In addition to the regular Robert’s Rules of Order questions, we get a huge number of emails and calls asking what a board member can do if the chair is being unfair?
First, it is important to remember that the chair is not the boss of the meeting, but rather is there as a servant to the group. A great chair creates a safe space so that the members of the majority can sit with the members of the minority and business can occur. But unfortunately sometimes the chair can misinterpret their roll and maybe even misuse their power.
In this great video Ann Macfarlane from Jurassic Parliament teaches how members can use a “point of order” to bring this misconduct to the attention of the chair. Anytime you are in a meeting and the chair is incorrectly handling an item of business, as a member you can simply state the words “point of order". If the chair understands Robert’s Rules of Order then they will say, “state your point”, at which time you can bring the issue to their attention. Remember, when making a “point of order”, you do not make a personal attack you simply state what the problem is and what you would like to happen.
Robert’s Rule of Order is a great tool because it is active, not passive. The members of the meeting have as many rights as the chair and the members are just as responsible for supporting the success of the meeting as the chair. Remember, we don't want our meetings to be adversarial.Even when the chair makes a mistake, your goal should be to support the chair to help get the meeting back on track.
Susan Leahy MA from Robert’s Rules Made Simple reminds us that if the chair is not running the meeting properly then there might be a need for board training. Sometimes the best way to support a chair when they are being unfair or are making mistakes is to treat this as a training opportunity. If the chair is unsure about what they are doing, then others in the meeting will be affected as well. Usually chairs are well intentioned, but do not produce the right impact because they do not understand the basics of Robert’s Rules of Order. By providing training for EVERY member on your board, you will all be more successful.
One last note: Susan recommends talking to the chair from a supportive space outside the meeting environment as well. What do you say? Tell them that you are there to support their success and then share that you have noticed that there have been moments where they have made some errors that may have made the meeting enviorment uncomfortable. Then express that the board might benefit from some collective board development to support the overall success of the board. Then hopefully you can open a productive conversation that will benefit you and your entire board.
Remember, collaboration, energy, productivity and efficiency are always preferable to conflict.
Susan Leahy MA (a loving, powerful,committed woman)
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