By Phil Ellerby

Whether you’re the general manager, managing director, chief executive or business owner; it’s important not to view board meetings as little more than a waste of time.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who take part in board meetings actually think of them as ‘bored meetings’. But if they’re carried out correctly (and properly prepared for), board meetings can be one of the most useful and productive ways to make things happen.

If your board members are left feeling frustrated or think that their input is being dismissed by more outspoken members, here are a few tips to get them back on track:

1. Give people a part to play

Assigning each board member with a role to play can help to increase engagement and productivity. Instead of just appointing a secretary, time keeper and minute taker, why not appoint a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ to try to encourage people to think in an alternative way?

2. Take care of the basics

It may seem obvious, but making sure that everyone’s needs are catered for will improve ‘buy in’ from your board members. Ensure your meeting space has enough seats, the right IT equipment, plenty of drinks (and snacks if necessary) as this will help people to be more productive. If it’s going to be a long one, schedule in regular breaks too.

3. Preparation is key

Before the meeting starts, set the agenda and distribute any reports that may be needed to everyone who will be in attendance. If the secretary and/or chair have not put in adequate time to prepare for the meeting, it sets wrong tone from the start. Boards work best when they’re mentally prepared for the agenda at hand. Fail to prepare and you’re preparing to fail.

4. Break it down

If you want to stage effective board meetings, make sure all the topics are covered by properly laying out the meeting into areas of interest like sales, customer service, research & development, marketing, HR, accounts & finance, legal etc. Doing this can help you bring other staff into the meeting to provide information when it’s relevant, rather than forcing them to sit through things unnecessarily.

5. Look forward, not back

It’s important to give recognition and praise for past success, but you’ll only improve the future by looking forward not back. The key to a productive meeting is to come up with ideas and forecast how today’s actions will affect the business in the future.

6. Make it personal

To prevent board members being removed from the decisions they make (and how they affect employees), show them what the impact is in a presentation. If they’ve helped to improve profits or positively influenced the personal circumstances of others, they’ll have a much closer connection to their work and could be reinvigorated by it.

7. Balance the agenda

Not matter how long your meeting lasts, you’ll only have everyone’s attention for a limited period. Mixing heavier items with uplifting news or more pleasant topics can help improve the atmosphere and mood within the boardroom.

8. Always act, speak and think like a leader

As the head of the company you need to set an example. Be in control at all times, even if the meeting’s being chaired by someone else. Make sure the conversation is direct, positive, and rich in ideas.

9. Create a truth culture

The board meetings that feel the most brutal (in the heat of the moment) are often, on reflection, the most productive. Remember, you won’t get full value for money from your board if they’re not prepared to tell you the truth. Make them feel comfortable and they’re more likely to reveal the things that no one else can, or will. Only then can you act and improve on them.

10. Invite an outside facilitator

If your board meetings are not as honest or productive as you’d like them to be, bringing in an outsider could keep everyone involved on their toes. A professional facilitator is trained to guide the process so that the desired outcomes are achieved. Not only can this tactic provide an extra layer of transparency, a facilitator can often provide feedback that’s unburdened by fear of embarrassment or reprisals. We can provide this service here at Northern Accountants, if you’d like to take advantage of it please get in touch today.