How to be an active participant at board meetings
Everyone wants to feel they are making a contribution when they join a board and that their participation is valued.
As much as we want board members to be informed and prepared before board meetings we can’t force them to read all the necessary documents and materials before the actual meeting.
Who takes responsibility?
It’s up to the chairperson and CEO to prepare the agenda and ensure that background material is circulated to the members in sufficient time before the meeting - at least one week ahead of time. It's also the member's responsibility to read the materials provided and that they understand the content in preparation for the meeting.
What to avoid
What can usually happen and often does, is that board members quickly review the #agenda and materials as they arrive to the meeting.
Often I would see some members quickly scour through the content to quickly come up to speed with the main points.
The result is, you have members who are prepared and have read the materials beforehand and others who are playing catch up as the meeting proceeds.
What can happen when members are unprepared is:
they have too many questions because they haven’t reviewed the entire materials provided;
they lack the context of why and when decisions have to made;
and they have insufficient understanding of the organization as a whole.
Fish out of water
Believe it or not, professionals who are confident in the work place don't always have that same level of confidence in their role as a board member.
First time board members can feel some discomfort as they are usually the ones who have the answers in the work place and now they find themselves in a situation that is new to them.
They feel they need to act like the leader but they also need to have the patience to learn about the organization and how it operates.
When in doubt, ask
The best people to go for answers regarding the meeting agenda and supporting documents is the CEO or chairperson.
When I worked as a CEO for a nonprofit I was happy to answer any questions a board member would have about upcoming board meetings. Ultimately, it made my life easier to have informed members at the meeting table and meetings to run within the scheduled time.