Have you ever wondered how it is to conduct a meeting whether in a small meeting or a large organization? It might seem simple to an onlooker but there are rules that apply to ensure a secretary is professional in carrying out his.
The secretary of any organization or association is the hub from which various activities radiate as he has a most interesting and important position for the successful and efficient working of the society.
The role of a secretary depends on the style and size of the organization, however, in this post, I am going to examine the general secretarial duties in any organization.
He has a lot to do to have the society running than any other officer, not even the Chairman. Lagging in this capacity can be a serious hitch in the effectiveness of the organization.
When electing or appointing a secretary, certain attributes should be looked out for. A secretary should be a sound articulate person that has a mind of his own and can take initiatives to foster harmony.
Some characteristics to look out for in a prospective secretary:
- A good planner and organizer
- He should be tidy
- Tactful and accommodating
The roles of the secretary are absolutely executive as he keeps constant communication with the Chairman alive.
The secretary has the jobs of organizing the routine office activities, handle all correspondence, convene all meetings, draw up agendas with the chairman, take minutes, write the annual report, carry out the instructions of his committee and give information and assistance to any member when required.
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The roles of a secretary are purely executive, and he should keep in close contact with the chairman.
It is his job to organize the routine office work, deal with all correspondence, convene all meetings, draw up agendas with the chairman, take minutes, write the annual report, carry out the instructions of his committee and give information and help to any member as demanded.
It is obvious the roles of a secretary are varied but interesting. To a newbie the vast role might be frightening, but with practice and the desire to be better, he will excel in the secretarial duties with pride. Let us examine the roles of the secretary in greater details.
The roles of a secretary
The following are the roles of the secretary:
- Organizing the office
- Petty cash
- Convening of meetings
- Meeting notes
- Carrying out instructions
- Giving information
Organizing the office
In a fairly big organization or society, there will be properly equipped offices with typist and other office attendants.
The office activities will be that of a business environment in the case of a company or a large corporation where the secretary would be a paid official.
However, for an association that meets once in a month or a week, the secretary could be a voluntary role or elected but might not be on salary.
Alternatively, a large number of organizations do not need such a structure and the secretary is voluntary part-time worker, doing the business either from his own home or from a small office elsewhere.
It is to this voluntary worker that a few hints may be useful.
Have a definite place in which to keep the books and papers of the society, and do not allow them to get mixed up with anything else.
To simplify this, there should be a few items of office equipment such as:
- A folder for the letters awaiting attention
- A folder for the business concerning each committee
- A lettered box files for correspondence
- A postage book
- A minute book for each committee or sub-committee.
- An account book for petty cash and cash box in which to keep the money.
- Alphabetical card index for members’ names and addresses.
- A computer is a great asset.
Whatever system is adopted, it should be simple, methodical and tidy so that, should the secretary meet with some sudden accident, or be obliged to give up his work without adequate warning, someone else can take over and the work be carried on without undue disruption.
If the secretary has an office elsewhere than in his own home, he should endeavour to set aside a definite time during each week when he will be available to any members who may wish to contact him.
Whenever possible, mails should be answered within twenty-four hours. A copy of the replies to all letters should be made and attached to the original before filing.
If, however, a copy is not practicable, a note of the reply and the date should be made on the letter.
Unless the secretary’s name appears on the heading of the notepaper, a woman should always giver her prefix (Mrs., or Miss) when signing letters, e.g. A. C. Okeke (Miss), Alice Musa (Mrs.), initials with no prefix presuppose that the writer is a man.
A file should be kept in which all letters, both received and dispatched, are entered on the correct date. This saves many an argument in tracing the last letter and, if accurately carried out, can also keep the postage account straight.
At this communication age when the net is the order of the day, the organization should have an email where all mails are to be received and dispatched.
The secretary will need petty cash for current expenses such as mails, transportation etc. This should be obtained from the treasurer, and a careful account must be kept of all expenditure. It is also advisable to have a cash box with a lock.
It is an axiom of law and good management never to mix personal monies with those held in trust for others.
Bill for amounts of more than a certain amount are usually paid by cheque by the treasurer. When the organization is very well small, or has few funds, the secretary may also act as treasurer.
Convening of meetings
It is the secretary’s duty to send out notices generally by mails, sms of all meetings. It’s not actually correct procedure to call a meeting by phone or personal contact as mistakes as to time and date, etc. can arise.
Plenty of time must be allowed. Dates will, of course be arranged with the chairman. The agendas for committee meetings will also be drawn up by the secretary and chairman.
Meeting notes are an accurate but condensed record of what takes place at a meeting, and it is the duty of the secretary to make this record.
