‘Robert’s Rules’ is an 816 tome of rules for American boards and meetings. It’s often quoted as the authority go-to guide. It goes into the most minute detail that is used for very large or contentious or complex meetings.
However, in David’s 35+ years of experience in consulting on meetings of all types and sizes in both Australia and New Zealand, he has never seen a meeting that needs the detail that Robert’s covers.
The 2 most commonly used books in Australia are ‘Meeting Procedure Made Easy’ authored by David Julian Price, and “Renton’s Guide for Meetings”. Both will answer 99% of the questions which come up in meetings and both are easy to use.
The ‘Made Easy’ part of the title is important. There’s so much going on in any meeting you want the meeting procedures to help, not hinder, the process. And that is David’s aim.
The book covers how to handle tricky situations that are posted by the public from all over the world on the “Meeting Mastery Question Vault”.
Free online resource for you:
The vault of questions and answers began in October 2008 and has been a comforting and useful source of information for people on committees and boards who don’t know how to handle confronting situations. All the questions are from actual workplaces or NFP community groups. Names and locations have been altered to protect the person making the inquiry.
No one wants to sit on a board or committee group where there’s conflict. That’s not what you signed up for. However, there’ll always be some type of robust discussion because it’s just not possible for us all to agree as we have differing points of view and intentions. Some see this as conflict, others see it as a necessary part of the decision-making process.
So you’re more prepared to handle these difficult situations, here are some guidelines to smooth the way on your committee.Save yourself the pain, as these situations come up again and again
Recently David worked with a very large organisation that had a corporate policy that all decisions must be made by consensus. That sounds great, doesn’t it? The problem is that consensus is defined (correctly) as everyone in agreement. But this is not realistic.
The group told David that the need to make consensus decisions holds them back from making progress more than anything else. Sometimes they never make a decision and there are decisions still on the books from months ago which are being held up by one or two people who disagree.
He has seen a community organisation destroyed by consensus decision making because one or two people refused to agree on something that every other person agreed on. In the end, the group folded and they formed a new group that used traditional majority decision making.
Often groups who used to follow the 100% consensus rule have had to alter their definition of consensus in order to make any decisions at all and progress.
The workable definition of consensus is:
A minimum of 80% of the group agrees, the remainder can live with it.
Now the obvious question is what happens if the remainder cannot live with it? In that situation, you need a fallback position.
A suggested fallback that works:
When a stalemate occurs and an appropriate time has passed, decisions that cannot be made by the 80% consensus model are decided by an 80% majority.
This works well and allows groups to move forward.
Make sure you know the authority of the meeting to make the decisions it considers.Sometimes, groups are called together to make a decision when they’re really being asked to make a recommendation for another group, or another person to make the final decision.
If a group knows it’s making a recommendation, not the final decision, it can change their outlook considerably.
The worst situation is when a group THINKS they’re making the final decision, but in fact, they’re only providing a recommendation. This is really counterproductive to future meetings.
In community groups and boards, there’s a service-power continuum that exists.
“My Way” – on the left-hand side at number 1, you have the leader who wants to do things their way and they are not interested in alternate views. It’s all about what they want, and this is led by self-interest.
“Come Together” – on the far right-hand side at number 10, you have a leader who’s there to serve the will of the group. They follow the 3GN Philosophy where decisions are made for the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number. This is their constant focus.
“In-between” – Like a piano, there’s a sliding scale of philosophies on every committee or board. When deciding who sits on the board, this outlook needs to be considered to see if the person fits the will of the group.
We don’t set out to ‘have conflict’. But for decisions to be considered fully, it’s normal to get some push-back from others. Robust discussion is necessary. If your point is important and you believe in its validity, then it’s up to you to convince the rest of the group.
There are speaking courses that can help you get your message across more clearly, such as telling a story to make your point, or learning how to get your message across in 5 minutes or less.
Conflicted – How Productive disagreements lead to better outcomes
Need a procedural eagle eye to look at your constitution? Contact David Julian Price – email@example.com. “Today’s program was informative and relevant to the work I currently do for the Board. It has helped me to develop myself and provide better assistance to the Board.”
Beverly Milloy, CSIRO – Land and Water
“David really knows his topic. He works tirelessly as Company Secretary to a demanding board under difficult circumstances and his knowledge adds value beyond any reasonable expectation.
He is also a great speaker who uses simple language and good old-fashioned common sense to bring the principles of governance into daily practice for even the most inexperienced directors. As a fellow governance professional, I admire and respect his expertise.
As a professional speaker, I envy his ability to communicate. I rely on his ability to tell it like it is and then provide unflinching support in getting it how it should be.
There are few speakers of his calibre on the circuit. There are none I would recommend as highly.”
Julie Garland McLellan – Boardroom Expert
When you need good solid content with no fluff, David Price is the coach you need. His style is direct, interactive and engaging, ensuring the audience stays awake and leaves with takeaway techniques to implement that day. He is an expert presentation skills coach, meeting procedure sage, author, conference speaker and communications skills educator, able to explain complex ideas in simple terms.
I’m the ‘talent behind the talent’ at David Julian Price Consulting. When David’s in his zone of genius as a speaking and meetings coach, his eyes light up. I’m not kidding. When you love doing things that most people avoid, you know you’ve found your calling, and it’s a privilege and a delight to support my husband in this way – Denise Price