"They" Are Killing Our Access!
How Egos and Personalities Could Be Our Downfall
By Del Albright, Sustainable Motorized Recreation Advocate
Is your club ticked off at a neighboring club? Are you
drifting away from your club because of the behavior of a few folks? Do
you find yourself attending fewer club/group meetings these days? Do you
feel like your opinion does not count? Are you ready to just say heck with it
and walk away as a volunteer? Are you tired of the politics and clicks in your
club? In other words, do egos and personalities rule your recreation?
In my travels around the country helping folks get organized
and keep trails open, I have seen too many 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 personalities driving folks away from organized
recreation. There are ways to fix that.
In my opinion, 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, 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 constantly reminded of the anti-access (radical environmental groups) slogan "think globally; act locally." They have got it figured out. They preach keeping the big picture in mind while taking baby steps locally towards achieving the big picture. It works!
Making Swiss Cheese
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 faces 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 backcountry, it's just one step at a time until you reach your destination.
This is where the local level involvement is so significant. If we're all taking baby steps, punching holes in the big block of Swiss cheese, eventually, we'll achieve the big picture – responsible and sustainable motorized access for all!
It starts with your local club or group. It begins with a few folks deciding to get past personalities and get something done for the greater good. It starts with not letting someone else control your feelings about your sport or club.
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 folks 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 rule your recreation, 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 it 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 particular behavior alienates other club members, we must 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. Doing so increases your chances of staying in the game and helping punch holes in that big block of cheese.