Running a good Board meeting is a learned skill. It is striking a delicate balance between efficiency and providing Board members the opportunity to be heard. Hallmarks of a good meeting include:
- A maximum 2.5 hour time frame
- A minimum of one week's advance notice of the meeting agenda, previous meeting's minutes, financials, and copies of any material to be discussed in the meeting
- Starting on time
- Ending on time
- Sticking to the agenda
- Requirement that Board members come prepared and have read their Board packet in advance
- Knowing Robert's Rules of Order
None of this is rocket science, of course, but it's surprising how over time rules will be bent until they are almost unrecognizable.
Board meetings are about respect: Respect for the volunteer Board member's time by the CEO; respect for the CEO's advice by the Board; respect for each other's opinions in the Board room; and respect for the fiduciary duty privilege granted by the members that voted the Board members into office.
That need for respect becomes especially evident when it comes to the relationship between the CEO and the President. Typically a collaboration between these two, functionality and efficiency can break down if they don't get along. Frustrated with a volunteer leader who may not see things "their way," the CEO/EVP can become overbearing, dominating volunteers by using their experience to kill any initiative they do not like. On the other hand, volunteer Presidents can be officious, seeking to dominate the CEO and the Board with their position of authority and their vision. It is up to the other Board members to ensure that this does not happen.
Bravery isn't something usually discussed when it comes to Board member behavior, but I think it's relevant because it takes bravery to go against the tide, to speak up when no one else will, to defend someone you may not even care for - simply because it's the right thing to do.
And that brings me back full-circle, because bravery shouldn't be necessary in the Board room. In a well-run meeting, if you have something important to say, you should be given the space to speak your mind - succinctly. I'm not saying that everyone should be heard all the time because a well-run meeting also ends discussion and moves on when necessary, but it is balancing those two goals that makes Board members feel like their time and effort is being respected.
We've all been in meetings that dragged on and on - and I'll bet that most of us have been in meetings dominated wholesale by an individual. Allowing either to occur will encourage your best volunteers not to waste their time in your meeting. - CP