Monthly Archives: November 2014

Three Immutable Laws of the Rotary Universe

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RI President Elect Ravi Ravindran explaining how Rotary, Lego, tea packaging, and Victoria Secret are all related….somehow.

It’s time for District Governor Elects (DGEs) to set their membership goals for next year. I thought it would be interesting to give the topic of  goal setting in Rotary a little bit of ink.  So pull up a chair, grab a yummy beverage, relax, and see if you can hang on until the end.

Goal setting in any organization is limited by what I call the “tyranny of the average.”  That’s because we are expected to set “reasonable” and “attainable” goals and what seems reasonable or attainable is anchored by our observations about what is going on around us in the organization.  Our Rotary membership goal-setting in North America is anchored by the fact that we are consistently losing members.  Therefore, when we set a goal for membership that includes just about ANY amount of growth it is considered downright heroic, or downright stupid, depending on your point of view.  Let’s face it, very small net increases look really good when the paradigm is net negative.

Before delving into the horrifying conundrum of setting reasonable goals, let me introduce you to Rotary President Elect and soon to be RI President, Ravi Ravindran.   RI PE Ravi is the CEO of one of the largest tea packaging companies in the world.  He is also a very smart dude.  One of his messages is that we should add a little more Rotary in our business, and a little more business in Rotary.  When he talks about cost cutting, effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity in Rotary, you can tell he means…business.  At the recent Zone Institute he talked about how he modeled the efficiency standards for his company after the Lego Company, which sets the goal of 0.001% defects in their products.  (It might be 0.0001%, or 0.00001%, but who’s counting?)  That’s a pretty high standard for performance in any business.  (He also told us a great story about Victoria Secret but I can’t repeat it here because this is a family blog.  You had to be there.)

99.99% is considered an achievable goal for Lego.  So how should a sane, rational DGE choose a meaningful goal for growing District membership?  Before we get to this important issue, let’s take a look at the official clip of bloopers from the recent Lego Movie.  I’m not sure but I think this makes the 99.99% success ratio for Lego a little suspect.  Too many bloopers here for them to be at 99.99%)

OK.  Let’s quit fooling around and consider some real numbers.  My District has 63 Rotary clubs and 2,300 members.  Suppose we choose a goal of every club adding one net new member.  (Net meaning that a club that adds 10 new members and loses 10 members in the same year is net 0 new members.)  If we choose a +1 net new member goal we need to grow by 63 members, because we have 63 clubs, which is a 2.73% growth rate.  Here’s a sobering thought to consider.  Our District actually gained 32 net new members last year making us the NUMBER ONE District in Zone 33 for membership in terms of net new members AND percentage growth.  (Not that we’re competitive or anything.)  To hit the 63 member goal we would have to DOUBLE last year’s award winning membership growth.  YIKES!  Choosing a 2% growth goal that requires ONLY adding 46 net new members sure seems a lot safer, doesn’t it?  But last year we were number one in the Zone and only added 32 net new members AND we got an ovation for doing it.  Maybe its best to keep the goal at 32 new members?  What to do?

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Zone 33-34 DGE Class for 2015-16 just prior to falling unconscious from lack of sleep trying to figure out reasonable Rotary membership goals.  It was either membership goals or too much time in the hospitality suite.

Are you still there…..anyone?  If so, let me offer you three immutable rules of the Rotary universe:

One:  If you wear a pair of khaki trousers that have just been dry cleaned you will slop food on them the first day you wear them.

Two:  No matter how hard you try not to do it, if you eat pancakes with syrup there is no way to avoid getting sticky syrup on your hands…no matter how hard you try.

Three:  Rotary clubs do not care about membership goals set by the District Governor.  They only care about membership goals they set themselves….goals that are important to them.

Regarding immutable Universal Rotary Law number 3, this is as it should be.  Despite all of the goal setting angst above, it turns out that DGEs DO NOT set meaningful goals for Rotary clubs.  Clubs set meaningful goals for Rotary clubs.  Club President Elects must answer these questions:  1) Why should we care about growing our membership?  2) If we set a goal, what commitment should we make to achieve it?  And finally, 3) Why should we set a stretch goal when no one is asking us to do so?  And even if the PE believes in the goal, it still doesn’t mean anything unless his or her entire club believes in it.  In short, if clubs don’t OWN their membership goal, and then ENGAGE their members to achieve the goal, then it’s game over as far as membership discussions are concerned.

