The Four Way Test - Rotary

I spoke to a Rotary group this past week. Like many service organizations, local Rotary clubs are seeing their membership decline and many members are choosing to no longer attend meetings in person. And attracting new members, especially younger “business, professional, or community leaders” is proving difficult.

The local club I spoke to aims to reignite momentum.

To get to the crux of the matter, my talk focused on clarity and context. You’ve heard this often from me. It’s worth repeating:


“You can’t change a person, but you can change their context”


First, we got clear on the mission and values of Rotary. Were these represented by this club? Were these a draw to all members of this club who were physically there that day? Are these shared to retain and attract others?

The mission and values of Rotary

Rotary’s mission statement: “We provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”

Rotary’s core values are captured by the “4 Way Test of the things we think, say or do:”

    • Is it the Truth?
    • Is it Fair to all concerned?
    • Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
    • Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?

Both the mission and core values depict a safe, engaging, and empowered culture when shared by all. This club’s members agreed that these were alive in their club. That’s a great start.

Asking questions to raise awareness

For this club, we only had time to start them thinking more clearly and deeply about how they might approach the growth they desire. But for your organization, you will likely want to perform more discovery, including use of assessments, to identify the areas needing most attention to ensure a successful change or Pivot.

We identified “Clarity” and “Context” to dig deeper into.

With a short amount of time and within a group that felt safe, it can be effective to pose questions to the entire group, altogether. And I did.

Two questions for clarity
    • What do you (Club members) want?
    • Are you clear, individually and together?

There were many inputs. Yet inputs, at first, were not hitting the compelling reason—the “yes!”—about why they were investing time and money in this club, including being present at the meeting that day. Worthy objectives such as, “we want to do more for the community” (many service organizations would say the same) and “in order to do more we need more members” (then why not simply merge with other local clubs or become a global eClub?).

The questions continued until the energy in the room was rising (positively). They were able to solidify their “yes!” reason once we talked about their context.

It would take too long to cover all that we discussed. What I want to share is that awareness and inspiration take time. Your worthy objective deserves you and all to gain clarity!

Two questions for context
    • How has the context around your Club changed?
    • How might you show up in a more compelling way to retain and gain members?

It’s easier to get clear about what is (now) than it is to get clear about what the future looks like and what must change in order to achieve that.

The external context to Rotary International and this Rotary Club had changed, and would continue to change.

This Club needed to understand that new context so they could affect the context within their organization. That is, understanding how they might be perceived and experienced in order to retain and engage all current members and grow with new members.

The word that stood out in the number of times and the passion in which it was stated: connection. Connecting with other leaders with diverse backgrounds and views. Another was diversity with safety.

The Club is continuing to discuss how they will communicate this, and the actions—the best next steps—they will take.

Is the organization or group you are a leader of, or in, still attractive? Relevant?


What will your next step be?

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