Monthly Archives: January 2015

Telling Rotary’s Story

 

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Wikopedia:  An elevator pitchelevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition.  “Elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes and is widely credited to Ilene Rosenzweig and Michael Caruso (while he was Editor for Vanity Fair) for its origin.[2][3] The term itself comes from a scenario of an accidental meeting with someone important in the elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in exchange of business cards or a scheduled meeting.[4]

OK.  Are you ready?  What is Rotary?  Can you give me a succinct, well thought out one to two minute answer that is informative, interesting, and gives someone a reason to ask for more  information?  We spent a good bit of time discussing how to tell Rotary’s story at the International Assembly.  Apparently someone thinks it might be helpful if our Rotary salesforce (that would be us, folks) knew how to answer this question.  And, unfortunately for us, it appears that we are expected to come up with our own elevator speech.  The most Rotary is willing to do is to give us is “Essence and Organizing Principals” for our answer.  The rest is up to us.

Before I give you my elevator speech, here’s some scary information from Rotary’s public image survey.  1) Four in ten have never heard of Rotary.  2) Another four in ten have heard of our “name only.”  and 3) Only two in ten claim to have “some familiarity” with Rotary…and unfortunately what they know is often colored by misperceptions and half-truths.  Given these facts, consider this: When someone asks you about Rotary it is highly likely that your answer will be the only information that person has about our organization.  And when that person talks about Rotary with someone else, it will color that person’s understanding of who we are.

The problem is, of course, that Rotary is such a diverse organization that it’s hard to define it in a short meaningful sentence.  So, direct from p.26 of my International Assembly Governor-Elect Workbook, here are three bullet points about the essence of who we are as an organization.  Our essence provides clarity in answering the question of what is Rotary.

1) Rotary joins leaders from all continents, cultures, and occupations.  NOTE:  Can ANY other organization say the same?  Maybe the U.N.?  This is a differentiating factor separating us from other non-profit service organizations.

2) We exchange ideas, bringing our expertise and diverse perspectives to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems.  NOTE: Again, it is our global infrastructure that allows us to tackle “world” size problems.

3) And we take action to bring lasting change to our communities around the world.  NOTE:  You know what I’m going to say…communities around the world.

When you craft your speech, remember that ethical service does not differentiate Rotary from dozens of other organizations.  Building friendships does not.  Solving community problems does not.  You can join the Boy Scouts and do ethical service, build great relationships, and solve problems in the local community.  What makes Rotary different?

Note to readers:  This is the part of the blog post where I include a barely relevant movie clip for pure entertainment purposes.  In doing my research about elevator scenes in movies I didn’t realize how much sex goes on in elevators.  Forget about learning an elevator speech.  Apparently elevators are either for lovemaking or for fighting.  Having thoroughly researched all of the sex in elevator scenes, I’ve decided to go with an action sequence from Captain America, Winter Soldier.  I hope your next elevator ride doesn’t turn out like this.

Here’s an elevator pitch I wrote down from one of the Plenary sessions.  It incorporates all of the elements of Rotary’s essence :

“Rotary unites leaders from all continents, cultures, and occupations, to exchange ideas and take action for communities around the world.”

Not a bad start, but shouldn’t we add something about friendships and fun?  How about:

“Rotary unites leaders from all continents, cultures, and occupations, to exchange ideas and take action for communities around the world.  Rotarians build great friendships while solving problems in our local communities and around the world.”

Not bad.  I’ll bet you could come up with something better.  If you do, please share with the rest of us.  It’s time to become expert Rotary story tellers.

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Reporting from the International Assembly in San Diego

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Rotary International President-Elect KR Ravi Ravindran addressing the International Assembly in San Diego.

In last week’s post I updated you on my upcoming trip to San Diego to attend the Rotary International Assembly for 2015-2016 District Governors.  My transformation into the super-leader called DG-Man is almost complete, with only tonight’s banquet standing between me and my escape back to Maryland.  The editorial calendar of upcoming posts is full of important, relevant, fact-filled, and Rotary life-changing information that will make for interesting reading.  Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those posts.

Instead, I want to update you on a scoop of cosmic importance to all Rotarians.  Last week, I wondered who “they” were, as in “They know where you are at all times and will track you down and do terrible things to you if you miss a session.”  Well…I’m pleased to report that I tracked down the head “They” here in San Diego.  His name is Mike McCullough and he is the Chief Sergeant at Arms here at the Assembly.  He leads an army of yellow-vested men and women who keep track of All Concerned and was kind enough to give me this interview.  All I can say is, “I told you so!”

(I’m sorry Mike, but I expect this post will go viral now that you’ve spilled the beans.  I said I would keep this confidential but the public has a right to know.)  Seriously, thank you to all of the SAA’s here this week that made our lives so much easier.