Here’s a hint for our Rotary PE’s:  Commit to growing your club ONLY if you are interested in having more energy, more new ideas, more money, more influence, and MORE FUN, in your club.  You can make it happen this year….if you are willing to take the risk.  BE UNREASONABLE.  Dare to GO BIG!  GET CRAZY!  How about adding two net new members this year?  Or three net new members?  OMG!

How to get there?  Check out District Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin’s, GROW booklet for a zillion ideas.   Here’s one quick tip from Zone training.  Instead of concentrating on recruiting new members, why not concentrate on RETAINING new members?  Want to retain new members?  Here’s how.  If you send two new members to your District Conference AND to Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI) they have a much higher probability of becoming long-term Rotarians.  (Based on a $2.4 million study commissioned by me addressing member retention issues.  Trust me….it works.)  You could increase membership growth from plus one to plus three by simply retaining two more members than you would have otherwise.  That seems doable, doesn’t it?

So…what do you think?  How should Rotary clubs set “reasonable” and “meaningful” membership goals?  Why not weigh in and share your opinion?

DSC_0940RI PE Ravi Ravindran presenting a Major Donor award to Terry and Pam Weaver at the Zone 33-34 DGE Class Dinner at the GETS/Zone Institute. Very Important Note: RIPE Ravi is NOT wearing a tie. Just sayin….

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DGE class curriculum includes working with agents, signing endorsement deals, and managing the media. Here we are learning how to ignore the paparazzi.
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L-R: Yours Truly, soon to be District 7620 First Lady, Linda, RI PE First Lady, Vanathy, and RI PE Ravi, all practicing for the official picture to be taken in San Diego.
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Universal Law Number 2

 

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Universal Law Number 1

 

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GETS Training in Asheville, NC

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RI Director, Robert Hall, our Fearless Leader here at GETS training, trying to explain to the DGEs that Rotary will survive our year in spite of us.

 

Your intrepid, Ready, Fire, Aim, reporter is here at the Omni Grove Park Inn, in beautiful Asheville, NC, to attend GETS training.  GETS is another one of those strange and wonderful Rotary acronyms.  It’s actually the fifth in a series of training meetings, beginning with WANTS, and then followed closely by NEEDS, ASKS, and BEGS.  GETS stands for Governor Elect Training Seminar.  (It will take too long for me to make up names for the other sessions, but if you are interested you can find them in the Appendix of the Rotary Manual of Procedure.)

At GETS training the DGE’s from 15 Districts in Zone 33 and 14 DGE’s in Zone 34 sit around a large “U” shaped table and play a peculiar brand of Rotary Leadership poker where all of the participants try and act confident and knowledgeable about being District Governor  next year, while hiding the fact that they are actually reciting the well-known Rotary Leadership prayer, “Please Lord, Don’t let me screw this up.”  Yes, dear reader,  even though you may have thought (and I have continuously reminded you) that Rotary District Governors, in the year of 2015-2016, are omnipotent beings incapable of making mistakes, it turns out that it takes a lot of training to turn us into the efficient, professional, and knowledgeable leaders you know as District Governors.

Not to worry, because at GETS we get the benefit of the best training possible for Rotary DGs.  The trainers are, for the most part, Past District Governors from Districts in the Zone, as well as paid staff from the Mothership in Evanston.   I am in the habit of describing the Rotary One Center in Evanston as the “Mothership”, so perhaps you might want to view this quick video of what it is like to meet these people for the first time.

Actually, this is not a video of actual communications with Rotary staff in Evanston.  It is, instead, an iconic clip from the movie, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, by Steven Spielberg.  (Sometimes I need to clarify these things for RFA readers.)

In fact, the trainers here at GETS are as committed to the task of helping us make it through our Rotary year as you could possibly ask for.  And it occurred to me to me that you might like to meet some of the RI staff since they are not allowed out much….as a matter of security.  So I am proud to introduce you to some of the people we are privileged to have on our side in our quest for world peace.  They are full-time “do gooders” and we are lucky to have them.  As you will see, they don’t suffer from a lack of passion and enthusiasm.  Not to mention the fact that they graciously put up with me badgering them for an interview.  I’ll let them introduce themselves:

Thank you Liz Lazar, Marni Nixon, and Kris Tsau for all you do for us.  And thank you to all of the other trainers, and all of the other volunteers, who make GETS a terrific experience for all concerned.

