A Necessary Evil

Boards are an endurance test and a necessary evil. When was the last time you looked forward to a board meeting? If your experience is like most, it can best be captured by the words  “Don’t wait up for me, I have board meeting tonight.” By definition, Board Governance is best described as the gathering of two or more wise and capable leaders who have been entrusted with the role, authority and relationships to use their power to direct the affairs of the organization, ministry or enterprise.  And, because Boards only function when they meet, the Board meeting is the primary context for directing the affairs of the organization. Unfortunately, all too often board meetings turn into marathons of frustration rather than productive meaningful experiences. But take heart, it doesn’t have to be this way.  By following a few simple rules you can turn you board meetings into productive meaningful experiences. Always work from an agenda. The Board chairperson in concert with the CEO or Director of the organization is responsible for the preparing of the agenda. Board members should be advised to submit any agenda items two weeks prior to the board meeting. All agenda items must be screened by the Chair to ensure they are in fact Board responsibilities. All items for discussion should have back up material especially where a decision must be reached at the meeting; this material must be sent out to the board members with the agenda and any appropriate instructions at least one week prior to the meeting. The Board Chair must assign time allotments for each item on the agenda according...

Clearly Defining the Roles

Boards are gatherings of effective people who become ineffective when gathered as a board. I was recently participating in a board meeting that had gone far too long, when in frustration I began to wonder how it was possible that ten relatively successful, intelligent people could spend so much time talking about nothing. Not that the issue we were discussing was nonsense, but those around the table had very little knowledge of the issue and even less understanding of how to resolve the problem. That’s when it hit me. The reason effective people become ineffective when they serve on a board is that they don’t understand what their role as a board member really is.  No one ever explained to them what they were supposed to do when they became a board member so they default to the hat they wear or, in the case of retired individuals, wore in the workplace. For the small business owner it means making decisions on everything from the purchase of paper clips to the purchasing of property.  For the university researcher it means knowing every detail before a decision can be made.  For the school principle it often means endless philosophical discussions, and for the company executive it can mean having the final say. None of these hats are wrong, per say, nor are the individuals who wear them bad people, it’s just that when we wear them to the board room it creates confusion and frustration. The job gets further complicated when, in the church, we add the dimension of elder to the role of board member. So how do we...