Today we launch into a new section in our Board Basics Training course. We are going to shift focus from documents and policies to what you need for the best possible board meetings. Board meetings are the most vital (and often time consuming) aspect of what it means to be a board member on an organization’s board of directors. We’ve spoken about the three duties all board members need to abide by and all three relate directly to the work done within a board meeting. But here’s the thing: board meetings can sometimes be an utterly dysfunctional experience.
What do your board meetings look like?
This is a question we are going to ask you to reflect upon throughout this week.
On average, how many of your board members regularly attend board meetings? Do you have one or two board members who rarely (if ever) attend?
The bylaws of an organization should have a clause that relates directly to board attendance and involvement. Often, there will be an allowance for missed meetings – something along the lines of “no more than two meetings missed without notice.” In addition, there should be a clause in your bylaws regarding the removal of board members and/or the repercussions of missing multiple board meetings.
Having all of your board members regularly attend meetings is vital to the health and happiness of your organization for several reasons:
- Attending regular meetings means that all board members are aware of, involved in, and consulted for major decisions that relay directly to the organization.
- It is a duty of all board members to be aware of and monitor financial and operational issues for the board – these are items discussed and decided upon at board meetings.
- Your board members have made a commitment to your organization, one they agreed upon and are accountable for. If a board member does not fulfill their end of that agreement, they are putting extra work onto those members of the board who are fully engaged.
If you have a board member who does not regularly attend board meetings or, for that matter, does not participate on committees, it is important to address the issue head-on. This is where the individual board member and teamwork evaluations come in. Their responses to both evaluations will provide the board’s leadership with an insight into where the person is coming from. Maybe they are rethinking their involvement. Furthermore, the board member job description is key both in your recruitment of new board members and holding your current board members accountable. Having as much information available as possible at hand helps the board’s leadership when addressing un-engaged board members.
Willing and Able Scale
Some people will be willing to join the board but find they are unable to maintain the workload and time required. Others will be able to perform the duties of a board member but be unwilling to do so. Both ends of the spectrum are understandable but both need to play into the decision for a board member to remain. We all have demands on our time – work, family…life. Those priorities can easily push involvement with an organization, especially as a board member, off of the calendar.
Asking the tough question
Having a conversation with an un-engaged board member can be difficult to the point of avoindance. This, too, is understandable. No one really likes confrontation and, for many organizations, the thought of losing a board member (even one who is not holding their own weight) is too much to bear. But there is an important and valid argument to be made as to why you should address the issue with the individual head on…Respect. You should treat them with the respect they deserve with the dialogue of involvement. They should likewise respect the time and care other board members are giving to the organization and how their lack of involvement adds weight and work on them.