How to Preside Without Being Overbearing – Part 4

How to Preside Without Being Overbearing

Part 4
Transparency is Important

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    Explain what your going to do, what you're doing, and what you did

    Not ever member can make every meeting or read every email or keep up with every facebook post. Instead of assuming members are up to speed, give good background to issues before the body if they are part of a planned series of actions. Make sure they understand what is in the works and make sure they know where your working toward. Having all this information will allow them to be more productive and have constructive input into the process.

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    Ask for questions and comments

    Often leaders lay out a grand plan and then ask for questions/comments. This puts you on the defense, which can cause you to react poorly to negative input. Consider laying out the goal and then asking for questions and comments. Listen intently to the feedback and when you unveil the grand plan, be willing to make changes ahead of the unveiling or on the fly. This will make members feel like their voices are heard and that they were part of forming the solution, even if their input had already been assimilated into the plan ahead of time.

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    Respond directly to questions and assure a quick response if you don't know the answer

    I personally believe the three most beautiful words in any language are “I don’t know”, so long as they are followed up by “but, I’ll find out”. Politicians often fail to directly answer questions in debate or when interviewed or asked by constituents. It is very easy, given the political nature of our organizations, to fall into the same trap. People value direct answers, so try to give them what they value and they will in turn value you. If you don’t know, be willing to say so and follow up with a response as soon as you can. This way people will have more confidence that when you do answer a question, you are speaking from a place of knowledge. In addition, when you admit not knowing something, you create a culture where members feel more confident admitting not knowing something and are more willing to ask for answers.

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    Allow your opponents the access and time to which they are entitled, but no more

    Transparency has its limits and risks. If your body has a particular group that thrives on picking apart and finding any crack in a plan of action that they can use to discredit your leadership team, giving them weeks to formulate an elaborate plan of attack isn’t healthy. At the same time, springing your motions on them shows a lack of respect and can reinforce their attacks for “lack of transparency”. Agree upon reasonable notification periods as a body and be willing to adapt to changing circumstances. Act with honor, not with naïveté. Use the rules and follow them or your honesty will be called into question.

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    Acknowledge mistakes quickly and move on

    We all screw up occasionally. Acknowledging mistakes is an important part of keeping the confidence of your membership. At the same time, lingering on a mistake and allowing discussion and debate on it to cause it to fester can infect your organization and keep them living in the past. Acknowledge mistakes, put in place a plan to avoid the same mistake in the future, and get back to business.

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    Follow through on promises

    This one can be hard with all of the demands upon a chair. Develop a good system to make sure you follow through on your commitments. Be willing to delegate work to others to help lighten the load, but don’t delegate and walk away. Keep tabs, without micromanaging, to makes sure that the person you have delegated to follows through. Otherwise you will still be held responsible for their failure.

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    Keep executive sessions and closed meetings to a minimum

    There are a few limited scenarios that necessitate going into executive session, that is, asking non-members to leave and conducting business in a confidential setting. Member discipline is one area that is required to be held in executive session so that the rights of the accused and accusers are protected and so that the rumor mill can be kept at a minimum. Other sensitive issues like legal cases can also necessitate going into executive session. Make sure that you aren’t abusing it just to keep people from having a voice and make sure you aren’t underusing it an opening yourself or others up to harmful repercussions. Review Robert’s Rules (11th ed) page 95-96, 229-230, and 645 for more information. Also make sure you review page 460 with your secretary so they understand the proper usage of minutes in executive session.

About the Author

Micah Rowland

Micah Rowland was elected Chair of the 21st Legislative District Democrats, Second Vice Chair of the Snohomish County Democrats, and First Vice Chair of the Washington State Democratic Chairs Organization in the 2017 reorganization. He is also a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians where he has attended training events at both the 2016 NTC and the 2017 Leadership Conference & Biennial Convention.