VLOG#1 – Rotary canvassing, campaigning and electioneering

The Presidential Campaign across Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland will  be kicking off very soon – and those who seek to throw their respective Rotary hats into the ring to lead the organisation in three years time will start to come to the fore.

This blog has previously picked up on the way in which the organisation selects the President, questioning the fact that Regular Rots only have access to a CV detailing the prospective leaders Rotary background and not much else.

However as we know ‘they’ have been listening, so we have some great news! This year is the first that Regular Rots will get the chance to actually see and hear the applicants as they take to the YouTube-o-sphere and upload a short introduction to themselves that will probably tell us more in a few minutes than their Curriculum Vitae every will.

So there is definite progress in terms of using social media and new technology to help us select Regular Rot who will lead us in these islands in a few years time. But is the organisation moving quickly enough?

The one key area that Rotary, both in these islands and across the atlantic still seems to reluctant to address is the whole issue of canvassing, campaigning and electioneering but more importantly how this sits within the world of social media. It just seems, it has become a gargantuan issue that they’re not quite sure how to deal with…and they’re probably right!

So the first featured RotaryBlogger VLOG (RotaryVlogger) picks up on this very matter addressing how the Regular Rots on social media can be ‘controlled’ during the forthcoming Presidential election period.

Next week: Is it time for a blank sheet of paper?

General Secretary – the Rotary lynchpin

Based on the fact last weekend’s blog on the potential demise of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland was one of the most read posts since RotaryBlogger.co.uk started; it would seem there is a definite ‘internal’ interest in how Rotary is operating in these islands.

So in this, the second of a three-part series on RotaryGBI we look to the position of General Secretary but more importantly why I truly believe this senior position is the one that could and should become the most important role for Rotary across Great Britain and Ireland. The lynchpin of the organisation so-to-speak.

Due to the the organisation’s historical set up, it means the ‘management team‘ changes every 12 months ergo the management strategy can effectively do the same if that is the desire of the new team when they take up residence at Alcester on 1st July of their particular year.

The process can be likened to one of those step-on-step-off rollercoaster rides at at theme park. You know the ones where you enter from the left-hand-side of the cart to exit on the right? Even if you wanted to get off the same way you got on – you can’t as the next riders are standing on the sidelines menacingly preventing you from doing this. And almost worse, before you’re even completely out the cart the next riders are already in there getting ready for their ‘adventure’.


Next year’s team patiently waiting on their turn – but should the General Secretary be the continuum with the real controls?

The irony is that as soon as the carts with the new riders pull out the ‘station’ the next set of incumbents’ are already positioning themselves to enter stage left as their now predecessors’ exit right…and so it goes on.

However, in amongst the various 12-monthly step-off-step-ons at Alcester – there remains one continuum who lives on the rollercoasters and knows everything about how it works. This ‘control’ could be the constant to ensure the organisation’s strategy is maintained for the longer term ensuring the ‘business’ is managed for the benefit of Rotary and not a bunch of potential new egos who’ll only be here for 365 days before they have to get off!

Of course I refer to the General Secretary and the team at Alcester who remain each year despite the democratic management changes to which they are subject every summer.

As previously mentioned in other posts on RotaryBlogger.co.uk it cannot be easy for the General Secretary to manage the organisation either strategically or otherwise when their current ‘boss’ is only in post for 12 months. Compounded by the fact that their ‘next boss’ and their team are actually hanging around on the side lines with a watching/learning brief but with the ability (should they choose) to make sweeping changes pretty much unrecognisable from the preceding 12 months when they take up post.

Oh, and just to exacerbate issues a little bit further – the ‘next-but-next boss’ is also mustering around further down the queue as well – again with the right to amend and adjust the organisation in line with the desires of the General Council of that particular year.

Surely whether it happens in reality or not; the potential to radically change the direction of the organisation every year cannot be good for the organisation? And it certainly cannot be good for the strategic management of the General Secretary and their team in driving the business forward.

In my view what we need is for the General Secretary to be allowed to become the equivalent of a Chief Executive Officer (yes, I said CEO). The General Secretary of RotaryGBI needs to authorised to develop their executive team around them and for that team to take the organisation forward by way of a clear strategic direction in line with current business practices and modern, up-to-date, accountable ways of working.

