Over the past eight years, we have evolved our board meetings to be increasingly effective. Having sat on other boards and through too many of our own old board meetings, it is striking to see the changes and improvements that have developed through experience. Someone suggested that I describe our current board meeting structure as one model for running a good board meeting.
The first crucial ingredient is a critically-thinking executive committee that is able to help co-design the agenda for each board meeting . This often takes two iterations but really ensures the agenda and docket are set up for success. As we craft and refine the agenda, we ask ourselves:
Are we clear on the desired outcome for each section? Are we providing the necessary information, framework and recommendations to enable effective decision making on items requiring action? How might the agenda item get derailed, and how do we proactively address the issue?Is there any part of the agenda that could be done over email or in committee? Are we providing the necessary content and discussion at each meeting to engage people in the mission and strategy and not just in the routines of running a board?
Within the agenda for each meeting, we identify one featured piece of content where we can have a richer conversation . This is a deep dive into one topic that can range from a show-and-tell about a project we just did for a partner to a key strategic decision we need to make to the state of our current IT infrastructure. For these, we often ask a member of the staff to prepare and present the content . This creates a development opportunity for them while also exposing the board to our amazing team. They typically present for 30 minutes and then either open the conversation up to structured brainstorming (if that is the desired outcome) or a framework for making a decision is that is needed.
This is all set up in a docket that is sent to board members a week in advance for them to read. This enables us to avoid “reading aloud” at the meeting and jump into the content.
Like everything, it is a work in progress, but it is working.
Aaron Hurst is the President & CEO at the Taproot Foundation.