the people that submitted and assembled them were well-intentioned. But these ideas really haven’t passed the test of best practice. They are really just someone’s favorite ideas.
The problem with publishing untested ideas is that we waste members’ energy. It is probably good to let people know that there are possibilities. What’s missing in most cases, however is fit. Issues are club-specific. Identifying both the issue and a solution often needs to come from an outsider – or someone who takes an outsider’s point of view.
If you are new to this blog, you should know that I believe deeply in the power of positivity. However, the happy movement has gone a bit too far, in many ways. The most successful organizations are about 6 to 1 positive. So while their people spend six parts of their time talking about goals, strengths, possibilities and successes, they also spend a dose talking about weaknesses, gaps and potential disasters. So we have to acknowledge our challenges, face them and work through them.
We have a new brand, Rotarians - a new logo, new messaging, new images. The brand only means something when behavior CONSISTENTLY mirrors the brand promise. Let's rethink our beliefs, our member experience and our behaviors. Let's act and move in alignment with where we need to be.
Tough work? Perhaps. Think of those whom we serve. Tough work with hope beats tough work with hopelessness. Isn't it worth it to improve as a club, as a movement, so that we can become better at creating hope for others?
Let’s get after it together, Rotary. We have work to do.