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Practical Strategies to Make Board Meetings More Productive and Efficient

A recent article provided some practical guidelines outlined below to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of board meetings and strategies to avoid common pitfalls.  

  • To combat tardiness, encourage board members to gather about half an hour before the scheduled meeting informally over coffee. The board chairperson should monitor the time and encourage members to be prepared for a prompt start.
  • Provide agenda and reports at least one week ahead of the meeting to encourage members to prepare and become familiar with the materials.
  • Keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand. The chairperson should keep the meeting focused on the topic without appearing to be too overbearing. It may also be helpful to have a time limit for discussion, though not necessarily a formal time keeping process that is rigidly enforced.
  • Limit private discussions. The board chair may wish to politely yet firmly stop private discussions on the side. It may be necessary for the chairperson to meet with certain members privately after the meeting to address the problem.
  • Move toward compromise when a decision cannot be reached. The chairperson can direct proceedings so that each side gives a little until an acceptable compromise is reached.
  • When discussion and proceedings are dominated by one or two strong characters it can destroy the motivation for the other board members. If the offender is an overbearing board chair, then over the long term, the board should identify a future board chair who is willing to deliberately halt any domineering behavior by the current chair. For members whose “expert” opinions tend to overpower the opinions of others,  board members should identify and work to empower other members in specific areas of governance and thus gradually reduce the influence of the offending member.