Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I've never been one for making a lot of resolutions on New Years. One view is that most of us don't keep them long enough to see any change and if you need to change something why wait until the start of a new year? The other side of the coin is that if you never decide to change something that is bothering you, you most likely will never change it.

Last year, I put in an article that it was important to set goals and one of mine was that I was going to paint a car. As the last day of the year is ticking down, I know that I was only able to make about a day and a half of progress on that project. This is one case of circumstances stopping that goal from being fully achieved. I will say that I am closer to finishing than when I set the goal.

If you're going to set forth some resolutions for yourself, ask yourself what do you want? What would be the desired result from a resolution?

I know that I want 2010 to end with a number of results. I want to spend quality time with my family during the year. It would be great to have a carshow ready classic car at the end of the year. I want to see our Grange team achieve great success this year. In looking forward, there are many things that can be placed on this list, but these three are the most important to me.

Family and the classic car thing are personal to me and in this post I'll talk about our Grange team achieving great success. Grange success is not just a personal issue, it is an issue for thousands of other Grange members.

In 2010 the National Grange team will continue to improve our communication with our members. We will offer new opportunities to learn how to be successful as well as continue our tried and true methods. We will add new people to our team at the National Grange level. Teamwork will be one of our major focuses this year.

I view success as new people becoming part of the Community Grange and getting involved. They will become new leaders within our organization and as they grow as leaders, they will bring new leadership to the Pomona and State level. Not only will new members join in, but our existing members will be experiencing new energy and excitement as Grange members.

We will build upon each success just as you build a stone wall, rock by rock from the bottom. The wonderful thing about great success, is that it isn't anything new in our Grange. We have had great successes, we still are achieving great things, and to expect tremendous things in the future is not that much of a reach.

Our challenge is to let existing members, who haven't had the opportunity to experience success, to feel the emotions that success brings. We also are going to share with new members what it feels like to achieve their goals though the Grange.

I hope each member will join me in setting a resolution for 2010 that their Grange will achieve success. It is when we work together as a team that we will achieve our goals!

May each member have a safe and happy New Year celebration and a prosperous 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What does Brotherhood and Sisterhood mean?

I was recently asked what Brotherhood and Sisterhood means in the Grange?

It means many things to different people, but in essence it is the desire to become family with a group of people we want to associate with. We have common ties or bonds that bring us together in spite of other differences. These ties also keep us together when we have disagreements and give us strength in times of trial or trouble.

To be a Brother or Sister in the Grange means our Grange family gives us the authority to express our opinions and to advocate for issues that we are passionate about. We are not bound within the Grange to one viewpoint on political ideas, religious beliefs, or current event issues. Instead we are given the opportunity to work with others to come to a group consensus on issues. We thus gain strength by working together with others to advocate for the issues we share in common without sacrificing friendship over issues we don't agree on.

We become Brothers and Sisters through the Grange initiation ceremony which promotes the highest moral principles through lessons drawn from the farm, the field, and the farm home. This shared experience gives each member a common thread to draw upon. When we differ on topics within the Grange we remember the lessons of friendship, and after the vote is taken we remain true friends and family. Thus each remains true to themselves and yet finds comfort, companionship, and safety in the company of Grange family.

No matter what the passions of your life may be, the Grange allows you freedom to grow as you see fit. As family, each is encouraged to become the person they wish to be. We share a set of moral values that give us a bond that promotes and treasures friendships that can last a lifetime.

There is so much more that Brotherhood and Sisterhood mean to the members of the Grange, but to me it is all about being part of a great family.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Leading from where you are

I've had a lot of dealings with lawyers over the past two years. Name protection, Grange property disputes, members filing charges against others, and a few other issues have all taken some of my time. The internal issues that led to attorneys getting involved almost always involve leaders who either didn't do their jobs, or leaders who didn't believe that the rules applied to them.

Grange leaders are not just the officers, much less the Master/President. I've seen many Granges were the leader was not one of the "major" officers. It is important that Grange officers, especially the Master take the time to check out the rules before doing things as they are are elected leaders.

The National Digest is available free of charge on the website and is also available for purchase through the Grange Store. Each State Grange has the responsibility to make their By-Laws available to each member who asks for it. The positive thing about our system of rules is that if you have a question you ask the Master at the level you are at. If you think that they are right, great. If not, you can appeal (ask the next level)to get the ruling of the next level. Subordinate/Community and Pomona Grange to State to National.

