During his excellent talk at last week's Rotary International District 3310 conference, past district governor Dr. R.T. Arasu addressed the subject of discord in Rotary clubs. He began his session by describing a typical reaction from a new Rotary member to a mentor when the newbie learns about paying dues, going to conferences, serving on committees and regularly taking part in seminars: "My God, you never told me all this!" Unrealistic expectations from new members can lead to member unhappiness with Rotary, Dr. Arasu noted.
The 37-year Rotary veteran with a perfect meeting attendance record touched on three topics clubs need to be aware of if they wish to avoid internal problems. First, he listed six sources of conflict: 1) poor communication, 2) members seeking power, 3) member dissatisfaction with management style, 4) weak leadership, 5) lack of openness, and 6) constant churn in leadership. Dr. Arasu, a dentist from Malaysia, singled out one problem many newer clubs have: members assuming leadership roles before they're ready, or members being coerced into taking leadership roles.
Spotting member dissatisfaction was Dr. Arasu's second topic. He warned of potential problems arising when a member quits acknowledging or socializing with other members, especially with club officers. Next, he warned us all to beware of a member who argues about everything, regardless of the issue. Then Dr. Arasu noted sadly that some unhappy members will bad-mouth the club or some of its members in public places like sports venues, restaurants, or bars.
Finally, Dr. Arasu discussed issues leading to club conflict. These included the timing and cost of meetings, the cost of membership, the choice of meeting venues, disagreement among members concerning Rotary traditions (for example, singing or wearing Rotary pins, neckties, and shirts), unrealistic expectations from new members, and most importantly, personality conflicts. "Ego is a small three-letter word," Dr. Arasu concluded. "But it can destroy a big 13-letter word: 'relationships.'"
Attending this session in particular and the conference in general was a great way to meet new Rotarians and learn how to better run our own club.
CMIRC members (from left) Jerry Nelson, Roger Lindley, and Marvin Chung getting ready to perform their duties as sergeants-at-arms during the Rotary International District 3310 conference held at the Empress Hotel in Chiang Mai.