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Published on January 2nd, 2012 | by DerbyLife

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Vintage Five On Five: Running A League Meeting So Everyone Wins

From Issue 3 of Five On Five, here is a gem from Lorna Boom and Ida Slapter of Rat City Rollergirls, just in time for your league’s giant annual supermeeting! Issue 14 of Five On Five is on sale now – don’t miss it!

Meetings are an important tool for developing personal contact within your league outside of the physical contact that occurs during training. Unfortunately, most meetings end up being a waste of time and resources. If your meetings are poorly attended, drag on for hours and accomplish little to nothing, it might be time to update your meeting guidelines.

Start by getting input from all league members in revising your meeting norms; a committee or individual skater dictating guidelines alone does not create buy-in or encourage participation from others.

Meeting Preparation

Advance preparation improves the effectiveness of any meeting. Prior to preparing an agenda, identify meeting objectives by determining the kinds of topics that are appropriate. Topics that are best discussed by a task group or committee are probably not appropriate for an “All-Hands” league meeting.

Use committee meetings to develop ideas and prepare proposals. Use league meetings for discussion and voting. While many committees like to present a status update at league meetings, these kinds of updates are best shared via an online message board or by distribution of prepared handouts. If needed, allocate a block of time for critical updates, reminders and announcements, but keep it to 30 minutes or less.

In preparing your agenda, be realistic about the amount of time needed for each given topic and include a cushion for topics that may run over their allotted time. Assign a timekeeper to help your group stay on schedule and on task, but be flexible about adjusting the agenda, moving a topic to your message board or tabling it until your next meeting.

Make sure to include time for a break; marathon meetings can result in impatient and unfocused participants more interested in when the meeting ends than the topic at hand. Learn to take a break when a meeting gets emotional; even a few moments can help bring you back to a safe place.

One of the best ways to create equality is to have each team or committee take turns running league meetings. Rotation of all major tasks within the league can help reduce a skater viewing a task as
her property.

Along with changing who runs the meetings, have a different facilitator at each meeting. A facilitator
is your steward and must be impartial. This person introduces each agenda item, allows proposals to be explained, listens to all opinions, keeps the group constructive and guides good decision making. If a facilitator wants to participate in a discussion, the job of facilitating is turned over to someone else.

Have a note taker – this will cut down on disagreements and misunderstandings later on. They should also take note of the overall vibe of the group.

Be willing to adjust your meeting format to fit the agenda. There are several formats that are more conducive to an effective meeting than the typical “classroom” setting that many large groups use. Sit in a circle. Sounds simple, but this creates better eye contact and doesn’t assign anyone a leadership role.

Alternately, divide into task groups of four to eight individuals that represent each team to address
multiple topics simultaneously. This encourages active participation by all members, which improves the concept of ownership in relation to ideas and decisions. Task groups typically address a few aspects of a larger project and summarize their ideas to the larger group to identify further steps or action items.

Collaborative Decision Making

Majority rule is the easiest way to conduct business, but that doesn’t mesh with the For the Skater, By the Skater philosophy. Majority rule assigns a winner and loser, usually creating internal conflict. How many times have you heard “she’s difficult” or “she is creating drama?” With a ruling majority system, you don’t have to listen to different or dissenting opinions.

Collaboration can take longer, but talking things over isn’t a bad thing. A great way to find out how people are feeling in a league meeting utilizing a consensus voting method is the “Fist-to-Five” voting system. A league member or group presents an idea or proposal and skaters are allowed to ask questions and give suggestions. Open discussion should lead to modifications of the proposal. After everyone has talked about the proposal, it’s presented to the league again with any changes added.

Each person then responds with a hand signal. A fist is major objection called a block. A block should never be used because you don’t like the skater presenting or because you think the idea is stupid. A block is only used if you cannot live with the idea and you are willing to give reasons why.

Fist: I cannot live with this proposal and I will not allow it to pass.

One Finger: I still need to discuss the proposal more / I have suggestions.

Two Fingers: I am open to the proposal, but I would like to discuss the proposal more.

Three Fingers: I like the proposal and I am willing to pass it.

Four Fingers: Good proposal, I will help work on that proposal.

Five Fingers: Great proposal, I would like to be a leader or chair.

The proposal doesn’t move forward until everyone is voting with three fingers or higher. If the league accepts the proposal it passes. An overall negative response means it doesn’t pass or it gets dropped completely. If the league is mixed, the proposal should be tabled until your next meeting. The item can be reworked to respect all voiced concerns.

This can take more time, but allowing members to have power validates each skater and creates policies that everyone can live with.

Building Trust

As with many sports leagues, we frequently focus on trusting each other on the track but forget how important it is to trust each other in the day-to-day challenges of running a business together. League meetings are likely one of the few places that the majority of leagues are together off skates and it is
a great place to establish trust.

When communication isn’t clear and open it can lead to derby drama. Everyone may have all the right intentions, but without trust even the simplest task can be a huge headache. A league can build
and maintain trust by following a few basic rules:

• Consider everyone. It’s easy in derby to treat fresh meat, refs, coaches and volunteers as second class citizens.

• Willingness to forgive helps resolve issues that can affect the entire league and shows your openness to increase a league-wide sense of well-being.

• Follow your instincts – we all have a pretty good idea of what is right and wrong in most situations.

• Learn when and how to apologize. Example: “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology, but a way to place blame on the person that disagrees.

• Keep your integrity, keep your promises and tell the truth.

Is it worth it?

It can be difficult to change the way your league runs meetings. We all get lazy and creating new practices takes time, but collaboration usually improves your results. A willingness to try alternative
structures and methodologies to find what works best for your league can improve your meetings, your business and your relationships.

Working with your leaguemates through collaborative meeting processes is well worth the challenge. With greater interaction in meetings, more meaningful decisions can be made quickly, which increases
the effectiveness of your meetings and your business.

Common Sense Meeting Norms

• Be willing to hear opinions that differ from your own.
• Phrase your complaints as constructive criticism to the best of your ability.
• Be respectful of all participants.
• Be patient with the process.
• Don’t withhold information; share your knowledge.
• Don’t lobby or argue only to get your way.
• Be informed – it’s your responsibility to know what is going on.
• Don’t be defensive.
• Don’t repeat what has already been said. Honor everyone’s time.

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