“Should I hire a parliamentarian?” I am often asked this question and my response is simply: “Why do you believe you need a parliamentarian?” Perhaps you don’t need a parliamentarian, then again, maybe you do.
Today it seems as though everyone is a practicing or “home grown” parliamentarian. They have heard about the “Robert’s Rules of Order” book and they have helped in their informal club meetings, board meetings, and housing associations by using common sense. It works for them. It gets the job done.
Sure there may be some disgruntled members, arguments may continue after the meeting, the wrong people may be being elected, and the members’ wishes may be completed disregarded, but that’s OK, because this is what happens in most meetings. Or is it? If you accept this, you’re allowing this. Moreover, what is accepted becomes expected. That’s why so many of us dislike and won’t even attend some meetings. Those meetings are just a waste of our time.
Statistically, 65 – 70 percent of all meetings held are ineffective. In relatively small organizations, you may not need the services of parliamentarian and the efforts of those “home grown” parliamentarians may work. However, if you are involved in contentious meetings where members’ rights are violated, officers within the organization have little or no voice, there are obvious conflicts between board members and the members, simple decisions take forever to be decided, and nothing seems to get done, you need the services of a credentialed professional.
You need the services of an accredited consultant, one that has achieved professional accreditation from the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP). You need someone who is knowledgeable of parliamentary procedure, able to preside under contentious circumstances, able to offer professional opinions, and one who will help ensure that rights of all participants are respected – you need the services of a Professional Registered Parliamentarian.
More Reasons to Hire a Professional Registered Parliamentarian
So, are there any other reasons, besides those stated above, why you should hire a professional registered parliamentarian? Sometimes these “home grown” policies/procedures or customs just do not work. Situations change. The work environment changes and people change.
What should you do when nothing seems to work? Consider the following example before you answer that question and then think about what you would do?
Not too long ago, I received a call from a perspective client who was having some significant issues within their organization. During board meetings, which were attended by several members of the organization, members wanted to participate in the board proceedings and vote on issues addressed during the meeting. The board members did not allow the members to speak, saying the board meetings were strictly for board members and the members were allowed to be there as guests of the board. This had occurred for several meetings and was now the supposedly “accepted” custom for doing business.
That was not the only issue. The members did not feel as though their issues were being heard or acknowledged by the board. They felt that they needed a mediator--an arbitrator-- to resolve the issue. Very little was being accomplished during their meetings--in this volatile and hostile environment. Do you believe those “home-grown remedies” would work in resolving these issues? Think about it. How would you resolve these issues?
If you were to hire a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, someone who is a consultant and knowledgeable of parliamentary law and procedures according to “Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised”, and who is a skilled and impartial presider, there would be no question about what you should do. I was hired. After determining what the main issues were impacting the organization, I began my research. I reviewed the organization’s Constitution, Bylaws, Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, Special Rules of Order, Standing rules (policies), minutes from the last board meeting(s), etc. Of course, there is a supersession authority, but that is to be discussed at another time. After reviewing the bylaws, I noted that the bylaws allowed the members of the organization to have the right to participate and vote upon all questions discussed during the meeting. Many bylaws do not allow members of the organization to participate in the board deliberations and most do not let them vote. Use these rules as a guide: If the bylaws don’t say you can do it, you can’t! If the bylaws say this is the way it is to be done, that is the way it is to be done!
The second question was of greater concern. The members and the board felt that they were not listened to, there appeared to be little to no respect for the other person. If the president or vice-president presided, the members felt their issues would not be heard. The president and vice-president could not understand their members’ feelings, but respected them. What was the solution--have the parliamentarian serve as the presiding officer. The president and vice president agreed that I should do it, could I. No. According to that book, “Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised,” the assembly by a majority vote must approve of a temporary professional presiding officer before I could preside for all or part of a session. The question was presented to the members. They approved the motion unanimously. It was a most interesting meeting. I did quite a bit of work for that organization. Well, how did you do as far as answering the questions that were posed to you earlier? Hiring a parliamentarian is not just a simple task. Before I take on any job, I always talk to my potential customers. I want to know, “What are the real issues at hand?” Do they really need to hire a Professional Registered Parliamentarian or not? I strive for a win-win with all of my customers.
I do know that this world is changing. What worked yesterday will not necessarily work today. People still want to be valued and respected. We are spending most of our time in meetings, whether face-to-face, electronic, video conferencing, etc., we must have highly effective meetings where the voice and rights of all are heard and respected. When these two basic rights are disrespected or your organization’s core objectives are being violated, you need to consider hiring a parliamentarian—a Professional Registered Parliamentarian.