Hi there! Whether you are a new Secretary, a veteran, or just curious about what this role entails, I hope you can find your answer here. If not, ask one of the role leads or your fellow Secretaries!

Secretary Fun Facts

Before we go on a deep dive into this role, some quick facts that are important to know about the Secretary role

  • It’s one of the elected roles, meaning that if you’ve been chosen as Secretary by your circle, they have a lot of trust in your abilities 💜
  • The Secretary has a secret superpower: interpreting the Holacracy constitution and our own governance in case there’s conflict about the interpretation 💪
  • A good, proactive Secretary can really help making the meetings feel smooth and frictionless, so that the other participants can fully focus on solving their tensions ⚡
Quick Start Guide for Newly Elected Secretaries Just got the Secretary role? Congrats! Here are a couple of quick tips to get you started. - Make sure you get ownership of the circle’s meetings in the Google Calendar from the previous Secretary - Use your best judgement to see if there’s anything you want changed in the frequency, duration or scheduling of the meeting (this is your authority as secretary now!) - Read this guide 😎

What does the Secretary do? (+ tips & tricks)

In short, the Secretary is the role that cares about recordkeeping for the circle, scheduling meetings, and interpreting the constitution when necessary. But each of these tasks comes with a little bit of nuance and some tips & tricks, so let’s look at them in detail.

Purpose of the Role

The purpose of the Secretary role is to Stabilize the Circle’s constitutionally-required records and meetings.

In normal English, and for our organization, that means that you take care of capturing the output of tactical & governance meetings (those are the only constitutionally required meetings!).

As Secretary you actually have a domain on all governance records of the circle!

Now let’s look at the accountabilities of the role.


Secretary Accountabilities

1. Scheduling regular Tactical Meetings for the Circle

Your accountability as Secretary is to schedule tactical meetings for the Circle.

The Holacracy constitution does not say anything about how often these meetings should happen, or how long they should take. As Secretary: use your best judgement when scheduling. You can use input from other circle members for this, but ultimately it is your call in how, when and where to schedule your tactical meetings. Common patters are a Tactical every week or every other week, and Governance once a month, but it really depends on what your circle needs!

The constitution does have something to say about who should be invited for the meetings!

For regular Tactical Meetings convened by a Circle's Secretary, all of the Circle's Roles are invited unless a Policy says otherwise - art. 3.1

But…it can be quite difficult (or nearly impossible) to find a timeslot where all circle members are actually available, especially for bigger circles. Use your best judgement with planning. Tactical meetings are not mandatory to attend, so no big deal if someone occasionally can’t make it to the meeting.

2. Capturing and publishing Tactical Meeting outputs

This means you note and share the outputs that are collected during the Tactical meeting, like next-actions or projects. It does not mean that you have to make classic meeting notes (i.e. a full representation of everything that’s been said during the meeting).

Because we use GlassFrog during meetings, it’s probably most useful to capture any outputs there, although most circles now use Notion to capture their projects on their circle page. As Secretary it’s handy to keep both at hand, so you can capture output as you go.

As Secretary you can be proactive: listen for any next actions or projects that pop up during conversations and start typing them in GlassFrog. This makes the meeting run smoothly. However, before you click ‘save’, it’s really important that you check with the colleague whose tension it is, if this is indeed what they want. Being proactive is not the same as deciding for others 😉

3. Scheduling Governance Meetings for the Circle

Similar to scheduling Tactical Meetings, you can use your best judgement and full authority to schedule regular Governance meetings as you see fit.

However…you must also honor any request for specially scheduled Governance meetings! Unlike a Tactical, that can be spontaneously planned by any role with any role they want (without needing the Secretary), Governance meetings must be scheduled by the Secretary. This type of ‘emergency’ meeting (or not-regularly scheduled meeting) can be really useful if, for example, there’s an async governance proposal that needs to be discussed in a meeting, but the next meeting is still a few weeks away.

And, you must give all circle members ‘reasonable advance notice’ of the meeting. The constitution does not specify what is reasonable in this case, so use your best judgement.

4. Capturing and publishing the outputs of the Circle’s Governance Process

As Secretary you can be proactive during Governance meetings to make the meetings feel smooth. Sometimes Circle Members have already prepared a proposal (protip: you can import this in GlassFrog), other times they only bring a tension and a proposal needs to be crafted during the meetings. This is where you can really help! But again, always check with the proposer if you are capturing the right thing.

During Governance meetings in GlassFrog there is a little scratchpad on the left side of the screen. This is for you! You can capture any reactions during the reaction round, any drafted amendments to the proposal, and any objections. Or whatever else you feel is helpful.

5. Interpreting the Constitution and anything under its authority upon request

Secretary Superpower! 💪

Rarely used in practice, but really helpful to have as a safety measure: the Secretary has the power to interpret the constitution and our organizations’ governance records. You may also declare a ‘process breakdown’ in your own circle or any subcircle if they show a pattern of regularly breaking the constitution, as well as removing any invalid governance from GlassFrog! For more details, see the Holacracy Constitution section 4.2.

As a Partner (=colleague, red.), your interpretation of this Constitution and the Organization's Governance may sometimes conflict with another Partner's. When that happens, either party may ask the Secretary of any affected Circle to rule on which interpretation to use, and the Secretary is accountable for interpreting the Constitution and anything under its authority upon request. After a Secretary responds, everyone must align with that Secretary's ruling until the relevant text or context changes.

Level up your Secretary Skills

And no, we don’t mean that you get better at taking notes (a Secretary is not accountable for taking meeting notes, remember?). But there are a couple of things you can do to become a better Secretary!

Watch This Webinar 👇

Audio quality is not great, but the content is really good and it’s full of little tips to become a better Secretary.

Read the Constitution

We know…it’s not the most exciting read ever but the new version 5 is a lot better than the old one, promise ✌️. And…it’s your accountability to interpret the constitution, so it really helps if you’ve read it at least once so you know what’s in there. It’s available in several languages, also in Dutch! 🇳🇱

Become a GlassFrog & Notion Poweruser!

These are the tools we use the most during meeting, and GlassFrog is the single source of truth for our organizational governance. And your responsibility! Take some time to get familiar with the tools you use.

GlassFrog has pretty extensive help pages that will probably contain the answer to your question. And the host of the webinar linked above has lots of good tips as well, and in the article below are five short ‘how-to’ videos!