Nine Elements of a High-Performance Board Meeting

Immediate assessment is among the important features of effective meetings.

July 1, 2012

The best board meeting that consultant Les Wallace of Signature Resources attended featured nine elements. In a Board Member article, Wallace describes them and how they contribute to a high-performance meeting:

1. A consent agenda. Proper use of this tool moves board discussions to more vital issues rather than rehashing the board packets.

2. Meeting agenda. So long, “Robert’s Rules.” Agendas for today’s high-performance boards move from financial information to strategic to operations, in that order. 

3. Dashboard financials. An “at-a-glance” approach allows the board to scan key indicators for monthly budget, and year-to-date performance and past-year comparisons. “The days of several pages of financials for a board to review are gone,” Wallace points out.

4. Board succession. Executive leadership succession is on the radar screen for many boards, but governance leadership succession still lags. Is your board evaluating upcoming openings in terms of whether you still have the right leaders in the pipeline? This must be an ongoing discussion.

5. Reduced chatter. Through self-assessment and governance coaching, board members learn to eliminate redundant comments that take up meeting time. Create space for meaningful dialogue during a “strategic updates” segment, which should account for 50% to 75% of meeting time in high-performing governance settings.

6. Executive summaries. Summaries should highlight key historical points and a few typical frequently asked questions relevant to governance decision making.

7. Strategic dialogue. Within 30 minutes, most boards can complete their “business oversight” or fiduciary accountability—using consent agendas, financial dashboards, and executive summaries. The bulk of a board meeting
then can focus on strategic discussions.

8. Board development. Make time for development in every board meeting agenda. Discussion of articles distributed ahead of meetings is one way to meet board development goals.

9. Immediate assessment. Consider a quick evaluation after each meeting such as these open-ended questions:

► Are you leaving the meeting confident in the overall performance of our organization?
► Did you believe you had ample opportunity for input?
► Would you change anything for future meetings?

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