Is your Board Chair ready to lead the Board?
Every year, thousands of well-meaning and committed volunteers assume the reigns as the Chairman of a Board of Directors. Unfortunately, the great majority of these individuals do not have a clue as to what to do. Most of us have done a very poor job of training future leaders to guide the agency’s board when the current chair terms out. Without this training, we are very lucky when someone has the skills or innate ability to take the reigns of a voluntary board. My next few blogs will provide some tips on how we can help the new board chair do a more effective job.
HOW TO RUN AN EFFECTIVE BOARD MEETING
We will begin with chairing a board meeting. This is certainly one of the board chairs most important jobs. As I have written before, I believe that the board meeting is the key to building a successful nonprofit organization. When I start working with a new board, I give my clients a great deal of written material specifically written to help them be more effective in their job. The following content is an example.
1. Create a warm environment:
a. Welcome everyone as they arrive.
b. If there is someone who is new or has been absent for some time, go out of your way to make them feel welcome and make sure they are introduced to the others at the meeting.
2. Start on time and end on time: This sends a message that being late is unacceptable and keeps the meeting focused. A chair can always say “ I know everyone wants to get out of here on time, so let’s try to wrap this up.”
3. Board members need to know each other as people: Always go around the room and have people introduce themselves. They might add something new each time, such as what they do when not at work, vacations they have taken, interesting movies they seen, etc. This is not a waste of time but actually facilitates getting the work done by giving people an opportunity to speak, which leads to more engagement in the meeting. Besides, it makes being a Board member more enjoyable.
4. Provide context: Review agenda and indicate what you hope to accomplish at the meeting.
5. Minutes: Make sure someone is taking minutes.
6. Control the meeting:
a. Make sure that people raise their hand and go through the chair before they talk. This keeps the more aggressive members from dominating and gives everyone a fair chance to express their views.
b. Avoid conversations between people: This is a business meeting and not a kitchen-table chat. If a dialogue between two or three people is important, allow it to happen, but only under your control.
7. Don’t abuse the chair: Your role is to be the orchestra leader, not the soloist. If you have strong feelings about something, ask someone else to assume the chair so you can talk. Too many chairs make meetings a dialogue between themselves and the Board.
8. Staff: Have your staff person sit next to you so that they can communicate easily by note or by occasionally by whispering if needed. They are not just another member of the Board, but the agency representative, and it is their responsibility to provide information or clarify policies and procedures.
9. Reach closure: Make sure that everyone agrees what the outcome of a discussion has been by summarizing and asking for confirmation. If a decision cannot be made or the discussion is running too long, table the item or send it to a committee for more work.
10. Get feedback: At end of meeting ask people for their reactions to the meeting and what could be done to make it better meeting.
Is this the type of checklist that would be helpful to your chair? What would you add?
Next blog: What are the important elements of a successful board meeting?