Real Board Solutions - Advising Chief Staff Officers and Board of Directors ||
A Message From Terry


Why is it that between 25 and 50 per cent of people report feeling overwhelmed or burned out at work? I suspect that per cent is much higher within our association and not for profit sector as we are expected to do much more with less, in today's new economy. Could much of this be due to the countless hours we spend in unproductive meetings many of which are a frustrating waste of time? I think so; ask your colleagues and/or board of directors. Boring disorganized meetings are rampant in our sector. For you who have impeccable highly productive meetings all of the time, congratulate yourselves as you are a part of the exceptional minority.

For the rest of us there is hope. It's a proven fact, most if not all meetings can be reduced in time by fifty percent and be more productive. While it's not going to happen overnight following the 7 steps below will begin this process and give you more time to be productive. (Another benefit of shorter, more productive meetings will be an added bonus when you begin to sell your succession plan to potential Board members.) Individuals, paid and volunteers want more results and have less time to spend in unorganized unproductive meetings.

Terry Clark

PS: Welcome to all the new readers who joined the Real Board Solutions Community this month. Enjoy!

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So let's have a look at the 7 steps to begin reducing your meeting times by 50 per cent and having them much more productive.

Step # 1. Start and STOP on time. As an example start a meeting time at an unusual time such as 3:50 PM rather than 4:00 PM. Thank those who should respect by being on time and start the meeting at 3:50 and not a minute later. Let all the attendees know in advance when the meeting will end. Let them know when the meeting is first scheduled and then again just as the meeting begins. You will be amazed at how quickly you will glide through each agenda item. HINT: You may have a challenge in your first meeting however if you stick to this format each meeting will get better and better. Use a timed agenda for more detailed information see my blog, click here.

Step # 2. Circulate the agenda 7 to 10 days in advance along with any committee reports or back up data that will be required in order to make effective responsible decisions. Allow one opportunity for each attendee to add an agenda item. Give these attendees 24 hours to add the agenda item. I have seen as many as 5 agendas with items added just before the meeting. Attendees become confused, the meeting disorganized, backup information for these added agenda items is not always provided, decisions must be delayed or worse, rushed through with little thought or debate.

Step #3. We each receive as many as 60-80 emails per day. I recently received an agenda plus backup materials that totaled 82 pages and the meeting is tomorrow evening. That may seem a lot to some of you however for others that meet quarterly or are involved in the public sector this amount of pages is not really unusual. Printing these is not environmentally friendly. The only way I can effectively handle this is to email these to my IPad and take my IPad to the meeting. At first I resisted this until I was the only one showing up at the meeting without their IPad. So, step # 3 is maximizing the available technology. Can't afford an IPad? Then take your laptop. . . .

Step #4. Use a consent agenda, not sure what a consent agenda is? See my blog for more detailed information see my blog: click here.

Step # 5. Gracefully eliminate unnecessary discussion. Committee work is to begin by committees; operational work to be done by staff, long orations or unnecessary verbal reports must be shorted or preferably eliminated. This does not mean eliminating necessary debate and/or questions in order to make informed decisions.

Step # 6. Where possible provide clear written pre circulated motions for board consideration. We all know this cannot be done all of the time however it can be done much of the time. The very fact that a motion is in writing especially with a backgrounder will provide for clarity in problem solving and responsible decision making.

Step #7. Conduct a short post-meeting evaluation. This can be a simple as a short roundtable discussion with the meeting chair asking the questions; well how did we do today and how can we do better new meeting? Simple, it allows for casual constructive conversation. There are elaborate and valuable templates which provide much more data however that's a topic for another Ezine.

As meetings become more productive and occur in much less time always leave board members the appropriate time for 'question period' to enable Board members to ensure they have done their due diligence. Hurried, uninformed decision making will always come back to haunt you.

Don't worry if you can't accomplish all of this as I can help you. There are many questions including what you can do about a board that cannot make a decision, see my blog click here. You can reach me at 1. 888.531.5796 to do discuss these and other items such as in camera meetings procedures, quorums, Rules of order, decorum, enhanced techniques, between meeting essentials and board meeting orientation.

Your Assignment

Certainly boards must be held accountable to exercise their core fiduciary duties: the duty of care -- to be attentive board members, participate in meetings, read board materials and minutes, and be knowledgeable about the organization, its finances, and its issues; the duty of loyalty -- to put the organization's interests above personal and professional interests and bring any potential conflicts of interest to the board's attention; and the duty of obedience -- to serve the mission, making all board decisions in the interest of the mission. These are serious and fundamental responsibilities.

Discuss items 1-7 with your Board and set a goal of reducing your meeting time by one quarter while keeping their core fiduciary duties. For the following meeting set a goal of reducing the time another one quarter.

About Terry Clark

Terry J. Clark CAE, the Founder and President of Real Board Solutions is a results-oriented, not-for-profit professional who has a unique background and skill set that volunteer board members and their staff truly appreciate.

For the past 18 years Terry has advised hundreds of not-for-profit Boards of Directors and their senior staff members. As past Executive Director with a high profile business association, Terry has also served as an interim Executive Director with six organizations.

His consulting practice focuses on Board development, strategic planning, operational reviews, executive director compensation and mentorship/coaching. He has provided those services to not-for-profits in virtually every not-for-profit sector in Western Canada, North West Territories, the Yukon and California. He has recently become 'certified' by Directors and Officers Liability Insurance underwriters so that Associations who have taken his board orientation receive a discount on their D&O insurance annual premiums.

Terry is a Certified Association Executive (CAE), a Past Area Governor of Toastmasters International and was educated at the University of British Columbia. He possesses leading-edge Non Profit "best practices" and combines them with real life experiences to provide not-for-profits Boards and their staff with real solutions.

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