role of the chairman
Chairing a Meeting of Your Superiors
It is unlikely that you will ever be asked to adopt the role of chairman involving a
meeting of your superiors. You are likely to have been included for your expertise or
knowledge. However, if you find yourself in the role of unofficial chair then remember
that you can’t really lead - so don't try. As a subordinate, you cannot see the whole
picture and it is not part of your brief to make strategic contributions. Your role is most
likely to consist of presenting facts, identifying problems and suggesting solutions. Your
opinions will normally be of far less interest than your knowledge and it is good practice
to avoid expressing any subjective views, unless these are specifically requested.
If the debate among your superiors becomes heated, remain objective and express your
understanding in a candid and honest way, when your contribution is sought.
Avoid entering into any arguments, even if you want to back up your direct superior.
You, as a subordinate, are an interloper in this environment and joining in any
arguments represents a no-win situation for you.
Chairing a Mixed Meeting
You may need to chair a meeting that includes individuals occupying different levels
within the organizational hierarchy. Meetings that include superiors, subordinates and
peers are often the most difficult to gain productive output from. Where senior
management attend meetings chaired by subordinates they are particularly prone to
hijacking the proceedings. If you are in the role of chair it is your duty to resist such an
attempt and to ensure that the meeting progresses in line with the formal agenda. You
should have nothing to fear from responsible senior staff, who may be assessing your
abilities to cope with such a challenge.
Concerns about authority and competition between individuals are likely to be magnified
and those that are less senior may feel inhibited, especially if their direct superiors are
present. For this reason it is best to ask for contributions from the lowest ranking
members first, before their superiors can express a view, with which they may hesitate
to disagree. On the other hand superiors are unlikely to feel inhibited by what their
subordinates may say. Acting as a neutral chair, your role in a mixed group meeting
may prove easier than some of the other scenarios already covered. In a mixed group
the existing politics and dynamics will mean that the focus of the group will be far less
on the chair, allowing you to run the meeting without undue attention.
Ensure the Meeting Starts Well
It is good practice for the chair to arrive at the venue ten to fifteen minutes before the
planned start time. This enables you to familiarize yourself with the surroundings and
place any relevant information, such as the agenda, in front of each seat. Look for any
problems with the seating, lighting or anything else that may have an impact on the
meeting. If possible, engage the early arrivers in small-talk, whilst looking for clues as to
their attitudes and priorities.
In order to maximize the productive scope of the meeting you will need to reduce any
barriers between you and the other participants. Be welcoming and friendly, and join in
any light-hearted chat, both before the meeting and at breaks. As the meeting
progresses, concentrate on uniting the group members and encourage them to focus on
the facts rather than on personalities.
The ability to start on time represents the first opportunity for you to exercise control. If
you let this slip then you will set a dangerous precedent. However, if a key contributor is
late, it is acceptable to wait for their arrival or to change the order of the agenda to
prevent delays. Your first duty as chair is to declare the meeting open and introduce
yourself and the other participants. Be careful to get the names and job titles of the
participants correct. Follow this by thanking everyone for attending, even if they had
little choice. Then make any apologies for absence, on behalf of non-attendees. Next,
state the purpose of the meeting. This is probably the most important statement the
chair will make. State clearly what it is that the meeting seeks to achieve and use this to
focus the group mind and give members a goal to work towards. Always avoid opening
on an apologetic tone, as this may set the meeting on a path to failure and
Run quickly through the agenda and ask if anyone has other important issues that they
feel should be added, at this late stage. Whilst this would be an unusual action to take, it
is sometimes necessary. This may mean re-scheduling certain items on the agenda or
extending the planned time for the meeting. Announce how long the meeting will last
and the times of any breaks. Indicate how you expect participants to make contributions
and explain the process you expect to see followed. During these early introductory
stages you will have made your style of leadership clear to the group, including the
degree of formality that you expect.
As the meeting progresses the key role of the chairman is to see that progress is made
in line with the items on the agenda. There follows a summary of the sort of actions you
may need to take:
Introduce each item
Introduce each item and explain why it is being discussed. Address each item on the
agenda separately and in order, don't start a new item before concluding the previous
Make sure that everyone who should speak on an issue gets the chance to, not just
those who can talk the loudest and longest. The chair should look out for minority
interests and ensure that these are expressed in the meeting. Encourage quieter
members to communicate their feelings, perhaps by prompting them with questions.
Summarize each item
As the discussion of each item is finished, summarize what has been said and check
that everyone agrees with your précis. If there is confusion then take the time to seek
If it is appropriate, you may want to take a vote on specific issues as they are
concluded, in line with whatever process has been agreed for that part of the meeting.
In addition to these activities you will need to maintain progress against the agenda.
