How are those board meetings and board committee meetings going? Do they drag on endlessly? Are they accomplishing anything? Does everyone look forward to them? Do they give you energy or drain it from you and others?

We had a problem with board and some committee meetings that went on too long and had become tedious. Some directors were coming to meetings less than fully prepared. Our directors fell into one of two camps: either they sat around waiting as the others caught up, or they spent the evening flipping through their papers (previously sent to them) to understand the issues on the table.

We had to do something because we knew we could not recruit or retain quality board members by subjecting them to ineffective board meetings. We decided to face the issue head on so we addressed director responsibilities as an agenda item.

First, we built the “burning platform” for everyone, outlining the problem we faced, and its implications if this problem persisted. This got everyone on the same page (a shared problem that everyone owned) so we all could create a shared solution with across the board buy-in.

Then, we had staff commit to getting the board packet out one week prior to our monthly board meetings…allowing for an occasional last second update of real-time data.

Finally, we asked every board member to commit to coming to meetings fully prepared.  No more studying up-or getting educated-on the fly. We wanted engaging, robust discussion and an end to innocent apologies we had been hearing from some directors who had been asking for a “Reader’s Digest” summary of the issues. Everyone agreed to do their part.

Results: Meetings moved along much more smoothly and we spent our valuable and limited time addressing our key issues. As a side benefit, we saw 1-2 directors drop off the board. Not so coincidently, they were the ones who rarely came prepared and usually slowed us down.

Lesson learned: Do not be afraid to set a high bar for director expectations. Your A-Plus directors will appreciate attending effective, productive meetings and the marginal ones will probably self-elect out.

If you are having problems in this area, call me and let’s talk about it.