For the last twenty years, I’ve been connected with JCI. When I joined the organization I immediately took up the idea to travel and participate in a vast range of international events. Traveling allowed me to build a network of friends and colleagues and meet them regularly. Traveling like this also allowed me to feel welcomed everywhere. Being a member of the same community the doors always opened a bit wider than it would have happened as a tourist.
I naturally promoted these benefits in my local chapter. And over the years I watched the change happen. Every year more people decided to join those traveling. It had become part of the attraction to join the organization, slowly shifting the experience of being a member.
What I hadn’t expected was how this would also shift the way membership and activities would change. Personal development can happen by attending training, traveling, or by engaging in projects contributing to the community.
People have only so much time and easily ask themselves “what’s in it for me?”
The benefits of learning through being engaged in projects are less visible as they are long-term benefits. Traveling and participating in training creates a sense of immediate benefit. They are connected with joyful meetings and are socially accepted ways of personal development. What is less seen, is how these also need to be converted to long-term benefits if one wants to compare both paths.
That is why the one-year-to-lead philosophy of the organization requires exceptional and well-prepared leaders to step in. Leaders need to pay attention to the evolution. They need to understand what the organization stands for, where it comes from and what it is moving towards. It requires leaders who are willing to carry on what is existing while adapting it to the ways new members find themselves able to engage.
Traditions can change and often must be changed. Changing values, however, can drain the essence of the organization disabling it to carry on.
Changing values of engagement and contribution to values of wellbeing and pleasure misses the point.
Engagement and contribution can be activated, planned, and achieved. In this well-being and pleasure will be the outcome of a well-handled process and achieving the planned result. The contribution thus becomes visible to those for whom it was planned. May they be the community, clients, or members.
When wellbeing and pleasure are the desired results, they are also the planned activities. It transforms the activities into self-serving activities only relevant for those involved.
It also changes traveling. Coming together isn’t about sharing best practices, experiences, and learnings to be able to also bring them home anymore. It is about changing the environment while repeating the experience one had at home.
Change isn’t the problem. It only becomes a problem when there is no connection left with the organization’s origin.