Friday, June 29, 2012

The “Quieter” Pool of Board Members

My wife and I enjoy a week of R&R every year in the California desert.  Our favorite destination has two pools: 1) the noisy and very active family pool, and 2) the “Quiet Pool.”

This year, however, the “Quiet Pool” sign had been replaced by a new sign, “Quieter Pool.” (Apparently, the resort couldn’t guarantee total “quiet” and so a staff committee must have brainstormed and posted the new normal!)

Many boards have three types of people in their board pools:
   1) Noisy
   2) Quiet
   3) Quieter

None are really helpful to Christ-centered governance—so I encourage board chairs and CEOs to be very intentional in fostering appropriate discussion at board meetings. 

Thoughtful board chairs leverage boardroom tools to create helpful dialogue. Here are several ideas:

The First 45-Minutes Rule.  Within the first 45 minutes of a board meeting, create an environment where every board member shares something. 
1) Ask a question and divide into groups of two or three board members each—so everyone can share an opinion at the top of the meeting.
2) Pose a question and then ask each person (around-the-table) to answer the question in one minute or less (use the timer on your iPhone). It might be: “Give us some good news about your personal life.” Or, “What is one thing about this ministry that gives you great joy?”

Delegate Your Reading. In preparation for a recent board retreat, we pre-assigned the seven chapters from Jim Collins’ latest book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All. We all read the entire book, but seven people each shared 10-minute chapter reviews.  In 70 minutes, we had mastered the content of the book—and discussed the implications for this ministry. 

This format gave our “quiet” and “quieter” board members an uninterrupted 10-minutes of air time to showcase their God-given insights. It was powerful!

It’s a crime to conclude a board meeting and, after the fact, note that some board members did not contribute to the discussion. You can fix that with creativity and intentionality.

Question: What methods do you leverage to tone down your noisy board members and encourage your quieter board members to speak up?


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