The Role of the Chairperson

An article in today’s (Sept. 25/14) Globe and Mail focuses on the role of the House of Commons speaker when it comes to keeping MPs on topic when they rise to speak.

Speaker Andrew Scheer seems to know his parliamentary procedure when he says (and this from the Globe and Mail article) “it is not the role of the Chair (the Speaker) to decide whether a response is an answer or not to the question” or “whether the content of a response is in fact an answer.”

It’s the same a Toastmaster meetings and especially so during the business session.

It is not the role of the chair to force members to do anything (and at First Oakville Toastmasters that is pretty much an impossibility as our members well understand their rights and responsibilities as members and woe to a chair who attempts to dictate an outcome) but rather to ensure that fairness and decorum prevail.

If a member or an executive for that matter rises to speak and one or more members are left unsatisfied, they too can attempt to be recognized by the chair and speak their own minds.

The role of the chair is to start the business session on time, conduct the orderly flow of business as dictated by his or her agenda, ensure fairness and then end the business session on time or at the very least at the time demanded by the members (one ore more who may challenge the decision of the chair to conclude the session or may rise to move a motion to suspend the rules which is always and dangerous (when it comes to timing) but exciting part of any business session.

At the very least it indicates some members are definitely involved in what is happening in their club.

Business sessions are all about how we behave and interact as a group. Some people never learned how to play fair in the sandbox at school and this shows up in later life in business, home and even Toastmasters.

Working with others in group situations is never easy but a well-meaning and well-trained chairperson can sure make the process easier, even pleasant. A chairperson who dictates can find themselves at the centre of a verbal firestorm. Seems Speaker Scheer understands his role in the House of Commons better than most.

(This post first appeared as “Mr. Speaker” in The Toastmaster blog.)

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