A Paddocks Sectional Title Lifestyle Blog
By Jennifer Paddock
Show off, rambler, obnoxious, nitpicker, bore, latecomer, naysayer and just-plain-old-rude.
These adjectives are often used to describe people at sectional title meetings. So how do we deal with these people effectively, allowing meetings to run smoothly with as little disruption as possible?
1. Group Agreed Ground Rules
These are rules, agreed by the group, regulating how the meeting will run. Typical ground rules include:
By getting everyone to agree on the ground rules at the start of the meeting everyone is effectively agreeing to be bound by them. Then, during the course of the meeting when someone strays off course the chairperson (or anyone else present) can simply remind the person of the ground rule, which is a neutral way of putting them back on track as the disruptive party has already agreed to the ground rules. For example when a rambler goes off topic the chairperson could say “Folks, we agreed to stay on the subject… Let’s get back to the topic at hand.” Less confrontation. Makes sense right?
2. Prioritized Agenda
Another useful tool is prioritizing the meeting’s agenda. Ordering the line items in terms of priority and importance as well as giving each line item an estimated time allocation. The trustees and/or managing agent could do this before the meeting when creating the agenda to send out with the notice of the meeting, or this could be done at the meeting itself as the first order of business.
3. Always Start the Meeting on Time
As long as a quorum is present. This sends the message that everyone’s time is important and that you mean business. If a key attendee proves to be a chronic latecomer, have him or her facilitate the next meeting.
4. Keep Group Notes of Major Discussions/Ideas/Decisions
On a flipchart or white board. Refer to these group notes when people start covering material already covered.
5. Park Petty or Insignificant Issues for Discussion Later
Use your flip chart or whiteboard to jot down pretty and insignificant issues under a ‘parked’ column for discussion later in the meeting if time permits.
6. Give the Show-off/Naysayer/Obnoxious Person a Job
Asking a usually rude and obnoxious attendee to keep time will give him or her something to focus on and should decrease the number of disruptive incidents caused by that person.
7. For Very Disruptive People – Talk to Them Privately
Calling a very disruptive person out in front of the group may be counter-productive to the desired outcome. Many of these characters thrive on conflict and attention so it can be more effective to pull them aside during a break or after the meeting and explain to them privately how their behaviour affects the group dynamic negatively.
How do you deal with disruptive people in your body corporate and trustee meetings? Share with us by commenting below! We all need all the help we can get 🙂
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The estimated time line for each agenda item works well – members can then see if they are spending too much time on a certain item and that the meeting cannot go on all night, so they expedite a conclusion to that item so that all the items on the agenda can be covered in the time allotted for the meeting.
Trysie Jute: I may just add to the “ground rules” that attendees should address ALL comments through the Chair and not shout at each other or answer questions not addressed to them personally.
Good article. After 14 years as Chairperson of a huge block of flats, I have been there, “got the T-shirt” but fortunately we dealt with well-educated and decent people.
Thanks Trysie – that is a very good addition to the ‘ground rules’! Sounds like you have your scheme well under control. Keep up the great work!
I have seldom experienced disruptive behaviour when the members present at a meeting have been adequately appraised of the factors affecting the item prior to the meeting. The problem is usually that insufficient information is sent out to the members and that they are expected to only get the infill information at the meeting and from the trustees who have essentially already made up their mind on the matter.
Managing agents should put themselves into the position of the less informed owner and send out adequate background information prior to the meeting.
That’s great, Gerhard. We usually sit ‘met ‘n mond vol tanne’ until someone sparks the debate. Meeting cordially commenced by highly professional accountant and Financial Officer, there is no such animal as the “chairman of the body corporate”, figment of too many managing directors’ minds. There is Managing Trustee, there are other trustees with various portfolios. We are all Trustees. No one is the boss. But at a meeting of the elected Trustees, a chairperson shall be elected. The chairperson has a casting vote should trustees deadlock in decision. I agree that Managing agents should put themselves into the position of the less informed owner, but the less informed owner has the duty and function to research the Sectional Titles Act and Amendments as being party to the Body Corporate. They cannot shift responsibility and choose to be spoon-fed.
What type of “background information” do you require? Background info on who? Trustees or on the building you bought into? If into the building, you should have done that prior to signing the sale agreement/purchase agreement.
If you’re asking for “adequate background information” on the Trustees, MYOFB!
Thanks Jennifer. I have found that having a positive person run the meeting is a great help. Some people are not good meeting chairmen. It often helps that the managing agent runs the meeting. They actually know what is on the agenda and what they want to achieve in the meeting. This also gives the Chairman an opportunity to be involved in the discussions. Be patient. Sometimes just by being slow and patient but firm with disruptive people helps. A strong chairman (not Chairman) will guide the meeting along, will stick to the point, and bring things back to the discussion quickly. I have found that a quick summary and close of each section helps to guide the meeting. Having items on a projection screen also helps. The budget particularly is easier to understand if you can see it when it is explained. But even having copies of quotes can mean that people don’t have to ask questions about it.
Fabulous article, Jennifer.
At the last AGM, our Chairperson was our Accountant. She led the meeting with the expertise of a real professional.