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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Is your Board stuck in the weeds?

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC | 

Are you a board member or executive director of a board that frequently gets in the weeds?

Board meetings should primarily focus on governance level matters. It can be challenging, though: balancing big picture and detail-oriented thinkers, keeping conversations from going down a “rabbit-hole,” and a myriad of other issues that derail meetings.

Five tips to keep board meetings productive

  1. Distribute meeting materials at least 5 days prior to the meeting, and include a weekend. This is really non-negotiable. If you can’t get all the materials out, at a minimum distribute the financials 5 days prior. That’s a compromise. If you want board members to be informed enough to make good decisions, they need time to do their pre-meeting preparation. Independent Sector’s best practices on this topic says 7 days.
  2. Discussion topics should be on strategic issues. What are the questions on which the board needs to focus to meet their governance responsibilities? Example: The color of the napkins at the gala is NOT a strategic issue. Whether or not the organization should hold a gala IS a strategic issue.
  3. Committee chairs present recommendations, not reports. The point of having committees – with defined responsibilities and authority – is to move issues forward between board meetings. Don’t let them use board meeting time to discuss all the details. Committees need to do their work, then bring recommendations to the board for a decision.
  4. Shorten the duration of meetings. I know it’s a radical idea and some of you are shuddering thinking that you already can’t cover everything. It’s a simple fact of human nature that we fill time when we have it. Putting the most important topics first on the agenda helps keep things focused.
  5. Manage the meeting. Good meetings don’t just happen; they require active management. Establish the expectation that discussions will be kept on track. Keeping the conversation on topic (and doing so politely) can be the role of any participant, however board officers can be given this task.

I know from personal experience how hard it can be to keep board meetings focused and productive. I guarantee that by following these tips, your board meetings will produce better results, and you may even have more time to go home and enjoy some time in your (hopefully weed-free) garden.

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