I paced slowly and quietly across the back of the ballroom, last Monday morning. Keeping to myself, I was reviewing a few thoughts about the presentation I was about to deliver as part of the keynote to a local business club in Burlington, Ontario. Then, I tuned in to what the person at the lectern at the front of the ballroom was saying about the agenda that the meeting had to go through before the keynote speaker (that would be me) was introduced.
“We’ve got committee reports and the financial statement to table and accept,” the chair indicated, “and, of course, we have to introduce the incoming executive.”
My head suddenly snapped to attention, as I focused on what the chair was saying. I realized the business part of the meeting that preceded me had a lot of content. “This is going to be a long wait,” I said to myself.
But then almost as quickly as I considered some of the items the chair had just listed, the minutes of last year’s annual general meeting were quickly introduced. A point in the minutes was discussed. A delegate moved that the minutes be accepted as read. Instantaneously, there was a seconder. The question was called. The minutes were passed into history and the delegates moved to the treasurer’s report. Moments later that report was accepted as read, seconded and passed.
And let me add, that it was all done by the book. If Major Henry Martyn Robert himself (the 19th century inventor of Robert’s Rules of Order) had been present, he couldn’t have spotted a single error in the meeting’s procedure. Every “I” seemed dotted. Every “T” crossed. I was duly impressed.
Then, the committee chairs – for membership, activity clubs, special events and speakers’ bureau – each came forward like clockwork. The moment that one finished, the next was right there to receive the microphone and deliver a report. I don’t think Canadian track and field relay runners could have passed the Olympic baton more smoothly. And before long, the chair passed the microphone to the new president who introduced the new executive and they too filed up as if the whole meeting had been rehearsed. Suddenly the speakers’ committee chair was on the podium introducing me.
“Wow,” I exclaimed as I took the microphone. “I’m going to call both Trump and Trudeau and tell them they ought to come here to learn how to get things done!”
Oh, did I mention that the organization I was addressing last Monday morning was the Appleby Women’s Probus Club of Burlington? For the uninitiated, Probus (short for PRO-fessional BUS-iness), according to the club’s national website, is an association of active retirees who join together in clubs, whose purpose is to provide members with regular opportunities to keep minds active, expand interests and enjoy the fellowship of friends.
The site goes on to say Probus clubs number about 240 in Canada with just over 34,000 active members nationwide. What’s interesting, having spoken to perhaps 50 of the clubs over the past few years, I’ve learned most Probus groups prefer to meet men-only or women-only, with some bringing spouses for special occasions.
However, as often as I’d been invited to deliver a presentation at Probus meetings and been expected to wait until after the business part of the meeting was over, I’d never experienced such a smoothly administered agenda in my life.
It was magnificent. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Over the years, I’ve had occasion to attend municipal meetings where most members were women. I’ve participated in committees where the majority were women volunteers and just like the Probus meeting the other day, proceedings rarely bogged down. Everybody had her say on major issues. And generally most attending the sessions found themselves leaving the meeting right on schedule.
As for the business part of these things, I only have to recall my own mother to understand her organizational deftness. She did all the bookkeeping for my father’s freelance work. She ensured he brought home receipts. She collated all the paperwork. She made the entries in their business ledger. And she met with their accountant each year before tax time. She was organization personified.
The other day at the Appleby Women’s Probus Club meeting, one member of the executive offered a piece of advice for her fellow club members. She quoted a former Ontario municipal politician, who encouraged women to “Try everything. Take on any and all responsibility. Lead organizations. Lead countries … But don’t do it alone.”
It’s perhaps no surprise the politician she quoted was none other than Hazel McCallion, long-serving mayor of Mississauga.
As much as I delivered a keynote talk to inform and entertain that Probus group in Burlington, the other day, I think I came away just as educated about a basic rule of organizing and administering. Have more than an equal number of women involved to ensure that things get done.