When we don't follow the rules or when we choose to interpret the rules to fit our desires, it often creates a situation where no one wins and our organization loses. Yesterday, I was made aware of a situation where a Community Grange wants to do something that is clearly against the rules. The State Master and I had a long conversation about options that the State Grange has to deal with this problem. I reminded that Master that ignoring the issue is not an option. We are the leaders and must do the right thing, even when it is difficult or unpopular.

Leaders who choose to disregard rules for their own goals open themselves up to a lot of risk. Our rules allow one member to file charges against another for improper or illegal actions. Our rules allow the Master, and/or Executive Committee, with jurisdiction to remove the offending officer which puts them into a Grange trial just as any member filing charges does. If legal actions were to be taken, there can be some legal liability to the officers or members for knowingly doing illegal actions.

Our judicial code, chapter 12 in the Digest, sets forth the due process that happens when members or leaders break the rules. I would hope that we would seldom need to use this chapter as we should be able to solve problems and disagreements without resorting to this avenue.

It is much worse for our Grange when members go outside our Order and file lawsuits in civil court or force the State Grange to file the suit to correct an illegal action. The moment that lawyers get involved we lose some control of our destiny and the lawyers and judges gain some control.

The big issue is always financial. The more we spend on legal fees, the less we have for member services, training, and new materials to help the Community Grange. But there is another cost. Lawsuits tend to create divides within Granges and within Communities. Sometimes those divides can endure for decades after the lawsuit is settled.

While there will be occasional situations that require a lawyer, every member can often be a part of a solution that does not include lawyers. Become a Grange leader, regardless of your position, and speak up. Ask questions, learn the rules, and encourage all members to participate in our process. I've seen cases where if a group of members had loudly said no to their peer, no lawsuit would ever have been filed. When you expect the State or National Grange to be the "bad guy" you in effect give permission to the member to break the rules. Remember that we are all a part of the State and National Grange!

We should expect the highest standards from our leaders at all levels of the Grange. They need to do the right thing for our organization as a whole. In spite of the new information I received, I am seeing our membership getting more involved and viewing themselves as part of a great national organization. As each member grows as a Grange leader the future gets brighter. This is a great step to involving lawyers and judges less and less in our internal affairs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

State Masters Pledges

This week in Washington, D.C. has been a whirlwind and I still have two days to go in the office. Today I reviewed the pledges that each State Master made at the Session for their State. There are four areas in which they were challenged to make pledges in. Every State is represented expect South Carolina due to Brother Hammett's illness.

The first area is in new organizations. Out of 35 State Granges pledging, 36 new Granges were promised. Six States pledged two new Granges while five didn't set any goals. 1962 was the last year that 36 or more Granges were organized in one year. Considering that organizing one or two Granges is feasible for any State, this goal is achievable. We all know that it will not necessarily be easy, but we can do this.

The second area is in reorganizations of Granges that have either had their Charter revoked or have disbanded. 29 Granges were promised by the State Masters. Kansas led the group by pledging three and five others have pledged two in their State. Reorganizing at least 29 Granges was also last achieved in 1962. The task of reorganizing is often easier than organizing because sometimes we have assets that are being held for that Grange.

The third area is in revitalizing existing Granges. The State Masters have promised to conduct programs and follow up the successes in 100 Granges. California leads the pledges with the promise to aid 20 of their Community Granges. 18 other states have pledged from two to eight Granges revitalized within their borders. California led the nation last year in successful revitalization efforts and is determined to continue their efforts.

The fourth area is in starting Junior Granges, either new or reorganizations. 38 were promised at National Session. Eleven States pledge two Junior Granges. 1982 is the last year that at least 38 Junior Granges were started. This goal may actually be the easiest to accomplish. I have never seen an effort to start a Junior Grange fail because of the interest of the kids.

These pledges that your State Masters have made are only going to be achieved by teams of members working together. I ask that you volunteer to be a part of a team as we need every member with a passion for the Grange to give what time they can afford. This task will be accomplished by many members giving a bit rather than a few giving a lot. Each member is important to our goals.

I can not put into words the feeling that you get when you are part of a team that organizes or reorganizes a Community Grange. I can verbalize the emotions that seeing a Grange that was failing becoming a vital force within their community. The pride in seeing a new Junior Grange starting out is unbelievable. Those members who have accomplished these things know exactly what I am saying. I want more members to feel all the great things that happen when we achieve success.

Remember that success comes one day at a time, one step followed by another, and one Grange at a time. 2010 is our time for success! Together we will achieve our goals!