Have you ever been in a meeting where things didn’t seem to go properly? Perhaps people cut each other off mid-sentence or a healthy dialogue struggled to get started? One way or another, it just lacked order and nothing seemed to get resolved?
Several weeks ago I found myself at a meeting just like that when I attended a homeowners association gathering. For as long as I can remember I have heard nothing but negative comments about homeowners meetings. I can tell you that they are all correct. The only thing that got accomplished during the meeting was that Zumba, the popular dance fitness program, would be allowed in the clubhouse under a number of face-frowning stipulations.
The experience made me think back to a subject that was brought up among some of our AH&LA Under 30 Council members: Robert’s Rules of Order.
Until recently, I was not aware of Mr. Robert or his rules. Born in 1837, Henry Martyn Robert served as Chief of Engineers in the American Civil War. Years after the war, he wrote his now famous “Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies.” It was written in response to what he felt was his poor performance leading a church meeting at a Baptist church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Whether he intended it or not, his book, now in its 11th edition, is the go-to work in regards to parliamentary procedure. These are the rules that govern meetings and groups such as legislative bodies.
Each of us, whether we want to or not, will at some point meet with another person or persons. Meetings, after all, are an integral part of any organization, association, club or assembly. Therefore, it make sense for us to be as effective as possible with how we go about orchestrating them, doesn’t it?
I suggest each of you familiarize yourself with the nitty-gritty of Robert’s Rules so you’re better prepared to take part in or run meetings going forward. But for the time being, I’d like to share a few overarching observations I gleaned from the material. In doing so, I hope your meetings become more meaningful and purposeful.
- Care about others – Following the rules and guidelines of how to carry out a meeting is important. But if the only thing you care about is your own personal agenda, then I don’t think you are going to get very far. Take other people into consideration when they voice their concerns, comments and ideas. On the flip-side, seek to get buy-in from your colleagues and work to develop a collaborative/cohesive environment.
- Blend the past with the present – Robert’s Rules chart out a specific order of actions that occur in assemblies, meetings and so forth. These action steps work, but sometimes we might come to an agreeable solution more quickly by trying different methods. For example, one of the ideas we tried at our AH&LA Under 30 Gateway Council meeting last year was to break into smaller groups. Each group had the same list of discussion items to go over. When our allotted time in our groups was finished, we all came back to discuss the items together. We found that these smaller groups worked well because we were more focused, everyone felt more comfortable speaking and more ideas were shared. Successful meetings should take past methodology and combine it with techniques that connect with people today.
- Stick to your agenda – A key point from Robert’s Rules was the importance of sticking to an agenda. We’ve all looked at the piece of paper or PowerPoint presentation that was provided and wondered when we would get back on track. It’s easy in any meeting to get off on different tangents. That’s why it’s important to be clear about what you are looking to discuss. Not only is sticking to the agenda important but also sticking to your timeframe. You will want to plan out the meeting so you don’t go over your allotted time. You also will want to keep everything balanced so you are able to address each agenda item appropriately.
- Let your voice be heard – Robert didn’t write his book so we would sit back and be quiet. He wrote it so we could be more deliberate and intentional in our meetings. That can’t happen unless you let your voice be known. When appropriate, you should share a comment, idea or concern. It could be the thought that has the biggest impact or results moving forward.
- Work together – I’ve shared often with the teams at our properties that they must develop a sense of collective responsibility. In this case it means that everyone who is a part of the organization, assembly or club is responsible for collective success or failure of the group as a whole. This definitely includes what happens in the meeting room or at the conference table. Caring about one another and following the rules shouldn’t just be put on one person’s shoulders. It takes the entire group to see that the procedures that govern meetings are effectively carried though.
Mark Williams is Director of Development for Coakley & Williams, one of the nation’s top third-party hotel management companies. In 2006, Mark received his B.S. degree in Hospitality from University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He also received his MBA from Grand Canyon University’s Ken Blanchard School of Business in 2011. Currently, Mark serves as Chair for the American Hotel & Lodging Associations’ Under 30 Gateway. He can be reached by phone at 301-614-8848 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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