Building A Legacy Through The Rotarian Four-Way Test

Rotary International

By John Trombley
The Village Business Institute

Today is a good time to think about the future if for no other reason than it’s where we will all live someday. And today I’d like to talk about the past, the present, and the future using the metaphor of a coin.

If the coin is our individual lives, let’s say that the “tail” side of the coin is the past and the “head” is the future. The “here and the now” (or present) is the edge of the coin which serves as a bridge between those two formidable sides. The possible metaphors here, though not endless, are at least intriguing and are probably best left for another day, but for now I would like to share a quick story about something from the “tail” side.

Back in the year 1900, an attorney by the name of Paul Harris was practicing law in Chicago when he met a fellow attorney, Bob Frank. Frank had developed several wonderful relationships with Chicago businessmen and enjoyed a camaraderie with them that can only exist among friends who have an honest, mutual respect, and concern for each other. For the next five years, an idea germinated in Paul Harris’ mind and heart until in 1905 the world’s first service organization was birthed among Chicago’s businessmen. It was called “Rotary” for lack of a better name, based on the practice of rotating the group’s meetings among their various offices.

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test, a code of ethics which was officially adopted by Rotary 11 years later, right in the middle of World War II. This code of ethics defined and embodied Rotary’s Core Values, and those values have served to create a powerful culture among the current 1.2 million members whose 34,000 different clubs serve over 200 nations today.

The Four-Way Test challenges Rotarians to think, say, and do things differently in answer to these four questions:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?


4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

You don’t have to be a Rotarian to adopt and practice the Four-Way Test, nor do you have to be a businessperson. You don’t have to be an adult, you don’t have to have a degree, and you don’t have to be rich or famous, either. All you have to do is decide today the kind of legacy you want to leave for others who will follow after you.

Paul Harris had an idea and he shared it with a few other friends and acquaintances. From that seemingly small idea, a world-wide organization was spawned which has, for example, played a major role in the nearly complete eradication of polio world-wide.

I’ve often wondered since becoming a Rotarian 7-1/2 years ago (Editor’s note: This article was originally posted November 2012) what our world would be like if all of us, great and small alike, were to adopt Rotary’s Four-Way Test? What would our homes and families look like? What would our businesses and organizations look like? What would our cities look like? What would our politics look like? Indeed, what would the world look like?

It’s not rocket-science, but it is hard work to make daily decisions based on such high and enduring values. We may not always test out at 100%, but I have to believe that if we tried, we would all enjoy a great deal more satisfaction, success, and peace in our lives.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave? Today is a good time to think about the future.

John Trombley
John Trombley, The Village Business Institute

About the blogger
John E. Trombley, organization development consultant and training with The Village Business Insitute has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo. Prior to founding his own organization development company, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander, and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard—he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

With over 14 years of experience in providing consulting services and training programs, Trombley has a passion for group process facilitation and corporate training in areas including leadership development, change management, leadership transition processes, managerial coaching, and personality assessment workshops. He is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator, is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management Group Crisis Intervention, and is certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

For more information, contact The Village Business Institute at 1-800-627-8220 or

1 Response

  1. Whitney Corazza

    oo often, managers do all the talking in a feedback situation, something I like to call the dreaded Manager’s Monologue – and that is guaranteed to cause trouble. It is vital to engage the employee in open dialogue; to seek to understand their thought processes and reasons. If you don’t listen to them, you may not get a clear understanding as to why the employee is behaving in this manner (do they lack skills, knowledge, etc). You will also increase the likelihood that they will not listen to you…

    The latest content provided by our very own internet site

Comments are closed.