On Thursday April 21, I sat in on one of our UpFront conference calls between Association Presidents, WA Youth Soccer President Doug Andreassen and WA Youth Soccer CEO, Terry Fisher. It’s exciting to hear members share experiences with each other that create a sense of community in WA Youth Soccer.
As I sat in on the call and heard Associations discuss tough issues that are facing their organizations, I was reminded of how important it is for an organization to create a positive identity through an inviting environment. Promoting a healthy dialogue with your members and with your peers is key in maintaining this positive identity and achieving success when faced with challenges. Today I wanted to share my thoughts on both the questions that were raised during the call and the aspects of a healthy dialogue that the call illustrated.
One of the questions on the most recent UpFront call with Association Presidents was about what the relationship between Club and Association should look like and how to handle a divisive issue appropriately. The question highlighted the benefit of establishing ground rules for relationships between Clubs and Association to support a pleasant and respectful experience for board members.
Two Association Presidents discussed the challenges rooted in field use. The larger of the two Association has struggled with receiving field time from the local parks and rec association as well as in finding the right distribution of fields for all levels of play. Budget cuts at the parks and rec group have led to the Association continuing to negotiate a field contract on behalf of all the Clubs in the Association, now with a 25% increase in field rates. The Clubs and Association are struggling with creating a system for allocation of field time that is perceived as fair and keeps fees affordable for their members. Relations between some of the Clubs and the Association have become tense over the past few months as these tough issues are discussed at board meetings.
The smaller of the two Associations learned this spring that their city’s parks and rec authority was dramatically increasing the rates on field use for all sports. Luckily, the Association has responsibly saved for such an unforeseen expense through their reserve funds, which has protected their Clubs to a certain extent. The Association’s relationship with their Clubs is a positive one that benefits from mutual goals and trust. There have been budget challenges but the tenor of board meetings hasn’t soured, yet concern still exists over how to prevent a similar experience from happening like what the larger Association is currently experiencing.
Reduced resources can put a strain on any relationship and your organizations feel this stress through board meetings and interactions with members. One way to deal with this reality is to follow the three golden rules for discussion laid out by Jurassic Parliament to create a positive environment in the board room. This free board resource discusses the importance of establishing and following basic ground rules from the outset of any meeting and is extremely easy to use.
My first thought while reading the resource was: it seems like common sense that each person should have an opportunity to speak before speaking a second time (rule #3) but if I think about the last board or committee meeting I was in, did this happen? I can honestly say that I’ve sat in multiple meetings where one or two members dominate the conversation at the expense of quieter voices in the room. It’s not ill will that drives this; on paper we have the same rights and responsibilities in the board meeting but in reality, we bring our personality style along with us. Some of us are pretty excited about sharing our ideas, loudly and proudly, while others are more comfortable having one-on-one conversations or waiting for the conversation to near conclusion before expressing an opinion.
It’s often easy to get comfortable in our positions and let those who are most vocal provide opinions more regularly. By giving time to all members before returning to hear a second statement from a board member, your organization will be able to get a diversity of opinion and function at a higher level because all relevant information is brought to the table and a sense of equality is engendered.
Along with the other two rules, these three golden rules for discussion give your board the touchstone for holding all members to the same standard for conduct in meetings with fellow board members as well as the members. The Jurassic Parliament website has more resources that can help your meetings run more efficiently and become fun again, which we’ll highlight in a future post.
What are some of the ground rules for your Club or Association meetings? How have you handled heated issues during meetings?