Time to hit the “POST” button and get to class.

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Past RI VP Anne Talks a Little SEC Trash at the 7620 Foundation Dinner

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Past RI VP Anne Matthews and Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award Winner, Geetha Jayaram, making District 7620 proud!

I suppose that Past RI VP Anne Matthews is something of a legend in Rotary Zone 33.  We were blessed to have her take time out of her extraordinarily busy schedule to be a featured speaker at the District 7620 Foundation Dinner.  If you missed it, you missed one of the highlights of the entire Rotary year.  And let me say…for those of you attended….you clean up REALLY nice.  The guys in tuxedo’s?  You rooked Maavelous.

Many of us have heard Anne speak before, but her message is just as vibrant and relevant as ever.  And when she held up a glass of clean water and asked us to think about our own lives compared to the millions who don’t have access to something we take for granted, not a person in the room wasn’t moved.  You all know that I am far too immature to get right to the point about the many awards and accomplishments we celebrated during the evening, so here is a little test.  Why am I including this clip from the movie, “Stranger than Fiction,” where IRS auditor, Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, finds himself the subject of a narration that only he can hear?  Pay attention.

Did you notice that Will Ferrell’s character wasn’t running the water while he was brushing his teeth?  Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has heard Anne speak about the Rotary Foundation, and our need to conserve water, will never let the water run while brushing our teeth again.  Here’s Anne, along with District 7620 Foundation Chair, Claude Morissette, with a quick comment about the Rotary Foundation:

 

As you may know, Anne is a fanatic fan of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team.  As your intrepid RFA reporter I’m sad to speculate that Anne must have burst a gasket as South Carolina lost to Tennessee last weekend, 45 – 42.  It’s clear from her comments that if it was up to her, coach Steve Spurrier’s job would be in jeopardy.  In fact, she’s ready to step in and coach the team herself.  Here’s something you don’t get to see every day…..RI VP Anne Matthews talking more than a little trash about SEC football with 7620 Foundation Chair, Claude.  Two things to note:  First, Claude is thoroughly entertained by Anne’s smackdown of Big 10 football.  Second, in the background you can hear IPDG Peter Kyle trying to censor the press while I valiantly  try to get this important story on video.

Of course, the main stars of the evening were the many award winners for Foundation contributions in our District.  Geetha Jayaram, of the soon to be chartered Howard West Rotary Club, was recognized for winning the prestigious Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity award.  David Hillery (Parole Annapolis)  and Donald Walter (Lake Shore – Severna Park) were recognized for achieving Major Donor Level 2 .  Not to embarrass them, but to reach Major Donor Level 2 you must give $25,000 to the Rotary Foundation, a true statement of their commitment to Rotary’s goal of world peace through humanitarian service.  And yes, we honored several Rotarians for achieving Major Donor Level 1 status, including Frank Andracchi from Lake Shore, Bea Carson from Annapolis, and John Ramos from Lexington Park.  To reach Major Donor Level 1 you must have total contributions to the Rotary Foundation of $10,000.  Congratulations to all!

Special recognition was given to new Bequest Society members (3), new Paul Harris Society members (17), District Grant Scholars (4), and our Global Grant scholar, Sarah Dobson. We also recognized the 15 clubs that were awarded District Grants for the 2014-2015 Rotary year.  And yes, because we needed to parade even more well-dressed men and women to the podium,  we recognized the South Anne Arundel Rotary Club, the College Park Club, and the Lake Shore-Severna Park club, as having the highest per capita giving in the District.

The bottom line is that the Rotary Foundation is our Foundation, and it felt great to all concerned to spend an evening to celebrate our commitment  to the cause…even if it did mean that we missed the first half of the Ravens-Pittsburgh game.  (If you are a Raven’s fan the game stunk anyway.)

Thanks to DGN, Anna Mae Kobbe for putting on a terrific show along with our hard working and long suffering District Secretary, Sherry Whitworth.  And as always, thanks to DG Bill Fine for leading the troops this year.

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South Anne Arundel County club President , Joe Van Deuren,  happily representing the club as being the number 1 club in the District for per cap giving to TRF with a total of $480 per cap.  WOW!!!!  Obviously Joe has never been in sales where a great year like this is rewarded by increasing your quota.
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Dave Hillery with a death grip on his award for achieving Major Donor Level 2 status.