Minutes must be taken at every meeting, at which any business concerning the organization is transacted.
They are always necessary for a committee meeting and annual general meeting, usually for a conference, but not for a public meeting, or debates and discussions, though some regular debating societies and discussion groups do record their meetings in this way.
Inexperienced secretaries are often rather worried about the method of taking minutes and what to put into them.
There are various ways of taking minutes. In the time past, a big organization always had a typist in attendance who will take down verbatim everything said at the meeting.
This will then be typed out and from it the secretary will make a précis for the minutes.
But in this time when technology has swept the world, it is common to have a recorder standby to record everything at the meeting, though this doesn’t make the secretary’s minute irrelevant.
The more usual method is for the secretary to make notes during the meeting and write up the record afterwards; but if this is done, the minutes should be written up as soon as possible, while the proceedings are still fresh in mind.
Minutes must be condensed and to the point. Perhaps it will clarify what should be put into them if they are regarded as a history of the organization.
They must therefore record all important facts and the outcome of discussions, but details of the actual discussion and irrelevant chat should be omitted.
For instance, it is not necessary to record what Mr. Segun said and that Mrs. Igwe disagreed with him, only the ultimate decision arrived at by the meeting.
The wording of resolution and amendments must be recorded in full and the name of the proposer and seconder given, whether they are eventually carried or not. Learn more about meeting notes here.
The writing of reports requires a clear and logical mind coupled with knowledge of the matter to be reported, but is not difficult.
A report is statement of fact, a history of work deals with by the organization and should be brief and interesting.
Every organization, however small should have its annual report, which is the account of the year’s work presented by the committee to the members at the annual general meeting.
It is the duty of the secretary to compile this report, in which he is usually assisted by the chairman.
When reading reports, attention would be paid to delivery; how often have we all listened or tried to listen to the mumbled, garbled reading of documents, the contents of which we have failed to grasp because we were unable to hear properly.
Reports and minutes should always be read standing, with the script held well up so that the head is not bent, as this causes the voice to travel downwards, with result that only those in the immediate vicinity can hear.
Stand quietly and avoid fidgeting with the feet or hands. Read clearly and slowly and don not be afraid to pause at the end of a sentence or paragraph.
The wise secretary makes himself thoroughly familiar with whatever he has to read, so that he can give words and phrases their proper value.
And does not need to keep his eyes glued to the script, but can look up at the audience form time to time while finishing a sentence.
Carrying out instructions
The secretary must always carry out the instructions of his committee, whether he personally agree with them or not.
It is within his province to decide details of office administration, but he must not make any decision affecting the work of the society without consulting the chairman and/or committee, unless empowered to do so.
When a secretary has proved himself competent, he is often given considerable freedom in this respect, but it not his by right of office.
In many cases the secretary finds himself in the position of liaison officer between the ordinary members and the committee and other officers and interesting aspect of his work but one requiring tact and discretion.
He is often the receptacle of grievances and complaints, as members will frequently tell him these in the hope that he will report them in the proper quarter; tact and understanding are needed to know when this should or should not be done.
On many occasions, the secretary is able to smooth over difficulties and prevent misunderstandings, but he must exercise great discretion to ensure that he is neither guilty of any breach of confidence nor gives away inside information.
It will be appreciated how greatly the secretary can influence the running and atmosphere of the organization and conversely, how much harm can be done by slackness and indiscretion.
As with the chairman, it is essential that the secretary should have a sound knowledge of common procedure and of the rules of his organization.
Details of the procedure used in different types of meetings will be found under the appropriate chapter, but a few general rules affecting the secretary may be helpful.
- The secretary should not give his personal views at a meeting unless asked to do so by the chairman.
- Whether or not the secretary has a vote will be laid down in the rules of the organization. Roughly speaking, this depends upon the method of his election. If he is elected at the annual general meeting to the office of secretary, he will not have a vote; but if he is first elected as a member of the committee and subsequently made secretary by that committee, then he will have a vote.
- The secretary does not take the chair in the absence of the chairman except to get a substitute appointed, as in the case of a vote of “no confidence” in the chairman, or some sudden emergency.
- If in doubt on any point, the secretary can, and should ask the chairman to clarify this point before passing on to the next item, as he must be quite clear on the matter if the minutes are to be accurate.
- In some voluntary organizations, it is considered courteous for the secretary to offer his resignation to the members if the chairman is retiring. This will probably not be accepted but gives the new chairman an opportunity to nominate someone else if he wishes. There is no rule on this point and it must be left to the discretion of the secretary to make the gesture, or not, according to circumstances.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Personal Development Content Creator and an author. I write about life ethics and love to document and share life hacks and experiences of people to help others make good life decisions.
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