Monday, July 23, 2012

The Best Board Meeting I Ever Attended

I recently read an article in the May Board Member newsletter which is a publication of BoardSource that really struck a cord with me, because I often hear from executive directors about their frustration over board meeting ineffectiveness and poor attendance. The article is called “The Best Board Meeting I Ever Attended” and it was written by Les Wallace, Ph.D. and President of Signature Resources, Inc. in Aurora, CO. To him goes all the credit for content, I’m just giving it a huge AMEN!

Here are his nine points – in brevity and sometimes paraphrased!

1. Consent Agenda – The use of a consent agenda kept dialogue focused on issues that needed board discussion, verses issues that only needed consent. It also saved lots of valuable time at the board meeting.

2. Meeting Agenda – Most important issues were placed first on the agenda and the rest in descending order. He said there was no “old business – new business.”

3. Dashboard Financials – This was the first business item on the agenda and was presented as a one-page, color-coded dashboard of key financial indicators for monthly and year-to-date performance to budget along with a comparison from the previous year. In this organization, the finance committee does the deeper look into financial details and reports exceptions or recommendations to the entire board. I love how he says “No more distracting board members with an explanation of why postage jumped last month.”

4. Board Succession – a “Governance Leadership Succession” agenda item followed with a discussion of the list of potential future board members the board had identified and engaged. Hmmm – they talked to possible board members!

5. Re-duced Jibber-Jabber – Les said that board members had read the board packet (yeah) and the discussion was ON issue. There was no repeating what other board members had said. They kept focus on the matters at hand but were also cognizant of how they were dealing with one another. He said that through self-assessment and governance coaching they had learned to quiet the unnecessary trivial chatter!

6. Executive Summaries – Staff and committee reports/recommendations were in “executive summary” one page formats. Again, a time saver!

7. Strategic Dialogue – After completing the “business oversight” (financial accountability) the conversation focused on creation of ideas and development of new perspectives on strategy. He called the conversation “generative.”

8. Board Development – The meeting ended with a short board development section which focused on a governance article about the board’s role in enterprise risk management that board members read in advance. He said each meeting has a different topic.

9. Immediate Assessment – At the end of the meeting each board member answered 3 questions: 1) Are you leaving the meeting confident in the overall performance of our organization? 2) Did you feel you had ample opportunity for input? 3) Would you change anything for future meetings? LOVE IT!!

Holly Witt, NRS, Alexandria Charter

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