Robert’s Rules of Order includes three simple principles that will transform your meetings. They are easy to say but take some effort to apply, since prevailing culture is often very different.
I. The person running the meeting is the servant of the group, and the group is the final authority.
We are so used to our work situation, where the “boss” is in charge of the “employees,” that we often bring the same habits of mind to meetings of nonprofit boards, city councils, and other volunteer organizations. But in a board of directors or a council, all the members have equal standing. They are peers, and the leader is one among equals.
The chair has special duties to RUN the meeting, but does not determine the OUTCOME of the meeting. It is the group that must decide what it wishes to do. It is the chair’s duty to assist the group in this task. And the group has the ability to overturn any decision or ruling made by the chair.
II. All members have equal rights, privileges and obligations. To ensure this, no one may speak a second time until everyone who wishes to do so has spoken once.
Every member of a board has an equal right to speak. In practice, however, boards often discuss their affairs in conversational mode. And in conversations, dominant people tend to dominate, and agreeable people tend to let them.
This often leads to a few people dominating the discussion, which is not fair and can lead to poor outcomes.
If you adopt and apply the rule that no one may speak a second time until everyone who wishes to do so has spoken once, you will find that your meetings take on an entirely different nature – for the good!
III. Courtesy and respect are required at all times.
In these difficult times, people can be loud, rude and disorderly at meetings. Your chair and your members must insist on courtesy and respect at all times. These are not frills, but vital to the democratic process.
Try these three principles, which we explain in greater detail in our book, and see what a difference they make to your meetings.