Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Board Meeting Rules of Thumb: Uninspiring Agendas = Uninspiring Meetings

Your Current Reality—Check All That Apply:
[  ] 1. We frequently have empty seats at our board meetings.
[  ] 2. Unexcused absences are the norm, not the exception.
[  ] 3. Our meetings suffer from the 3 R’s: too much Reporting, been-there-done-that Routine (it’s all too predictable, even boring); and hashing over and Re-visiting past decisions.

Your Aspirations:
[  ] 1. We desire board meetings that engage our board members.
[  ] 2. We want our board members to sense they are on holy ground in our board meetings. As a board, we spiritually discern God’s voice. We tell stories about God’s faithfulness!
[  ] 3. We seek to leverage the strengths, spiritual gifts and passions of our board members—so each person thrives in their God-given board roles. 

Where are your board members on the above continuum? Ready to throw in the towel—or have they just experienced one of your best board meetings ever?

A foundational rule of thumb for board meetings can be described with this simple equation:
An Uninspiring Agenda = An Uninspiring Board Meeting

An inspiring agenda, in my opinion, includes these elements:
   • The agenda (and succinct back-up materials and staff and/or committee recommendations) arrives seven to 10 days before a board meeting.
   • The agenda highlights one to three major issues that require spiritual discernment, wisdom, insight and a high level of engagement by the board. (Options, perhaps, are given in the staff reports: Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C?)
   • The agenda sets time limits. (Example: We’ll invest 50 percent of our time on our three big issues.)
   • With advance notice of seven to 10 days, the agenda reminds board members to call the board chair or CEO if they need more information prior to the meeting.
   • The focus is on the future, not the past—and agenda items are discussed in the context of the strategic planning process. (My preference: a rolling three-year planning cycle that is reviewed quarterly and updated annually.)

In the absence of an inspiring agenda, board members will often wonder, “Why am I needed at this meeting? Do they really need my brains and my heart, or just my money and connections?” That thinking begins the unfortunate spiral south and a board member resignation often follows.

In a fascinating book to be released next week, the Commanding Officer of the U.S. President’s helicopter team, which includes Marine One, writes, 
“We are not a bunch of special Marines doing an average mission.
We are a bunch of average Marines
doing a very special mission.”
Inside Marine One: Four U.S. Presidents, One Proud Marine, and the World's Most Amazing Helicopter, by Col. Ray “Frenchy” L’Heureux

Your ministry is on a very special mission. Mediocre meetings produce mediocre missions. Inspiring meetings, with a sense of the holy, will produce inspiring missions!

QUESTION: At your next board meeting, conduct a 60-second per person drill around the room: “In your opinion, what’s the most significant contribution you have made as a board member in the last 12 months? Are we getting the best you have to offer? How can we do better?”

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