Thursday, May 1, 2008
Leadership Marshall County session focuses on productive meetings
By SUE WATSON
Leadership Marshall 2008 spent the April class at The Flame in Byhalia where the group learned the elements of successful meetings after hearing from Tracy Davidson, president of Citizens Bank.
The bank sponsored the lunch served by the Methodist ladies.
Davidson praised Leadership Marshall for “working on plans that will bring Marshall County forward,” then provided some banking statistics and information.
“Financial institutions have a lot to do with promoting business in the county,” he said.
The four banks in Marshall County – Citizens, Merchant and Farmers, Bank of Holly Springs and First State – taken together have $383 million in total assets and $326 million in total deposits, according to a December 31, 2007 call report.
The total net loans and leases came to about $247 million.
Based on a recent CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) evaluation, nearly all of Citizens’ commercial loans are helping businesses in the bank’s assessment area - Marshall and DeSoto counties, according to Davidson.
Mississippi Department of Banking and Finance and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) regulate Citizens and other banks. Banks are required to meet the credit needs and obligations of the community, Davidson said.
“We feel pretty good that the banks in the county promote community growth and do what they are supposed to do,” he said.
Based on what he sees as a trend, Davidson said people and businesses are moving to Marshall County and to Chickasaw Trails Industrial Area from Olive Branch. He said the county is getting lots of looks from prospective industries and businesses. Issues like education and housing are some things new prospects investigate before making a move, he said.
The afternoon session dealt with the elements of productive meetings, facilitated by Shiela Brooks with Tennessee Valley Authority.
Brooks works in economic and community development, but has held many positions with TVA including procurement, recycling, and real estate.
She is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga.
The class began with Brooks asking members to list some ingredients of a productive meeting.
Having an agenda, the right people present who can solve the problem, a purpose, and details on hand were important to the class. Showing up on time, having some pre-assigned tasks, inviting knowledgeable speakers, and ending the meeting on time were also important elements.
Unproductive meetings frequently lacked one or more of these elements and the meeting deteriorated with too many testimonials, one or two people dominating the floor and people leaving with unanswered questions.
Somewhat productive meetings often ended with no solution to a problem.
Brooks suggested that everyone acknowledge that conflict and tension are an integral part of group work.
These can occur when one or more people bring their baggage into the discussion.
One way to tell when conflict is going on is when the subject keeps changing or parts of the agenda are tabled.
Sometimes it is appropriate that a decision be put off giving members time to come back later with more ideas and information, Brooks said.
The nuts and bolts of effective meetings include: the agenda, stakeholder participation, ground rules, written records, the facilitator and a meeting evaluation by participants.
Useful ground rules noted by the class included: share the air time, no cell phones, no side-bar conversations, speak for oneself, if offended say so, be polite, set time limits, no dozing off, disagree but don’t personalize opinions, avoid name-calling and stereotyping, stick to the issues at hand, and help the facilitator police the meeting.
Keeping written records (the minutes) is useful for keeping track of decisions, holding people accountable, reminding members of what has been discussed, and for building the agenda for the next meeting.
Leadership Marshall is an implemented project taken from the Marshall County Strategic Plan. The classes are paid for through registration fees, business sponsorships, and the voluntary donation of time and talent by the chambers of commerce from Byhalia and Holly Springs, the Marshall County Extension office, Mississippi State Extension Service, and people in business, industry and government, as well as graduates from previous classes.
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