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December 2011
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Gov. Jeffrey's Message

by Gov. Jeffrey Wolff

Greetings everyone, I hope that you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday!  For December, my message focuses on leadership and succession planning.  One of the greatest advantages to our organization, Kiwanis and Service Leadership Programs alike, is that any member can step up into any of numerous leadership positions we have to offer.

We have had dynamic and inspiring leaders at all levels of Kiwanis here in the Capital District over our great history.  Yet, in recent years, interest in leadership positions both within the club and outside of it, have dwindled significantly. There is no question that there exists a direct correlation between membership and club leadership. Quality leaders motivate new people to join and existing members to do more.  

Does your Kiwanis club have contested elections for officer positions each spring or do you have a board that simply changes seats each year to "mix things up?"  It's imperative that clubs create a "leadership pipeline" within their club.  If you don't already do this, you could assign a particular officer or director to be responsible for tracking each members skills and their involvement and approach them about stepping up to the next level.  If they are a good member, directly ask them to chair a project.  If they've been involved for a few years in the club, ask them to serve as a director.

Many clubs announce that they are looking for project chairs, but few take the time to individually ask members who have limited involvement to take on a new task.  Instead, we take the path of least resistance and ask an already overused member to do something else for the club.  This can lead to "burn-out" of our existing active members and the potential for that involved member to drop out.  

Does your club look at the profession and/or skill set of prospective and new members and identify right away which committee they should serve on?  Many clubs overlook professional backgrounds when getting new members involved.  

Some clubs control who will take each officer position, but contested and open elections are fantastic for club morale.  Members want to see that multiple people in their club want to serve and lead.  It energizes the morale and causes more people to want leadership positions.  The campaigning process is also extremely good for personal development of your members. Consider creating an environment in your club that encourages new people to step into leadership positions at any level without having to go through "all of the chairs."  Sometimes the most dynamic club president could be someone that recognizes that they could never be an effective club secretary or treasurer.  If your club imposes a pre-requisite that you have to hold one of those positions before being president, you could be missing out on quality leadership.

Does your club have an officer or director assigned to be in charge of strategic planning for your club?  Some clubs use their immediate past president as the person who is the keeper of the club's long range plan.  That way, there is focus beyond the current year on what the club strives to accomplish.  Part of that also includes how your club plans its future leadership development. Our District Committee on Long Range Planning, chaired by Past Lt. Governor Judy Pantelides and Past Lt. Governor Linda Smith have just released a survey on club planning.  I encourage each of you to visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3MZWF9Z and take a few minutes to complete it.  

Once you have your pipeline established, its important to think about how you transition your leaders from one year to the next. One of the biggest challenges our organization faces is that we re-invent the wheel quite a bit as new set of leaders take over each October 1st. Does your club do a formal transition and briefing from one board to the next or joint planning sessions? If not, this practice can ease the hand-over and prevent the new board from spending their time working on things already addressed by previous administrations. Also it is good to ensure that your club has a written policy code that dictates how the club operates at a level more granular than your club bylaws.  This gives new boards something to reference and maintain club continuity.  

It's also very important that your club president-elect be involved with everything the president and vice presidents of your club do. This is their planning year and they need to have the right education and resources to make sure that their year is president is as successful as they want it to be.  Make sure that your president-elect attends their Club Leadership Education session, held in May and June. It's vital that they go through the process even if they have been a club president before. Right now, about 20% of our Kiwanis clubs don't even have a president-elect.  That means that they are already months behind in planning for 2012-2013.  You might think that it's not a big deal, but it leads to other leadership challenges.

A perfect example of this is that currently only 8 out of 21 of our divisions have lt. governors-elect.  That means that over 60% of our divisions have no one planning for next year.  Many will have difficulty getting anyone to step forward for the position in the spring when its time for elections. Again, its imperative that the division, much like the club have a person or persons responsible for finding upcoming leaders and the only KI requirement is that they have been a club president. That means anywhere from 5-12 new Kiwanis members in that division are eligible for that position each year.  

Why do we struggle to find lt. governor or for that matter club presidents candidates?  Why haven't we had a contested race for governor-elect in 5 years in this district? I believe that a strong part of the reason for this is because of attitude of some of our veteran members. Some members who have held leadership positions, "poison the well" as I like to call it. This usually involves speaking about leadership positions they've held in exaggerated or negative terms. For example, if you hear a member say that when they were lt. governor, they attended all of the club and board meetings for all of their clubs, you might expect that that is the requirement and as a result, not be interested for the job.  When in fact, lt. governors are only expected to make 3 club visits to each club during the whole year. I'm sure each of you at some point has heard someone make a joke about so-and-so not being present for the club meeting and therefore they were elected president. This is the kind of self-deprecating humor that hurts our leadership development because it cheapens the role.  Why would anyone want to seek the presidency of their Kiwanis club if no one respects the position? These are the kinds of things we need to be cognizant of if we want to grow our organization. Many clubs do this well, but not all and this is where our work has to begin.  

Jen and I wish you and your family the happiest in the upcoming holiday season and look forward to seeing many of you at the Midwinter Conferences that will be starting in January.  Thank you for listening, thank you for being a Kiwanian and have a very Happy New Year!

The Kiwanis Family
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