Now to be clear, I am not suggesting creating an entirely autonomous Chief Officer accountable to no-one who is able to manage and steer the organisation in whatever direction they so choose. Absolutely not.

What I am putting forward is that the General Secretary is the continuum who generates the ideas; the business development; the membership increases and ensures there is a steady hand on the tiller to deliver the agreed objectives within similarly agreed timelines. But this individual would be the one who would effectively ‘control’ potentially maverick Presidents, Chairs or General Council’s in terms of protecting against changes which didn’t sit with previously agreed strategic directions.

All of the proposals would be based on the professional judgements of the team at the Secretariat; obviously challenged and scrutinised by key individuals. And this is where the paid Executive Officer has to be held to account – via some form of board of committee which would ensure the strategic plan is being delivered upon and that the General Secretary is performing in line with expectations.

Now in Part 3 of this series about Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, I will be talking about the committee structure and where rightly or wrongly, there is a perception of ‘jobs for the boys’ – calling for a full review of the way in which the committees – and their membership – operate. Read “Committees – take a blank sheet” in a couple of weeks time.

If there was sufficiently radical thinking, then the Committees could all but be removed with the budget redirected to the Chief Officer of the organisation to utilise in a strategic, monitored and managed way for the direct betterment of Rotary. Strategic planning could be adopted in similar ways to other top performing third sector organisations – over a period of three to five years, with key milestones and performance review periods.

Over the last five or so years, Rotary in these islands has lost a similar number of Senior Managers from their important positions at Alcester. Is anyone asking the reason why? Good Human Resource management would suggest this was something that needed to be looked at – but if each leaver comes in the year of ‘last year’s team’ then why would the incumbent team be worried about it…that was their problem, was it not? The lack of continuum means that even some of the basic HR issues are not being recognised in a way they should. The organisation cannot afford to keep losing important staff – regardless of the reasons behind this.

My personal view is that Rotary in these islands is extremely lucky to have a safe and capable pair of hands in Amanda Watkin current General Secretary. However, in order that the General Secretary is able to manage the organisation they need to be allowed and trusted to do so with support, assistance and appropriate levels of scrutiny.

So instead of RotaryGBI Committee members, past officers and directors circling the wagons to protect their committees or their current positions – or let’s be honest – the positions they perhaps have their eye on in the future; they need to look at the way in which organisation is being managed and be brave enough to put the future of RotaryGBI first as many of them already do.

Those in charge need to consider how other similar third-sector organisations are operating in a refined, streamlined and minimalistic management structure – where their Chief Executive Officer is allowed to [professionally] manage the business and where a small board of 10-20 Trustees/Directors are there to support and assist but also to challenge and scrutinise the way in which the organisation is being run by their Chief Officer.

When an organisation appoints professionals to manage the organisation at a senior level, surely those individuals have to be allowed to do so. It is unfair as well as inappropriate to expect these individuals to be answerable to 50,000 individuals who think they have a right to play ‘boss’ during a particular phonecall or meeting and all who are experts in the field of the individual we’ve actually appointed to the do the job.

There are good individuals out there amongst the 50,000 members in these islands – let’s tap into that experience, but no necessarily as a ‘committee member’ – more of a ‘go-to sounding board’. We should not being going to individuals simply because they are past-this or past-that. This status maybe an important insert on their Rotary CV but of no relevance to a particular project or strategic path being adopted.

In conclusion, consider this point. When the incumbent General Secretary was appointed two years ago, the RotaryGBI web-release said ,

Over the last 25 years Amanda has run her own specialist consultancy business working with a range of businesses from independent retailers through to major international blue chip companies, so will be bringing a breadth of skills and experience to the role.”

Back then the General Secretary was looking forward to introducing fresh thinking to the organisation and supporting Rotarians as they continue to seek to deliver continuous service to their local and international communities. I just wonder how much of this she has been able to achieve in the current structure?

Surely the time has come to review the Committee structure and look to the professionals in the organisation to guide the direction of travel for the organisation for the long term. We need to trust their expertise and experience while they have an understanding that they are entirely accountable for those proposals and recommendations the same as any other employees in any other organisation across these islands.

Let’s make it less about management by committee and more about management by accountability.

Next week: VLOG – “Presidential campaign, social media and electioneering”

Images by Joe Penniston by CC