Board of Directors’ Duties: Tip 3 – Board Meeting Purposes
There are four main purposes to hold board meetings: to build relationships, gather and share information, make decisions and monitor organizational progress.
First, by eating meals together or participating in recreational activities, or just by having a chance to talk with each other to learn more about their lives, relationships are built stronger so that the board members can work more effectively together for the benefit of the organization.
Second, gathering and sharing information among people with diverse backgrounds, education, experiences, and personalities can broaden everyone’s point of view so that all of the board members are better equipped to make an informed and high quality decision.
Third, making group decisions, board members are only authorized to make decisions on behalf of your organization during duly convened board meetings because it is the board as a whole that has the decision making authority.
And fourth, monitoring organizational progress, the board takes a look at the goals set for the organization and compares actual organizational progress to those goals and then can thank the senior staff person for the progress that they’ve made towards goals for the goals that are fully achieved and can also redirect the operational part of the organization for the goals that don’t look like they’re going to be achieved. I wish you the best as your board practices these four board meeting purposes on its pathway to organizational excellence.
Since the primary role of the board is to direct the organization for a successful future, the board is responsible for guiding the strategic planning process. Some of you may be saying that board members are only part time with the organization and the staff are full time so they are the best people to develop the strategic plan. As board members we’ll approve the staff’s plan afterwards. I encourage you to consider the concept of generative board leadership as discussed in Board Source’s book “Governance as Leadership” written by Richard Chait et al.
If the board is really going to lead the organization, it has to be setting strategic direction. The way that a part-time board can do that is by bringing to the organization all of the wisdom, insight, knowledge, and experience they have about the world around them, the world around the organization, and the world that the organization serves.
The excellent board also consults senior management and various staff of the organization to so they are informed about the current reality within the organization. Ideally, the board also consults some customers and other stakeholders, and gets research on the organization’s competitive position and industry trends.
When all of that information is gathered, a retreat can be held with the board and senior management, and perhaps a few other staff and stakeholders. This is an ideal place for everyone to dig into the gathered information, consider the multiple perspectives that have been suggested in surveys or focus groups, and think hard about how to improve the future of the organization. Consider what is not being done now, that if done would take the organization to a higher level of mission fulfillment.
Board leadership is critical in strategic planning, as board members can focus on making sure the organization is working in the right forest. Those involved in daily operations are more likely to be focused on how they water or harvest one particular tree. It’s hard for full-timers to step back and focus on the big picture; it’s so easy for even an excellent senior management team to get swayed by their operational reality. Yet, strategic planning requires looking from 10,000 feet. Therefore, when the board guides the strategic planning process you are moving forward on the pathway to governance excellence.