Sunday, October 19, 2014

Effective nonprofit board meetings: Questions, engagement, energized exits


"Amen."

I said that a lot while watching this brief video from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The themes of what is shared will ring familiar to regular readers of this blog. But the chance to share these expert voices advocating for the kinds of meaningful member engagement - and discussion-focused agendas - in board meetings feels like a great idea this week.

A few of the highlights to point out as you watch:

  • Bruce Lesley's call for "thoughtful" agendas and treatment of board meetings as events - where  there is clarity about what is to be accomplished, where the board chair acts as facilitator and draws out participation by every member. Oh, and most noteworthy (because of its clear departure from where our usual attention is focused): awareness of "how you want people to feel during and after the meeting." I love that he's raising member experience as a concern to which we should be tending. Fulfilled, stimulate members are productive leaders.
  • Ben Klasky's description of  how his board uses consent agendas to free up time for substantive discussions, often conducted in small groups to encourage full participation. Doing so, he says, allows focus on asking for and receiving board advice on pressing questions and concerns - a far better use of members' time and expertise than asking them to listening to endless "talking heads" reports. (Note his lack of anxiety, as a CEO, over not having his time to share an oral version of his report to his board. EDs, the world won't end if we receive your updates in writing.)
  • Ruth Jones' observation about how flipping her board's agenda ensures that prime thinking time is spent on forward-thinking discussions on topics that matter, moving fiduciary/oversight functions until the end.
  • Jones talking about how attention to building relationships and trust is time well spent for her board. And absolutely priceless to me as a board member: her description of how they use that investment in relationships to create meeting experiences where "people leave the meeting feeling...more stimulate and energized than when they arrived." As she so wisely observes: "A board meeting where people leave feeling drained and tired is a board meeting that has failed in its purpose."
A. Men.

If you were to pick one piece of advice from what is shared in this video to implement in your board, what would it be and why?


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