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It's all about getting your ducks in a row!

Everyone was surprised at how we managed to get so many people to vote at a community association meeting. It’s all about getting your ducks in a row! This week I was involved in a Special General Meeting of a community organisation for which I am responsible for governance. There were two very important special resolutions that needed to be considered, and for the future of the organisation, they needed to be passed and a 75% majority was required. I learned some years ago, that the success of special resolutions depends of course on the resolutions themselves, but also on the preparation before the meeting. It comes down to two things – getting a quorum at the meeting, and then encouraging those voting to vote in favour. In the case of the meeting I was involved in, there were proxy votes allowed and the proxies also contributed to the quorum. The result at the meeting was that 34 people were present – a lot more than the 15 required, and 64 proxy votes were received. And so the total number of votes eligible to be cast was 98. With a 75% majority required, that meant that 74 votes had to be in favour of the resolutions. The results of the votes – 96 in favour of one resolution and all 98 votes in favour of the other. An outstanding result! I was asked after the meeting how we managed to get so many people at the meeting and more interestingly for some people – how did we manage to get so many proxy votes registered. The answer was simple – I asked Many years ago, I read a book called The Aladdin Factor by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. The essence of the book is “ask for what you want”. Years ago I learned from one of my mentors, Catherine Palin Brinkworth that the answer is always no if you don’t ask! So, back to my meeting. I knew that my first issue was to make sure we achieved a quorum. The best way to do that was schedule the special general meeting at a meeting where there would be the largest number of people. We had a club that regularly had 14 – 18 people attend and so we asked if we could piggyback our general meeting of the membership onto their meeting. Next, we made sure that every one of the 200 members had plenty of notice of the meeting so they could put the date in their diaries. We overtly asked them to keep the evening free and attend the meeting. That was the quorum taken care of. Now I had to make sure we had as many votes as possible so we set about gathering proxies. It’s very simple – you ask! I called and emailed as many people as I could to ask them to do two things – complete a proxy and have the other members of their clubs complete proxies as well. Follow up is essential. I followed up every person I had emailed weeks before the date of the meeting and reminded them of the importance of submitting a proxy. I kept asking! Every time I saw someone, I asked if they were attending or if not, if they had completed a proxy. Now it’s important to understand that it’s not that I don’t trust people. It is that people get busy and for them, filling in a proxy is highly unlikely to be at the top of their priority list. It may sound like I nagged people continuously but that is not the case. I contacted each person 2 or 3 times over a 4 week period and by doing that we managed to get all the ducks in a row for the meeting. The underlying issue throughout all of this was that we needed people to vote in favour of the 2 motions as so much work had gone into preparing them for several months prior to the meeting.  Again, this was a case of getting the ducks in a row. Our team took every opportunity to inform the membership about the changes that were being suggested. Crucially, we had three meetings where any member could ask any question and receive an answer. Questions were also encouraged by email. We asked for questions! It’s all about preparation. When you have an important meeting making important decisions, you cannot leave anything to chance. Our team made sure that all the ducks were lined up so when it came to the meeting itself, we had everything in place – especially the votes we needed. Many decisions fail because the people organising don’t spend time and energy getting their ducks in a row – preparing. It’s no different in life, business or at work. When an important decision is needed, do the preparation. Preparation minimises the risk of a bad decision or the wrong decision. I work with organisations who make important decisions and it sometimes surprises me how little preparation they do. Worse, sometimes, they don’t even think about preparing and they hope for the best. Sometimes you can get away with it. But the bigger or more important the decision, the more important the preparation. The irony is, that it does not necessarily take a lot of work. It’s just working out what needs to be done, who can and should do what, and then making sure it happens. When our team walked into that meeting this week, we knew the result before the meeting. Our preparation had been thorough. We had dotted every “i” and crossed every “t”. Ours were lined up in a row and we achieved the result we wanted and needed. If your organisation needs an outside set of eyes to look at what preparation is needed to minimise the risk of a bad decision, or if you need an external person to chair a difficult or important meeting – that’s what I do.        

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