Better board meetings

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Love them or hate them, the vast majority of work done by boards is done in meetings. Knowing how to have effective and productive meetings is a key skill for any board team. This involves having the right content, in the form of a well thought out agenda, informative briefing papers, and challenging discussions regarding the decisions to be taken. In addition, it is vital that behaviours in the boardroom encourage everyone to give their opinion, be heard, and consider all other opinions.

The purpose of board meetings is different from operational meetings held by staff.

At board meetings:

  • Organisational strategy is decided
  • The board delegates delivery of the strategy to staff, and monitors performance towards achieving agreed targets
  • Key policies and procedures are agreed
  • Strategic risks are managed
  • The board assures itself that the organisation is being run in line with the law and relevant regulations
  • The needs and wants of all key stakeholders, like customers, shareholders, funders and staff are considered
  • The skills required in the boardroom to deliver the board’s role in strategic delivery are debated and agreed, and board development plans are put in place
  • Staff are held to account, and recognised for a job well done

It’s a lot to get through, but it’s easier if your meetings are well planned out, board members come prepared and everyone demonstrates appropriate behaviours.

The first step is to map out your annual meeting agenda. Even with the best will in the world, it would be impossible to get through all of the items listed above at every meeting in the detail required. For this reason, your board may want to carry out some work in committees, and plan when items come to meetings. Some things, such as financial and performance reports, should come to each and every board meeting.

Others, such as the strategic risk register, might be discussed at every other meeting, while others, such as the board effectiveness review and succession plan might be discussed annually. If you plan in advance, your board will fall in to a natural rhythm, and board members will be ready for the ‘big’ tasks when they come up.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at how best to plan meetings, how to conduct them, and tips for getting the most out of meeting participants. Our first tip is to work the content of the list above into your governance calendar so that tasks don’t get put off, and your whole board can prepare properly. Happy meetings everyone!

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