On another, but equally earth shattering subject, last night was Festival Night here at the Assembly, which ends with a somewhat infamous talent show put on by Rotary Zones from all around the world.  Our Zone 33-34 skit was objectively the best of the evening (I’m a trained journalist…of course I’m objective) and it featured Rotary Director, Robert Hall, as Don Quixote tilting windmills that represented various areas of focus for the Rotary Foundation.  If you thought that Rotary Leaders can’t have a good time, or that they take themselves too seriously, then check out this video.  I gotta tell you, Robert is one of the really good guys and is an amazingly good sport.  Thanks for this spellbinding interview Robert.  (NOTE:  Our theme for next year is, “Be A Gift to the World.”  Cut Robert a little slack.  You would have trouble remembering the theme too if you had just run around the stage killing a bunch of windmills, and then had to stand in the hallway sweating in your Don Quixote costume while being asked idiotic questions for a Rotary blog.)

There are more than 500 District Governor Elects here in San Diego from more than 200 countries and right about now, every one of them is trying to figure out how to be the most effective leader they can be on behalf of the Rotarians in their District.  It’s a privilege to be one of them. We’ll start discussing some serious Rotary issues in RFA over the next few weeks.

As always, Too Much Fun.

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Transforming into a Rotary Super Hero

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We all know the story.  Clark Kent finds his way to the North Pole where a mysterious green crystal shows him his destiny.  It is at the North Pole where Clark finds out who he really is.  He didn’t know it, but he has a  mission on earth.  He is about to become Superman, able to fly faster than a speeding bullet and, well, you know.  Here is one version of the incredible revelation that awaits Clark at the North Pole.

For Rotary District Governors, apparently they don’t go to the North Pole to find out how to be the Super Hero they will ultimately become.  Instead they go to….San Diego.  That’s right.  Five hundred DGE’s travel from more than 200 countries around the world to the International Assembly in order to do….something.  I’m not sure yet.   It apparently has nothing to do with green crystals, but apparently does have something to do with drinking copious amounts of Koolaid.

I have often written in this space of the superhuman abilities of District Governors.  These super attributes only seem to last one magic year.  But in that time DGs can make tough decisions, recruit new District Leaders, plan huge events called District Conferences, manage large budgets, settle any dispute, inspire multiple Rotary clubs, avoid making any mistakes, recruit, cajole, mediate, raise money, and be….well…..super!  Did I mention that DGs can’t make mistakes?  That’s what they tell me.  And that’s what I’ve observed in my District.  And that’s why I joined the District Leadership team.  I’m tired of making mistakes and a trip to San Diego seems worth it to avoid them for a well-defined twelve-month period.

If you ask Past District Governors about going to the International Assembly in San Diego, a strange and unsettling transformation inevitably occurs.  Without exception, the first thing they say is, “this will be a life changing event that is the best Rotary experience you will ever have.”  This line is delivered while making direct eye contact and with a big smile on their face.  However, once the “best experience ever” line is delivered, they begin to look at each other with a sort of amused expression on their faces.  Soon thereafter they begin to have labored breathing and a flush comes over their face.  With lowered voices they begin murmuring dark references to “they.”

For example, “if you aren’t in your seat on time, “they” will find you.”  Or, “they” implant electronic homing devices in you so that “they” know where you are at every minute.”  In training at three different Zone events and one Multi-District PETS I’ve spent more than five hours discussing the preparation for my Super Hero transformation in San Diego and “they” were mentioned dozens of times.  I will let you know who “they” are as soon as I find out.  I have to tell you, in my Rotary Club the Sergeant At Arms job is to make you laugh.  I sure hope the SAR’s are nice to us in San Diego.  Could they be “they”?

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For me, my absolute Go-To reference for all information about Super Heroes, is the wonderful Pixar movie, The Incredibles.  For example,  there is a clear directive in the dress code for our San Diego trip (apparently you have to dress in business attire in order to properly transform to a Super Hero.  Geez…even Clark Kent didn’t have to wear a tie) that DGE’s are clearly directed not to wear capes during their DGE term.  Why?  Here’s what happens to Super Heroes that wear capes:

I fully expect our training in San Diego to cover the DG dress code, which includes being ready to serve the public at all times by being perfectly dressed and looking like a Rotarian.  Once again, I refer to the Incredibles for an example of what happens when a DG is not fully prepared for “service above self” without being properly attired:

I’ll admit to being a little nervous about meeting DGEs from 500 Rotary Districts and more than 200 countries around the world who are all there for the Rotary transformation that occurs under the watchful eye of “they.”   While I’m enjoying the best Rotary experience of my life, I will make every effort to drink whatever kind of powdered sugar drinks are being served, and I will do whatever “they” tell me to do whenever “they” tell me to do it.  I’m not sure about the electronic tracking devices, though.

