Monthly Archives: November 2011

End of an Era

First Oakville Toastmasters held one of its most successful book auctions last night thanks to the generosity of members and the excellent guidance of the chair for evening Jennifer Czerniak.

It was my pleasure to be the auctioneer and with so many books we really had to power through….and we did.

Awaiting word from our treasurer on the take for the night but it should be pretty good.

Unfortunately this is likely the last of the book auctions thanks to E-Readers which I suspect will be very popular this Christmas.

My Kindle has over 75 books onboard with 50 of them finished and 25 to go.

First Oakville meets Thursdays from September to June at 7:30 at the Quality Inn on Bronte Road south of the QEW.

Christmas Party Info

More on the business of business meetings

Greetings 1st Oakville Toastmasters,

Last Thursday’s business session was ‘confusing’ as a guest indicated, and honestly I used to feel the same way.  Heck, I still feel that way sometimes!

For example, I questioned the Parliamentarian about the necessity of the Chair to request New Business.  The Chair of the evening decided to end the business session upon completing Business Arising from the Minutes, a bit earlier than indicated in the agenda.  As Secretary someone had indicated to me, by anonymous note, a new motion and was not presented an opportunity to raise it; I inquired about protocol as to whether this was permitted under Robert’s Rules of Order which govern our meetings.

Now the Parliamentarian may not have been paying attention and stated that the Chair had indeed requested new business, and I must have missed it, where the Chair admitted to me that she had deliberately omitted doing so.  During the discussion the anonymous member was not forthcoming in asserting his right to make a new motion, so I let it slide.

Regardless, at break a seasoned member commended me on my point.   She told me next time I could make a motion to Suspend the Rules.  Consulting Parliamentary Procedure afterwards, I was reminded this particular motion would allow us to ‘set aside rules that interfere with action desired’ and require a Second and a 2/3 Vote by the assembly.  This would have delayed the end of the business session for the member to bring forward his important new motion.  Also, she reminded me I could have kept the Chair in the loop ahead of time too.

Every meeting presents an opportunity to learn about how formal meetings are conducted, which is important to committees and governments internationally.  I am personally and professional grateful to learn in Toastmasters something that applies to my own goals moving forwards; communication and leadership skill continue to be invaluable in traditional business and political worlds.

~Eleanor Hayward RMT, Secretary 1st Oakville Toastmasters

Open-Source Leadership

I was listening to CBC Radio this morning as the show host was interviewing a management consultant who used the term “open-source leadership.”

By that, he was describing a style of leadership in organizations or groups that has changed from the old command-and-control method of one leader doing the thinking and making all the management decisions to a newer more open model where individuals share the leadership and management of the group. He used the “Occupy” movement of participatory democracy that is currently being experimented with by protestors in cities around the world.

I was struck by how similar that is to the model we use in Toastmasters although we have a more mature and stable process than the protest groups.

For example, in our club which is run under a charter granted to us by Toastmasters International, our executive team is voted in annually and there are limits to how long any single officer can serve.

Each week, a new chair and a new slate of officers run the meeting.

Participation and leadership on committees that serve the club are always in flux as is the makeup of volunteers on party committees and educational sessions.

In order for open-source leadership to work, all of the members have to find ways to work together to realize the objectives of the club.

This is one of the reasons the club puts such emphasis on members fulfilling their responsibilities when it comes to finding their own replacements when they are unable to attend a meeting where they have a job. I’ve noticed both older and newer members in the past who had a minor role that were completed by the break quietly leave the meeting and go home. This is very admirable and noteworthy supportive behaviour.

Think what would happen in your home or workplace if you didn’t carry out a task you said you would do. Might not be a pretty site. Same thing at Toastmasters. The club offers an educational process and members who routinely fail to meet their responsibilities should be contacted by their mentor to see how we can support them and if they continue to be no-shows they risk being removed from the schedule.

The second way we support open-source leadership is by participating fully in our business sessions.

This is essential to the democratic running of the club and will provide you with amazing leadership skills you can take with you into your work or service opportunities.

So how do you get started?

Here’s what I suggested to a new member: Anytime you aren’t absolutely certain of what is happening in the business session you may rise without being recognized by the chair and in a loud voice say: “Mr/Madame Chair I rise to a point of parliamentary inquiry.” The chair is obligated to ask you to state your inquiry and which time you can say “I do not understand what is happening right now.” The chair should either explain it to you or even better have the parliamentarian explain what’s happening.

In this way you will learn parliamentary procedure. The chair will learn how to be a better leader and the parliamentarian will learn to be ready to explain what is happening on a moment’s notice. Finally I bet at least a handful of your fellow members were just as lost as you were but didn’t have the courage to speak up in that moment. They will learn that speaking up in this club is not only encouraged but appreciated.


