I have just conducted my first full-agenda Board of Commissioners meeting. That means I was up late the night before the meeting reviewing Roberts Rules of Order. My Plan A was to know the rules inside and out, which means I needed a Plan B. Plan B was whenever anyone says I’m doing it wrong, ask them to cite the rule supporting their position. Note to self – ask state bar staff to disconnect the internet so commissioners cannot check rules online during meetings.
But wait a minute! Maybe there is a better way to run a meeting than moving, seconding, friendly amendment-ing, seconding friendly amendment-ing, supporting, opposing and abstaining (when can you abstain, anyway!?). Maybe there is a more holistic, satisfying set of rules.
Hmmm ... Let me check.
Okay! I found it! It’s right here in a packet of materials I received at the Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum in Sault Sainte Marie this past Monday and Tuesday. I was honored to be asked to attend the Forum, which emanates from a Forum organized in 1992 by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Cavanaugh and Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indian Chief Judge Michael D. Petoskey to improve working relations, communications and operations among state and tribal courts. This year’s Forum was co-chaired by the Hon. Timothy P. Connors of Washtenaw County and the Hon. Allie Greenleaf Maldonado. The agenda included sharing of information about resources available through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, training on substantive laws and short to long-range goal planning. Also, Kay Pranis led a beautiful peacekeeping circle allowing participants to experience first-hand the Native American consensus-building and conflict-resolution model.
The forum not only opened my eyes to an area of law about which I knew enough to fill a thimble and connected me with wonderful people, it also showed me another way to run a meeting.
The following “commitments to the meeting and each other” are accepted by all attendees prior to the opening ceremony of the Forum:
- Everyone at the table is an equal: there is no hierarchy
- Seek first to understand and then to be understood
- Presume the best intentions of others
- Practice active listening
- The chair will recognize the person who will speak.
- Do not speak until recognized.
- Do not interrupt the person speaking.
- Allow ample time for discussion of issues.
- Agree to commitment of discussion even if it extends beyond the time noted on the agenda.
- Allow everyone to express their position.
- Trust in the chair to select the best process for the meeting regarding the style or method of discussion
- Have a willingness to adapt the agenda/discussion to recent developments
- Maintain a commitment to an environment that fosters meaningful discussion
- Be respectful to each other by following the 7 Grandfather teachings: Wisdom, Respect, Humility, Truth, Honesty, Love and Bravery
- Speak your truth even when you are in the minority.
You can adopt these Commitments regardless of how your organization’s meetings are traditionally conducted. Whether you share them with your members or just hold them close to your heart, take them with you to the next meeting you run. I brought them with me to our board meeting and shared them with all commissioners!
Lori is a shareholder at Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg, & Solomon, P.C.