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Robert's Rules of Order Video blog

ROBERT'S RULES REVEALED: EP. #08 - How To Protect Your Legal Rights in Board Meetings

Friday, December 14, 2012 - Susan Leahy

SUSAN: Hi. Susan Leahy here with Coming to you with another episode of Robert’s Rules Revealed.  Today, we’re going to talk about cleaning up messy meetings with Mr. Parliamentarian himself, Jim Stewart. Now, before you leave, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single episode of Robert’s Rules Revealed.  Hi Jim! How are you doing today?

JIM: Good, Susan. I’m glad to be here

SUSAN: Well I’m always glad to get to talk to Mr. Parliamentarian. I can tell you it’s a privilege for me every time I get to interact with you. Thank you for creating the space today as we’re going to be talking about how do people protect themselves and their rights using Robert’s Rules of Order. So lets just kind of jump-in, talk to me about what are my rights when I’m sitting in a meeting?

JIM: You have quite a number of rights, the first one is the right to be there because you’re a member of the organization. You have the right to get the information you need in order to make an intelligent informed decision. You have the right to speak and debate, you have the right to make motions, you have the right to vote, you have the right to be heard, and you have the same rights to do those things as everybody else does

SUSAN: And that’s really important for people to understand, its that everybody has the same rights. And Robert’s Rules of Order, talk about that a little bit, why was Robert’s created, and how does it tie to this idea of protecting my rights in meetings.

JIM: Well, it was created in large part to protect the rights of the members. I mean, one of the first things in the introduction when you read it is, “the purpose of this book is to protect the rights of the members. I mean, it says that in black and white. The fact that in protecting people’s rights, it allows you to conduct an efficient and effective meeting is a lovely side effect, but the purpose is to protect people’s rights.

SUSAN: And I think what’s beautiful about that is that when people feel safe, when they feel protected, when they feel like they’re able to participate in the meeting fully, even when decisions are made that are not in their favor, then its easier for them to, you know ingest that I’m going to, you know…

JIM: What people want is a fair opportunity to be heard, the major reason that I find that people get upset at meetings, and cause disruptions and that kind of thing, is because they feel their rights are not being protected, that their rights are being violated, that they’re not being given the right to speak, maybe their vote isn’t being counted correctly, or they think somebody is trying to control what they do or say, and that upsets people. When you treat everybody the same, and protect their rights, people quickly learn that they’re going to have the opportunity to speak, there’s no reason for them to fly off the handle at anything, they’re going to have an equal opportunity to present their case as everybody else does.     

SUSAN: Yeah, and fly off the handle, we’ve seen people in meetings do that, and for me when I’m seeing that kind of behavior, that to me is not necessarily thinking that person is a bad person, I’m thinking, wait a minute, that person is feeling violated in some way, and they’re not feeling protected. And so, we need to make sure they’re understanding…but maybe the organization needs to understand how to use Robert’s more so that people can feel protected

JIM: Yeah, and the idea is not to try to squelch differences of opinion or controversy, differences of opinion or controversy are good things.  You just do them within the structure of these rules, which gives everybody the same rights, gives everybody the same right to speak, everybody the same right to be heard and vote, so that everybody’s viewpoint is treated equally.

SUSAN: Right, Right. And if we could really hear that, and create more environments like that. I’m mean, think about the creativity and the innovation that could actually be created, that could actually come fourth. So that’s why I think Robert’s is such a powerful tool, but I find that people try to use Roberts, and do you see this in your work? I’m sure you do. Where people try to use Robert’s as a weapon to help drive their personal agenda forward.

JIM: Yes, its not a club for you to impose your will on everybody else. It is to maintain equal rights, and somebody who is using it, to try to squelch others is doing so improperly and should be called on it.

SUSAN: That’s Right. And I want everyone out there who is listening, really to listen to Mr. Parliamentarian right now. You are not supposed to use it to squelch other people, this is about everyone’s rights being respected, right?

JIM: I mean, when everybody understands how to use Robert’s properly, its almost impossible to manipulate this system. You should attend one of the National Association of Parliamentarian’s conventions, we take great pride in trying to out-maneuver each other, and it never ever works because everybody knows what to do. And everybody knows the rules, so whatever you try, somebody else is going to call you on it.

SUSAN: So, Mr. Parliamentarian, Mr. Stewart, I really appreciate our time together, and I’m hoping that as people watch this they understand that Robert’s Rules of Order really is to really protect the individual rights and all individuals have the same rights in those meetings, to make your meetings more effective, Thank you again Jim!

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