Having recently attended a Board meeting in which a Board member asked for this help in being a more effective participant, I thought I would pass along her suggestions.
- Provide nametags or table tents. Tents are better because they can get left for future meetings more easily. This especially helps new members, but it is often hard to remember regular members’ names when they are not seen often. Then one spends the meeting time trying to remember the name(s).
- Post an acronym chart at every meeting. For example, when someone rapidly talks about the CDF, with the assumption that everyone knows what the CDF (Community Development Fund) is, some in the room aren’t as familiar with the community resources, the information is lost and Board members feel isolated or ineffective.
- Make it a policy that every Board member has an obligation to contribute in the meeting. That is, members are expected to contribute their opinions, ideas, and suggestions. The Board Chair makes this happen. He/she solicits input by the style of leading. “Tom, you talked to me about _____. Tell us more”. “Barbara, I sense you have some reservations about this approach. What are you thinking”?
- Encourage and support respectful dissent and disagreements. The Chair, again, sets the tone for this to occur by seeking differences of opinions. “ I can’t believe we all agree on this. Who has a different approach”?
- Be clear and open about time allotments for input. Running an open and candid meeting sometimes leads to a person ‘hogging’ the meeting time. It is the Chair’s responsibility to take that person aside, thank them for their commitment to the organization, but tactfully suggest, in the interest of time, that she/he summarize the input or send the Chair an email with the specifics. I have discovered that there is no better way to lose Board members than to have the ‘joker’ or the long-winded member who makes everyone uncomfortable.
- End the meetings on time. If more time is required, the Chair should ask if people can stay longer, or should the discussion be scheduled for another time.
I am sure there are more hints to making Board meetings more successful. Please let me know your thoughts.
Author: Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org