Why is it that so many board members and executive directors dread board meetings?
Why do they consider them a waste of time? or boring? or a minefield? And why does this dread too often turn into a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Putting aside the personality factors over which none of us has any control, board meeting distress is most often the result of one or more of the following:
1. Lack of preparation
2. Poor agenda planning
3. Unskilled leadership
If these are the reasons things go wrong, look at their flip side to figure out how to make them go right. Here are some recommendations.
1. Make sure everyone is thoroughly prepared.
Before the meeting, distribute written reports on all information the board needs in order to fulfill its responsibilities: financial statements, executive director’s update, program updates, etc. Keep the written materials crisp and highlight anything that may require board action.
Also distribute the prior meeting’s minutes, drafts of any proposed policy or by-law changes with explanations and rationales, and, of course, the agenda (more about this below).
Circulate this board packet no more than a week before the meeting. Send it earlier and it will either be read and forgotten or, even worse, put aside, unread and forgotten.
Have hard copies of the full packet available for everyone at the meeting.
2. Develop a well-thought out, time sensitive and interesting agenda.
Make the development of the agenda a joint effort of the board president and the executive director.
Remember that a board meeting is for ACTION, not show-and-tell.
Allow ample time for discussion of the challenging issues the board must consider. Indicate how much time has been allotted to and who is leading the discussion of each item.
Give board members a “gift” with each meeting….an interesting speaker talking about a relevant issue, a field trip to a program site, a chance to meet some of your clients or specialist employees. This opportunity to learn something new is a reward for their service.
3. Manage the meeting with a sure hand.
Running the meeting is the responsibility of the board president. It is his/her job to be prepared, know the basics of Robert’s Rules, anticipate problems and discuss “hot” issues with members before the meeting, all to make sure that the meeting is productive.
It is also the president’s job to keep the discussion focused, manage personality issues, stick to the agenda and watch the clock.
Finally, the president should end the meeting with a summary of decisions made and tasks assigned for the next meeting.
Everyone should leave a board meeting with a sense of accomplishment and a renewed commitment to the organization.
At WEI, we know how to help you achieve that outcome. To get help from us, click here.