In my travels around the country helping folks to get organized and keep trails open, I have seen too much of the above problems. Don't get me wrong, there are tons of great clubs that are doing just fine. But I've seen my share of egos and personalities driving folks away from organized recreation. There are ways to fix that.
I am convinced that our future lies in folks joining and staying active in organized recreation. The more we band together and stay tuned into what's happening with our trails, the better our chances of having a sport in the future. The more we separate or alienate from each other – as in not joining groups -- the less chance we have of surviving as a recreational pursuit. We must be together at every opportunity.
This means that our local clubs/groups must be viable and effective. I am always reminded of the anti-access (radical environmental groups) slogan of “think globally; act locally.” They have got it figured out. They preach keeping the big picture in mind, while taking baby steps at the local level towards achieving the big picture. It works!
In large business corporations and management, there's a concept called the “Swiss Cheese” approach. Swiss cheese has a lot of holes in it to make the cheese what it is. When a manager is faced with a tremendously complex task, the Swiss cheese approach is to make one hole at a time until you have your block of cheese done. In other words, like a long hike in the back country, it's just one step at a time until you reach your destination.
This is where the local level involvement is so important. If we're all taking baby steps, punching holes in the big block of Swiss cheese, eventually we'll achieve the big global picture -- responsible access for all!
It starts with your local club or group. It starts with a few folks deciding to get past personalities and get something done for the greater good. It starts with a commitment to not let someone else control how you feel about your sport or your club. It starts with you making sure “they” don’t kill our access!
If you have personality issues in your club or group, I suggest that before you give up, you confront them head on. Let folks know how you feel and what you expect. Only then can a group or club decide if they want to make changes to accommodate your wishes. But to me, it is such a shame to see someone drop out of a group without letting people know the reason why. It's similar to telling a boss at work what's wrong from your perspective so the problem can be fixed. Many times bosses don't know what the employees know. So by letting someone know there's a problem, at least you give them a chance to fix it.
There's an old saying I use a lot: “A complaint is never legitimate until it's voiced to someone who can fix it.” If personalities are ruling your recreation, then I suggest you speak up and clear the air. Get to the “peace table” and talk it out. Go face to face and don’t try to solve in on the forums. Find solutions or compromises that all the parties can live with. But whatever you do, give it a shot before you give up.
When I help folks get past personality issues, I always remind them that we are not out to change who someone is, only how they behave in our group. If a certain behavior is alienating other club members, then we need to find a way to change that behavior. It can be done, but only through communications that are pretty open and honest.
In the leadership training I give folks, I drive home the point that we must let folks know our expectations -- those things that make us smile and enjoy our sport (or our job or anything else). The same holds true for a club or a volunteer committee. If you have expectations that are not being fulfilled, then let someone know. By doing so you increase your chances of staying in the game and helping to punch holes in that big block of cheese.
More articles on my website about landuse, personalities, clubs, and keeping our sports alive: http://www.delalbright.com/article_list.htm
Original author: Del Albright
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