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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