ES civic leaders get advice on parliamentary procedure

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Local civic leaders filled the Eureka Springs City Auditorium on Tuesday, Dec. 4, for a workshop on Robert’s Rules of Order.

City council member Bob Thomas, who called for the workshop earlier this year, introduced featured speaker Stacey McCullough. McCullough is the director of community and economic development for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Thomas said, and she’s held many programs on leadership over the years.

McCullough kicked off the presentation by asking the audience how comfortable they are with parliamentary procedure, saying she wanted to know what problems they have at regular meetings. City council member Mickey Schneider said she doesn’t like not being able to talk across the table.

“The difficult part is in regards to when you have to be called on,” Schneider said. “If you’re responding to a comment someone just made, you might not be called on until four or five people later. That’s the difficulty of talking across the table.”

CAPC finance director Rick Bright said he has trouble when everyone talks at once, and Thomas said he’s uncomfortable with the lack of respect for everyone’s opinions and input. McCullough said it would be impossible to address those concerns without taking basic information in mind first. There are different kinds of meetings, she said, including regular meetings, special meetings, public hearings and work sessions.

“Parliamentary procedure will primarily be used during those regular and special meetings,” McCullough said. “That’s typically when you’re taking some type of action.”

What makes any meeting successful, McCullough said, is purpose. She said it’s important for everyone attending the meeting to understand what they’re doing and what they hope to accomplish.

“That makes you want to participate in the meeting and be engaged, because you know it’s important,” McCullough said. “There’s an outcome at the end you want to see happen. Whether or not you get your way, it helps to know there’s a process in place as opposed to a dictator saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ ”

It’s especially important, McCullough said, to have effective leaders. McCullough advised everyone to be aware of who they elect into leadership positions.

“I know it seems a little weird to say not everyone should be elected president,” McCullough said, “but the reality is you have to look at who is the best fit for the organization. We all have a responsibility when we’re choosing our leaders to choose someone who will be good for that position, not just someone who thinks like we think.”

Effective leaders know their job is to facilitate, McCullough said.

“Being a leader is not about being the boss or getting things your way,” McCullough said.

She urged everyone to be prepared before a meeting, saying people work together better when they’re informed.

“If you’re showing up for the meeting and you haven’t really thought through the agenda, chances are things can hit the fan pretty quickly in those situations,” McCullough said. “Talk to people ahead of time and try to prepare yourself for what could potentially happen. Deal with the situation with a smile, with the remembrance that you’re all neighbors.”

McCullough added, “You’re all part of this group for a reason. Try to keep that in mind when you’re meeting. My best advice is if you’re not ready to be a productive part of that meeting, you might not need to be there.”

Robert’s Rules of Order exists to provide consistency, McCullough said. She said it’s important that everyone knows what to expect when they attend a meeting.

“It’s very structured. That’s true,” McCullough said. “It’s hard to have an open conversation when you’re only allowed to speak once, and everybody has an opportunity to speak and then you get to speak again.”

McCullough advised the audience to take notes on what they want to say before they say it.

“You need to be more careful of organizing your thoughts before you speak,” McCullough said. “Just because you’re not first doesn’t mean your voice isn’t going to be heard. You’re much more likely to be successful if you take time to think about what you want to talk about when it’s your turn.”

When people use Robert’s Rules of Order, McCullough said, everyone wins.

“It makes sure everyone has equal rights in this decision-making process,” McCullough said. “It’s designed to go with the will of the majority, but that doesn’t mean the majority has the right to consume all the turns. Everybody has an equal chance to participate.”

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