Board Meetings

How do I….?

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When social media became the nonprofit sectors’ favorite broadcast medium, it was free and gaining reach daily, many conferences would hold social media breakout sessions.  They were typically titled, How To Leverage Facebook And Advance Your Mission, or something similar.  Without fail, the presenter would be interrupted by a well-meaning individual who had not signed-up for Facebook (or the social media platform the session was discussing) and ask for a tutorial on creating an account.  It was such a common occurrence that session attendees would start walking out if the presenter could not quickly refer the questioner to a resource guide.  Some conference avoided the trap by placing a disclaimers on the session, stating attendees must have an active account and be modestly proficient in navigating on the platform.  For years, I witnessed leading content experts reduced to front line tech support, everyone in the session missed the opportunity to benefit from the speaker’s knowledge and prepared remarks.

It strikes me that we often treat new board and committee members similar to the unprepared conference attendees  One of the reasons to facilitate a robust orientation process, link new board members with a mentor, communicate frequently with the new board members, and provide on-going education for the entire board, is to reduce the tech support moments.  If not everyone is operating on the same basic platform, then we cannot benefit from each others wisdom.  If our meetings are put on pause so we can allow everyone to create an account, perhaps we need to reconsider how we are setting everyone up for success in advance.  Our time is limited, how we remove obstacles in advance of assembling says a lot about our care and impact.


Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 9.27.08 AMThe meeting is wrapping up.  Agendas and handouts are re-organized, laptops shut, bags and coats grabbed.  The Board Chair states, ‘I want to go around the room and check-in with each person.’  She looks to her left and makes eye contact with the board member seated next to her.  The board member replies, ‘good meeting.’  The next board member nods and then adds, ‘I would like to know more about how we select the firm that performs our audit.’  The third person to the left of the Board Chair states, ‘I still have questions about the draft contract we reviewed to engage the marketing firm.’  A few heads nod.  The Executive Director starts to respond but the Board Chair assures everyone more details will be forthcoming.  And the process continues as each attendee is given the opportunity to share.  Some provide a thumbs up to signal all is well.  Others reflect on the momentum of the organization’s growth.  One individual alerts the group that they will be traveling next month an unable to attend the next meeting.  The check-in takes just a few minutes.  The meeting is adjourned and everyone scatters to their next commitment.

The act of the check-in, a moment of reflection, community catch-up or whichever term you choose is powerful.  It provides a platform for each individual to share that which is most pressing, concerning, or might be helpful for the good of the order.  Facilitators often use this technique when working with groups.  What would it look like if a check-in was the final act of your next board or committee meeting?  What would it feel like as a board member to share a final reflection or acknowledge an uncertainty?