IMG_0886L-R, DG Bill Fine, RI VP Anne Matthews, Level One Major Donors, Frank Andracchi (Lake Shore-Severna Park), Bea Carson (Annapolis), and DRFC Claude Morissette, all obviously looking at the wrong camera.

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L – R: District 7620 DGN and a major force in having a successful event, Margarita drinker, and new wife of Doug who has all of the good pictures, Anna Mae Kobbe, PDG and current Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, and PDG and next year’s Grants Chair, who will sweating next year’s dinner, Bette Lewis.
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These photos are for Past RI VP Anne to make her feel better about losing to Tennessee.
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This was obviously the “before” picture. Just kidding Past RI VP Anne. We love you, and even though there’s a lot of  Maryland Terps fans around here, we’ll  keep a warm spot in our heart for the Gamecocks.  Thank’s for coming to our dinner and celebrating with us.

 

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Just One Thing….How to be the Best Rotary District


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Here is an iconic scene from the movie City Slickers, where Jack Palance, as Curley, and Billy Crystal, as Mitch, discuss the “one thing” that is the true meaning of life.  Do you remember this scene?  The other iconic scene is Mitch explaining his mid-life crisis to his son’s elementary school class, but we’ll have to save that one for another post.

At the beginning of our first PETS training last week, I posed a similar question to our President Elects who will be Club President in the 2015-2016 year.  The question was, “What is the one thing that makes a Rotary District the BEST Rotary District.”  After all, I’m a competitive guy (so they tell me) and I want to be the best DG ever.  (OK…so I’m not good at setting achievable goals.)  Not to keep you in suspense,  here is what I believe is the only correct answer.  The ONE THING that makes a Rotary District the BEST Rotary District, is to have the BEST Rotary Clubs.  Pretty simple, for me anyway.

In District 7620 there is no “magic wand” for a District Governor to wave that does good in the world.  There is no Rotary team of employees who get the work done at the District home office.  This might be because we don’t have a District home office, and we don’t have any full-time employees.  (Actually Sherry Whitworth, our long-suffering District secretary comes close…but you know what I mean.)  The only thing that makes a Rotary District great is when great individual Rotarians, who are organized into great Rotary clubs, decide to do great things together.  Period.  The end.

At PrePETS our President-Elects for 2015-2016 got the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that being a Rotary Club President can be challenging if you want to effect positive change in your club.  And that’s because being a change agent can be a thankless job in any organization, and its especially so in Rotary where you only have one year to get something done.  And the good news?  The good news is that the only limitation to the amount of good that you can do is your own imagination, energy, skill, determination, and vision.  Let’s face it.  Being a Rotary Club President ain’t easy, but it can be the most rewarding job in Rotary.

So to that end, Training Chairs, Mary Nagle and Sean McAlister,  put together a terrific agenda where PEs got to meet each other by playing “Bingo.”  They then put up with a greeting from Yours Truly, heard from Mary about Six Guaranteed Steps to Successful Club Leadership, heard a fantastic panel of Immediate Past Presidents discuss the highlights, and the lowlights, of their year.  And finally had the chance to meet with their Area Governors to begin the process of building a rewarding relationship that will last them throughout their entire Presidential year.

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L – R: PDG Paul Frey facilitating the Immediate Past President Panel ofFred Genau (Carroll Creek), Mike Twigg (College Park), Stephanie Fenner (Olney), Mary Cain (Columbia-Patuxent), Tom Neff (Mount Airy)

So here’s my thank you to Mary and Sean for putting on a terrific PETS.  (Yes…it hurts my feelings that I’ve been a trainer for more than a decade and everyone said this was the best PETS ever!  I’ll get over it.  I hate it when people don’t realize how shy and vulnerable I am.)  And here’s my thanks for the PEs who have stepped up to be Rotary leaders next year.  They are a wonderful group and I’m fortunate to get to be their DG next year.

In the words of Immediate Past DG, Peter Kyle,…..’Onwards!”

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TO GET NOTIFICATIONS OF NEW POSTS TO RFA DIRECTLY TO YOUR EMAIL JUST CLICK ON THE SUBSCRIBE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT OF THE BLOG CONTENT.  YOU CAN FOLLOW KEN SOLOW ON TWITTER AT @KENNETHRSOLOW.  IF YOU ARE ON FB PLEASE “LIKE” THE DISTRICT 7620 FB PAGE.