Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Undergraduate Student Life

Running Your Organization

Characteristics of a Good Leader

Although the concept of good leadership is subjective, there are certain attributes including commitment, a positive attitude, passion, communication skills, honesty, competence, a strong work ethic, a sense of responsibility, and a display of focus are agreed upon by most as characteristics of a good leader. Although these characteristics may come more easily to some than to others, they are all qualities that can be learned and perfected overtime on one's path towards becoming an effective and respected leader.

Creating a Paper Trail

Creating a paper trail is imperative to making your organization run smoothly and effectively. Student organizations should keep copies of all important documents on file. These include, but are not limited to, contracts, financial records, pertinent emails, copies of past publicity, and the organization's constitution/mission statement. By maintaining this paper trail, your organization will avoid many potential issues and complications. Additionally, it allows you and other members to back up your words with documentation and allow future leadership to resume where you left off and keep your organization running in a strong and efficient manner.

Succession Planning

Transitions are experienced by all organizations and are often a crucial factor in determining whether an organization either falls apart or survives and thrives. Listed below are a few tips intended to facilitate and ease the transition process.

  • Create an annual report detailing information about everything your organization has done and accomplished in the past year
  • Pass on all of your organization's files and ensure that they are organized and legible
  • Hold a joint meeting with the incoming executive board and the outgoing executive board
  • Set clearly defined goals with the incoming executive board and allow them to utilize the expertise and knowledge base of the outgoing executive board
  • Discuss both the past budget and projections for the future budget
  • Contact your adviser for guidance and support to assist with the transition process

Parliamentary Procedure, Adapted from Robert's Rules of Order

This provides common rules and procedures for deliberation and debate during meetings in order to get all members on the same page and speaking the same language. The conduct of all business is controlled by the general will of the whole membership and the right of the deliberate majority to decide. Complementary is the right of a strong minority to require the majority to be deliberate meaning to act according to its considered judgment after fully and fairly working through the issues involved. The following suggestions allow for constructive and democratic meetings to facilitate the business of the assembly. Under no circumstances should “undue strictness” be allowed to intimidate any members or limit their full participation.

The fundamental right of deliberative assemblies requires that all questions and issues be thoroughly discussed before taking action. The assembly rules have the final say on all matters raised. Silence means consent.

Process

  • Obtain the floor (i.e. the right to speak) by being the first to stand when the person speaking has finished, then state Mr. or Madam Chairman. Raising your hand has no meaning and standing while another member has the floor is out of order. Also, you must be recognized by the Chair before speaking.
  • Debate may not begin until the Chair has stated the motion or resolution and asked “are you ready for the question?” If no one rises, the Chair calls for a vote.
  • Before the motion (or the question) is stated by the Chair, members may suggest modification of the motion; the mover can modify as he or she pleases or withdraw the motion without consent from the seconder. If the mover modifies, the seconder can withdraw the second.
  • The “immediately pending question” is the last question stated by the Chair: Motion/Resolution, Amendment, or Motion to Postpone. The member moving the “immediately pending question” is given preference for the floor.
  • No member may speak twice to the same issue until all other members wishing to speak have spoken to it once. All remarks must be addressed to the Chair and must be courteous in language and deportment. Avoid any personal remarks, especially allusions to other members motives.
  • The agenda and all committee reports are merely recommendations. Once the question is stated and presented to the assembly, the debate begins and potential changes are deliberated.

The Rules

  • Point of Privilege: Pertains to speaking, etiquette, and conduct. One may only interrupt another member if it is absolutely necessary.
  • Parliamentary Inquiry: Pertains to inquiries about the correct motion to either accomplish a desired result or raise a point of order.
  • Point of Information: Generally applies to other members desiring information from the speaker. The proper wording for this request is: “I should like to ask the (speaker) a question.”
  • Orders of the Day (the Agenda): A call to adhere to the agenda since deviating from the agenda requires suspending the rules.
  • Point of Order: Raised in response to either an infraction of the rules or displays of improper decorum in speaking. Must be raised immediately following the infraction.
  • Main Motion: Raises new business (i.e. the next item on the agenda) before the assembly.
  • Divide the Question: Divides a motion into two or more separate motions. These motions must be sufficiently distinct if they are to be divided.
  • Consider by Paragraph: Adoption of a paper is held until all paragraphs are debated and amended accordingly. After all paragraphs are considered, the entire paper is opened to amendment by all members if necessary or desired. No preamble may be considered until debate on the body of the paper has ceased.
  • Amend: Inserting, deleting or substituting words, paragraphs, or resolutions.
  • Withdraw/Modify Motion: Applies only after the question is stated; the mover may accept an amendment without obtaining the floor.
  • Commit /Refer/Recommit to Committee: State the committee to receive a question or resolution. Further applies also to the desired size of the committee and to the method for selecting the members (i.e. by election or appointment) if no committee exists.
  • Extend Debate: Applies only to the immediately pending question; extends for a specific period of time.
  • Limit Debate: Closing or limiting debate to a specific period of time
  • Postpone to a Certain Time: State the time when deliberation of the motion or agenda item will resume.
  • Object to Consideration: Objection must be stated prior to discussion of the current motion or the statement of another motion.
  • Lay on the Table: Temporarily suspends further consideration or action on a pending question; may be made after motion to close debate has either carried or is pending
  • Take from the Table: Resumes consideration of an item previously “laid on the table” ( i.e. states the motion to "take from the table").
  • Reconsider: Can be made only by a member on the prevailing side who has changed his or her position.

Consensus vs. Majority

At first glance, the differences between these two terms may be unclear. When an organization makes decisions by way of consensus, a discussion is usually involved. In this case, the members deliberate on the value and validity of different points raised until a decision is reached and agreed upon. In contrast, when decisions are made by a majority vote there is often little or no deliberation. In most cases members have already made a personal decision and the final call is decided by a vote where the option with the most votes is selected.

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