Democracy is Messy

“Democracy is messy.”

This quote is attributed to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in response to the chaos and looting that erupted throughout Baghdad immediately after the American invasion.

So what’s this got to do with First Oakville Toastmasters?

Last night during the business session a motion was on the floor which would move a preciously favourable motion (the one about the trophy for the club-level evaluation contest) to committee (in this case the executive committee) for further investigation and consideration (in specific the naming of the trophy).

The mover of the motion to reconsider did an atrocious job of phrasing his motion and had not provided the secretary of a written copy. (A written copy of the motion would have helped this Toastmaster clarify his thinking.) He was also completely unprepared to speak to his motion and could only offer a weak opinion when asked by the chair whether his motion assumed the executive committee would have the authority to make final decisions when it came to the motion about the trophy. (In case there’s any doubt, the mover was me!)

The mover offered an opinion that under our democratic process the recommendations of the executive committee should come back to the club at a future date to be ratified by a vote of the assembly.

It might have been helpful if the chair had asked her parliamentarian for an opinion rather than asking the member who, while correct in his assumption, found his opinion under immediate attack by other members who were advocating. albeit wrongly, that the committee come to the final determination around the future of the trophy.

(In fact Robert’s Rules state under the information about “commit or refer”: “The subsidiary motion to Commit or Refer is generally used to send a pending question to a relatively small group of selected persons – a committee – so that the question mare be carefully investigated and put into better condition for the assemble to consider”).

(And for clarification: When committees like the executive committee are formed they are “charged” with certain tasks and powers. When they make decisions that fall within their mandate there is no necessity to take those decisions to the assembly. In other words, if the executive wishes to invite a guest speaker, which is happening next week, they are under no obligation to seek out approval. However, if the executive decides to buy something that was not previously agreed upon, such as a camcorder (which happened last year), the executive must come to the assembly for ratification of their decision by two-thirds vote in favour if there’s money involved or simple majority on other matters.)

At our meeting last night, following the offering of the opinion, some words of agreement and disagreement erupted from the floor and one member, who was recognized by the chair, rose and rather forcibly in my opinion and overly strongly extolled the club to just get on with business at hand and let the executive committee do what it wanted to do with the motion. In business debates the use of strong or passionate language is discouraged and language that might seem intimidating is out of order. And I must admit here as well that I am guilty of passionate and even bullying language in the midst of debate. This is a shortcoming I am actively working on so as not to alienate friends and provide foes with an easy target 🙂

So is all this bother about a trophy?

No. The great danger here is how this misinformation and fumbling of motions affects newcomers to the club. One newcomers at the break repeated the refrain of “why don’t we just get on with it!” And, several guests said they found the business session confusing.

One new member rightfully queried the chair when she, the member, wasn’t certain what was happening. The way to do this in a business session is to rise without being recognized by the chair and you may interrupt a speaker who has the floor by stating loudly: “Mr. Chairman, I rise to a parliamentary inquiry.” The chair is obligated to stop the discussion and to ask you to “state your inquiry.” Then it is appropriate to ask your question which will be answered or ruled out of order by the chair.

Overall, I can appreciate all the comments.

There are some business sessions that irritate the heck out of me. There are nights I too would just love to stand up and yell “just get on with it” or worse 🙂

However what we do in our short business sessions at First Oakville is practice how to work together as a group. It’s not an easy process and not all of us have learned how to play fair in the sandbox (and I’m pointing the finger at myself here) but our business sessions and Robert’s Rules of Order give us an invaluable gift of practice with people we like and respect.

This is not always the case in the worlds of business or government as evidenced by the ongoing debt crisis in Europe and the resulting continuous fractious debates and closed-door meetings.

Toastmasters International has recognized the need to develop real leadership abilities in its membership so much so that this year leadership now has equal importance to the objective of learning how to speak in public.

One issue for us is as our membership at First Oakville grows, it will become harder and harder to participate in calm, reasoned debate that includes us all.

Here’s a link to a very short overview of Parliamentary procedure. If anyone has any questions about our business meetings and how to use Robert’s Rules don’t hesitate to ask.

At First Oakville Toastmasters we want what’s best for all and regrettably democracy is messy.

Women and Public Speaking

Thanks to Elaine Collins who spotted this story in The Globe and Mail here’s a link to an article called “Why women need to step up to the microphone.”

The writer concludes by saying women shouldn’t hesitate to speak just because they don’t think they know enough about the subject as this is an objection that men never consider 🙂

Might be something to that thought!