Rotary

A letter to the District Governor Elect: Place clubs at the front and center of your strategy

Dear Patrick,

I am told that the human brain has 2.5 million gigabytes of RAM. I will now tap into that processing power to retrieve data and share insights that I have gained as district governor over the past year. As I do this, I am aware that it is not a simple task to motivate an overachiever, which you are. Being the chairman of a tier one bank in Kenya, and on the boards of several organizations and associations, you have reached the pinnacle of leadership that is reserved only for exemplars in our society.

Your admirable career has given you rare skills and the extraordinary ability to lead our district to the next level of performance and influence. I have the fullest confidence that you will enhance the sense of purpose among our members and drive greater impact in the vulnerable communities that we serve.

Fifty percent of your tasks will focus on activities that you cannot plan for. These problems will come from left field and be completely unexpected. They will have the same effect as the hell created when a wild dog strays into an unsuspecting hen house. When COVID-19 hit, we watched helplessly as our carefully laid plans fluttered frantically in the air. The devilish intruder made its terrifying entrance, and then proceeded to suffocate our happiness. 

Luckily, we too had been forewarned. We were advised to be on the lookout for these earth-shattering calamities that have the potential to bring our momentum to a sudden and deadly stop. Rather than lament with feelings of regret and fear of failure, crying out ‘Why now?’, we witnessed instead Rotarians spontaneously rising up to face the disaster with alacrity and determination.

The confidence that we have gained in Rotary’s ability to address this crisis is not unfounded. Throughout the planning phase we were blessed to have a set of the wisest advisors that that have made us the envy of the world. Past Rotary International Presidents; past, present and future Rotary International Directors, The Rotary Foundation Trustees, and District Governors; all with distinguished track records that have established them as living legends in their own right. 

These advisers encouraged our team to adopt a progressive, pragmatic and result oriented mindset. We were reminded that all our actions and aspirations were to focus primarily on the clubs, and that nothing happens if it doesn’t happen in the clubs. We therefore set about putting the clubs at the front and center of our strategy and all our actions. 

Patrick, I cannot overemphasize how this has been the single most important decision that we have made. The Hawthorne effect, which inspired us, states that productivity increases when people know that others are paying attention to them. 

Little did we know at the time that in demonstrating our desire for their progress and development through training, communication and stewardship, that we would inadvertently be preparing Rotary to deal with the greatest challenge of our time. We have created within our clubs a healthy appetite for trouble, with the ability to face problems head on, and relentlessly tackle difficulties. 

As you travel around the district visiting each and every club, the most fulfilling part of the job is the interaction with the entire membership. I can now confirm that our organization is made up of the most respectable, enterprising and responsible citizens and it has been the greatest honor to be invited to sit with them at their tables. 

If you do get the opportunity, visit as many service projects as you can; this is eternally rewarding. I’m afraid I made a point to do this for selfish reasons. As I rose in leadership within the club and district, I recognized a shift from hands-on charity service to more administrative activity.

I wanted to get back to the roots of my involvement in Rotary, which is to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty as we uplift the lives of people who greatly need our help. I also had a specific question in my mind, one that I carried with me to every meeting and which was behind every question and course of enquiry that I pursued. 

It is a simple question: ‘What drives people to give what they have to those who have none?’

I never asked the question directly, but I scrutinized every presentation, conversation and discussion through this philosophical filter. The result is that the neurons in my mind, the chambers of my heart, and the three parts of my soul have all lit up like an elaborate Christmas tree. The meaning of life is somehow becoming clearer.

One of the founders of Western Philosophy said: ‘The only thing that I know is that I know nothing.’ If such a celebrated character can say that about his capacity, who are we to think otherwise. I therefore recommend that you open your mind and heart and listen attentively. Listen with the curiosity of a child, the yearning of the betrothed, and the enlightment of a sage. After your year in leadership, and when you get a moment, please take some time and tell me what you have heard.

When the clock struck 12 midnight on 30th of June 2019, I crossed into the new Rotary year and assumed the governor title. I quietly celebrated the event with a glass of single malt whisky in hand.

Now as I cross the year and transfer the instruments of authority to you, I will be holding a bible, having meditated on the teachings therein. With prayer and thanksgiving, I ask for God’s blessing that he will shine his light on you, so that you perceive what is true, and that you will use this power to bring positive change to society.

Yours in Rotary,

Joe.

Categories: Rotary

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