Having the Right People at Meetings

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Attending meetings takes a high percentage of the working life of a board. Ensuring the right people are sitting at the table takes a little planning, but if properly thought out, can ensure that board members are only at relevant meetings, to which they can contribute meaningfully.

Why do I need to think about who to invite to meetings?

It may seem obvious that all board members should be invited to all board meetings. However, what about staff, advisers and stakeholders? Who should attend committee meetings? The number of meeting participants can easily spiral. While some people value being able to hear everything first hand, others are happy with being given a summary or reading the minutes of meetings in which they have no direct contribution. In general, the more people there are in a meeting, the more difficult it is to keep on track and ensure everyone’s views are heard. However, if too few people attend, the meeting may not have a quorum, and thus be unable to make decisions.

How do I go about deciding who should attend meetings?

Attendance at meetings is largely driven by the purpose of the meeting and the meeting agenda. Knowing what you want to get out of the meeting is the first step to knowing who to invite to it. Some agenda items may be more appropriate for a committee or sub-group and these should be discussed with the relevant committee chair before making a decision. The constitution document of the organisation may outline who should attend meetings, and how many directors are needed for a quorum. However the most effective boards are those which expect and achieve full attendance by all board members.

In addition to board members, a minute-taker and the chief executive, the following examples suggest other relevant people to invite to meetings:

Agenda ItemSuggested Participants
Strategic PlanningDepartment heads, employee representative, stakeholder representative
 Human Resources Manager
Operational ItemsRelevant department head, sub-contractor representatives
Risk ManagementInternal auditor, department heads
Financial PerformanceFinance Director / CEO

Does the CEO attend all board meetings?

If the CEO is also a board member, they are entitled to attend all meetings except where there may be a conflict of interest (for instance when discussing staff remuneration). If the CEO is not also a board member, it is normal for them to attend most board meetings to report on progress, however from time to time it may be appropriate for board meetings to be held without the CEO. This can be due to the need to discuss some issues without the CEO in attendance, or it may be to strengthen the board as a team. Whatever the reason, it should be clearly stated to the CEO which meetings they should not attend and the rationale for this.

Further information

Is this an area of concern for you? Contact Leading Governance for more help.