I will be reporting back from the International Assembly with all the news fit to print.  Right here, on the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog.

kool-aidDrinking the Kool-Aid” is a figure of speech commonly used in the United States that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion. – Wikipedia

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District PETS Training is a Smashing Success!

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PETS leadership trainer, Jeff Neufeld, holding forth with a riveting presentation.

This weekend the courageous President-Elects of District 7620 met to experience the wonders of their second training to prepare them for their Presidential year.  Under the direction of  Training Chairs Mary Nagle and Sean McAlister, the training was, in the words of one participant, “riveting.”  For my part, I got to sit back and admire the Rotarians who step up to give their time in order to lead their Rotary clubs for a year.  Being a leader is challenging in any organization, but it is a special challenge in Rotary because we change our leaders every year.  We have an outstanding group of Club Presidents waiting in the wings to run our Rotary clubs in 2015-2016.

The first part of the training on Saturday was a panel discussion where PR Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, Foundation Chair, Pat Kasuda, and Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, expounded on what PEs should be doing to prepare for next year.  Our panelists did a great job and I’m pleased to report all three of them survived the experience.

We had a secret weapon for our PEs at the training on Saturday.  New member of the Training Committee, Jeff Neufeld, happens to teach leadership classes at this small, backwater institution of higher learning called The U.S. Naval Academy.  Are you kidding? How could you possibly have a better trainer on the subject of leadership than someone who does it for a living – teaching our Midshipmen how to be the best of the best.  I can speak for everyone who attended in saying that Jeff didn’t disappoint.  He took our Six Step club leadership program and made it come alive for our PEs.  It was a treat for everyone who attended.

Before letting you in on some of the best ideas from the training, I thought I would bring up a staggeringly important, if seemingly unrelated question.   Why is it that Kevin Costner is the star of two of the best sports movies ever made, Bull Durham and Tin Cup?  (Some would include Field of Dreams on this list but I say get a grip.)  I just can’t figure it out.

In honor of Rotary trainers everywhere, here is one of my absolute favorite clips concerning experiential learning, a technique that Jeff says he heartily endorses.  It’s from the movie, Bull Durham, and it stars Kevin Costner as the experienced minor league catcher, Crash Davis, and Tim Robbins as the rookie, totally inexperienced, Nuke Laloosh.  Here Nuke is about to learn not to shake off the catcher’s signs.  I think you’ll agree its a pretty effective lesson.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Lately I’ve been bemoaning the fact that smart phones have totally ruined the fun of getting into arguments at bars over just about anything.  Bar bets are settled instantly by Google and you just can’t have a long satisfying discussion about any kind of trivia because the cell phones come out and Google has its say.  One discussion that Google can’t resolve is the category of “best” movie.  I hereby submit that Bull Durham is the best baseball movie ever made.  In fact, I submit that its the best sports movie ever made.  And PLEASE don’t bring up Caddie Shack to me.  REALLY?   And why is it that most every other Kevin Costner movie stinks accept for his sports movies?   If you can understand why then you probably understand the SHARE program, too.

But I digress.  Let’s get back to our PETS training.  Here is the secret sauce of preparing our President-Elects to be effective leaders.  Teach Rotary knowledge.  Teach leadership techniques.  Prepare them for the many interpersonal conflicts that are sure to come up during their year that can potentially derail their plans.  Give them structure for effecting positive change in their club.  In our case we teach a six step program that includes 1) gathering your Go To Team, 2) coming up with a plan of action, 3) putting your plan in writing, 4) recruiting motivated and effective committee chairs, 5) asking them to have all club members engage Rotary by joining a committee, and 6) holding everyone accountable.  And of course, we send them off to a well-planned, comprehensive, RI required training held as a joint effort with three other Rotary Districts. We call that extravaganza, Chesapeake PETS.

In addition to the herculean efforts of our training team, another important ingredient for success is to have motivated and educated Area Governors who are willing to work closely with their President Elects to help them be as prepared as possible before they take office, and then work closely with them as a coach during their year as Club President.  Last Saturday our AGs made a strong statement about just how committed they are to their PEs by having 100% attendance for the training.  They did a lot more than just show up on a Saturday.  They each facilitated breakout sessions with their area PEs about goal setting for the 2015-2016 year.  In short….they were amazing!

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L-R: Tom Neff, Larry Leahy, Mark Milby, Bea Carson, Dave Miller, Peter Grayson, Yours Truly, Bill Yeakel, Matt May, Mary Anne Rishebarger, Charlie McCabe, Geoffrey Fenner (back row), Danny Parker, Andy Cook, Jimmie Gorski, Barton Goldenberg, the best crew of AGs in District 7620. (er…the only AGs in District 7620.)

