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Are Your Board Meetings Productive?
Wednesday, January 6, 2016 6:40 AM

By Karen Houston-Johnson, VP, Credit Union Resources

Efficiency and effectiveness are key objectives of a good board meeting. Without concerted efforts, it's easy to waste time and resources, dampen members’ enthusiasm and interest, and end the meeting with no demonstrable results. Assist your board in structuring meetings so they will become productive for the credit union and worthwhile and interesting for all of the participants. By planning ahead and focusing on activities before, during, and after, you move closer to efficient meeting procedures and outcomes that meet the expectations. First, create an agenda that guides the meeting.

Agenda

The agenda is the recipe for the meeting. It's the tool for the chair to help guide the discussion and a reminder for the directors to stay focused.

  • Make sure the agenda ties in with the credit union’s strategic plan. Focus on your big issues.
  • Indicate which items are for discussion and which are simply informative. Identify action items and assignments.
  • Separate strategic issues, resource items, and operational matters. Start with the most important questions and indicate time limits for agenda items.
  • Make a habit of including time for board development: responsibilities of a board member, how to read financial statements, legal obligations, etc.
  • Adopt a "consent" agenda to leave more time for constructive debate or board development.

Before the Meeting

Without preparation, your meetings may end up aimless get-togethers. Make sure that, before the meeting, the following tasks have been accomplished. Think of other creative ways to get your board members ready.

  • Send the agenda and attachments to all Directors at least 7–10 days before the meeting. Color code action items. Many are using electronic documents now to save time and money.
  • Include all written reports describing past actions (last meeting minutes, committee reports).
  • Assign a contact person for any questions and clarifications for consent agenda items.
  • Include a cover page or email from the president/CEO listing issues for discussion.
  • Board members: read the material sent to you and come to the meeting prepared and ready to participate.

During the Meeting

Meetings need to be managed. Board members lose interest if they're not challenged and able to utilize their special skills. Listening to repetitive reports is not a constructive way of using limited meeting time. Make sure the majority of time is spent on future issues. Here are some choices for energizing your meetings.

  • Change the layout of the room regularly to initiate interaction and contact between different board members. If you have a large board, take advantage of small group discussions.
  • Use graphic displays, pictures, or slides as much as possible to keep all participants actively engaged and focused on the same issue.
  • Bring in experts to add an outsider’s view. Rely on staff for information when discussing various programs.
  • Try to avoid overly structured and procedural meetings; allow time for constructive and free discussion and deliberation.
  • Have a resource table in the room to place additional material for directors to browse.
  • Integrate evaluation of your meetings into the schedule periodically. Have everyone complete a short questionnaire before leaving the meeting, and change the questionnaire format regularly.

After the Meeting

Without diligent follow-up, meeting decisions easily fall into oblivion. Keep board members informed between meetings.

  • Consider integrating a standard short executive session after each board meeting for review purposes and allowing the chair to make any comments for the future.
  • Email or send by regular mail a list of any assignments to each board member with a copy to the chair.
  • Have the chair or another contact person get in touch with board members who were not able to attend the meeting.
  • Mail board members newsletters or emails of what is happening between meetings, results of meeting action items, press clippings, personal news items, or any other material that keeps the credit union in the board members’ thoughts.