Never lose sight of the fact that you are in control of the meeting. If you believe that a
particular item is dragging on too long, bring the discussion of that issue to a close, in a
polite but firm way.
Staying in Control
Mood Swings and Interruptions
The mood of a meeting can change quickly from being friendly and constructive to being
confrontational. If the atmosphere starts to become tense, then you will need to act
quickly to improve the situation. For example, if the participants are becoming
increasingly polarized in a discussion that is going nowhere you could try moving them
along to the next item on the agenda.
Try to limit the number of interruptions that are allowed in a meeting. Too many
interruptions will halt the flow of a meeting and may lead the discussion onto a side
issue. It is the responsibility of the chair to protect the person speaking and failure to do
this will lead to a loss of control.
A significant proportion of people who attend meetings have a valuable contribution to
make but never get to make it. The chair should draw out contributions from those who
have a point of view or question but are reluctant to communicate it. Several signs may
indicate that this is the case:
Negative Body Language
Shy individuals may hold back from speaking, as they are happier not to be in the
limelight. These individuals may appear to query what is being said; a subtle shake of
the head or furrowed brow may indicate this.
People may be talked over by more vocal participants. They may start to speak only to
be interrupted almost immediately, by someone who talks more loudly and forcibly. After
a few attempts they may give up and stop making any further contribution.
Some individuals may become offended by the conduct of others at the meeting and
this annoyance may become their focus for the remainder of the meeting.
They may spend the rest of the meeting by being either actively or passively hostile
towards that individual. This will effectively destroy their role as a constructive
participant. As the chair, you need to read signals like these and ensure that anyone
who has a contribution to make gets to voice it. In these situations you should
encourage attendees to play a fuller role in the meeting.
Group behavior is a key aspect of any meeting and you should understand the group of
people at your meeting, as well as how they interact with one another. If participants
present information as factual when you suspect that it is based on opinion then it is
your responsibility, as the chair, to seek clarification. Avoid getting into an argument with
any member of the group but stress the importance of all decisions being made on the
basis of hard facts, wherever possible. The eyes of all meeting participants naturally
home in on the chairperson. The actions, appearance, attitudes and body language of
the chair will tend to be mirrored by most other attendees. You should be aware of this
throughout the meeting and project a confident and professional image.
When all the items on the agenda have been discussed and the necessary actions
agreed, it is the chairs duty to formally close the meeting. The chair should sum up all of
the items on the agenda giving each one the time they feel represented its significance
to the overall debate. The follow-up actions should be reviewed, checking that nobody is
allocated an unrealistic workload. It is a good idea to let everyone know that a summary
action sheet will be produced and distributed, together with the full minutes of the
meeting. This list should be distributed to all attendees and any others to which the
activities relate. Check that the person taking the minutes is happy with their record of
events, then set the time and date for any subsequent meeting. The time to close the
meeting has now arrived. Make any final remarks positive, forward-looking and brief -
thank everyone for attending and emphasize the achievements of the meeting.
Team Leader Role and Responsibilities
Role: The team leader will be assigned specific programs and will work with/mentor/monitor these
programs prior to the start of the program, during the actual program and after the program ends.
Once programs are assigned to a team leader, the team leader will:
1. review the initial proposal, budget and the revised budget
2. review any previous site visitor reports and program reports, if applicable
3. contact the program director and begin the process of building a team relationship
4. provide guidance on the use of curriculum training materials (the Online Curriculum
Development Guide), the STARTALK Curriculum Template(s), LinguaFolio, etc.
5. provide feedback on the program’s curriculum template
6. establish an ongoing communication plan and a timeline for the revision process for the
7. ensure that the curriculum template is complete ten days prior to the start of the program
8. clarify the process for submitting the final curriculum template
Prior to the initial site visit, the team leader will:
1. discuss the program visit checklists and the site visitor report with the program director
2. clarify the protocol for site visits with the program director: meetings, classroom observations,
interviews and debrief
3. request a lesson plan for the day of the site visit
4. function as a site visit team leader by coordinating on site travel arrangements for other team
During the site visit, the team leader will:
1. coordinate a breakfast meeting on the day of the site visit with the site visit team to share
pertinent information and to assign team members to various tasks during the visit
2. participate in the site visit and ensure that the prescribed protocol is followed: meetings,
classroom observations, interviews and debrief
3. arrange a time for the visiting team to meet to discuss what will be shared during the debrief
meeting at the end of the visit
4. facilitate consensus on findings and recommendations from the site visit team
5. ensure that the site visit team produces a report to be submitted to STARTALK Central within
6. Report to STARTALK Central if and when subsequent site visits should be scheduled
At the conclusion of the summer program, the team leader will:
1. consult with program directors as they reflect on their experiences and prepare their final reports
2. encourage program directors to reflect on and respond to the STARTALK site visitor report in
their final reports