I can’t finish this post without including one of my favorite Kevin Costner clips.  This one is from the movie, Tin Cup.  If you don’t know the movie, Roy McAvoy (Costner) is a driving range pro with a chance to win the US Open.  This is what happens on the 18th hole as his caddie, Romeo, played by Cheech Marin, is trying to save Roy from himself.  Roy has just splashed every ball in his bag except one in an attempt to reach a Par 5 in two, when he could have dropped the ball closer to the green.  Experiential learning?  Not so much. There isn’t a golfer alive who doesn’t relate to this scene.  If you are President Elect, I hope you learn a little faster than McAvoy does, but I hope you have an equally inspiring end to your year.  (Warning- there is an R-Rated word in this clip.)

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Round Up the Usual Suspects!

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The District 7620 Six-Step leadership plan is infallible.  Where else can you find a GUARANTEED method for successfully leading Rotary clubs?  The six steps are 1) Find your Go-To Team, 2) Come up with a plan, 3) Put it in writing, 4) Recruit talented committee chairs, 5) Have them engage club members to participate, and 6) Hold everyone accountable.  The best Rotary clubs execute these steps as naturally as breathing.  On the other hand, struggling clubs usually have challenges with one or more steps.

Today’s post is about step 4, recruiting talented committee chairs.  Recruiting is one of the highest strategic priorities in our District, and we’ve taken active steps to try and find talented Rotarians willing to participate in Rotary leadership at the District level.  Our recent Leadership Roundtable for Past Presidents was a good example of being proactive in recruiting leaders.  This seems to be highly preferable to the typical, time honored, strategy for recruiting Rotary leaders and other Rotary volunteers, which basically constitutes begging anyone with a pulse to help.  In fact, most Rotary clubs default to asking the same people to do the work in our clubs year in and year out.  We know who the “usual suspects” are in terms of who will reliably complete a task, and club and District Leaders zero in on them in hopes that they will step up again to do whatever it is they do so well.  Of course, we then wonder why these same people suffer Rotary “burn out” and no longer find being a Rotarian to be fun.  (Let’s hope no one teaches these wonderful, if overworked, Rotarians how to say “no.”)

Here is the famous Casablanca scene with Humphrey Bogart as Rick and Claude Raines as Captain Renault where he says the famous line about “the usual suspects.”  Of course, there is another equally famous line in this clip.  Perhaps I should have named this post, “this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

We probably don’t talk enough about the best techniques for recruiting Rotary leaders.  We imagine that if we stand in front of the room and make an impassioned and inspirational speech about Rotary service that Rotarians will leap to their feet to volunteer for whatever it is we need at the moment.  In this vision we finish our brilliant oratory, and then, one by one, sheepishly, and overcome by their obligation to serve, our club members begin to stand up and be counted.  As the momentum grows soon even the naysayers are on their feet, cheering you on and begging for an opportunity to pitch in and do good.

Here is a clip from the movie, The Patriot, where Gabriel (Heath Ledger) has been sent to round up the Militia.  Things  don’t go well until the beautiful Anne Howard (Lisa Brenner) stands up and makes the impassioned pitch.  Don’t you love Hollywood?  These guys never had a chance.  “Rotarians….who’s with us?”

Unfortunately I’ve found that the best way to recruit anyone to do anything is to do so in person.  Set up a breakfast, lunch, coffee, whatever, and make your case face to face.  Most Rotarians understand that we need to them to serve, and believe it or not, they joined Rotary to serve.  What you need to do is give them a clear vision of WHY they are needed and the BENEFITS of their service.

Here is one of my favorite all-time recruiting scenes.  Mr. Potter doesn’t close the deal, but you have to admire his sales skills.  You’ve seen this clip a million times, but this time watch how Potter tells a story about George and what it will be like for him if he will only give up that stupid Savings and Loan.  OK…so he doesn’t close the deal, but we can all learn from this.  (By the way…it isn’t necessary to cut off chair legs so you can sit higher than the person you are talking to.)  Here’s James Stewart and Lionel Barrymore in the classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

January begins that time of year where Rotarians don’t answer phone calls from President-Elects, or for that matter, District Governor Elects, because they know they are going to be asked to do something.  Let’s try our best to find talented Rotarians to fill our club’s leadership positions, and then inspire them to recruit even more talented Rotarians to join their committees.  We are a volunteer organization and sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to find volunteers.  Even so, lets not make being able to fog a mirror the only requirement for being a committee chair in our clubs or Districts.  Talented Rotarians are out there.  Let’s make a major effort to find them and give them a wonderful opportunity to serve.  For the most part they will be surprised, honored, and flattered to be asked.

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