Cultivating Better Boardroom Conversations

better boardroom conversations

Every board meeting is different; in fact, a meeting that’s relatively dull and discussion-less might follow a meeting comprised of contentious and heated debate.

There isn’t a “right” kind of meeting, but there are some ways to help ensure that you’re getting the most out of your in-meeting conversations.

Don’t avoid disagreements; give them a structure

Many individuals are conflict-averse, but the truth is that board meetings sometimes demand that two sides state their cases for different paths forward.

Some of the best boardroom discussion can come from a debate-style format, but that’s the trick—the moments of disagreement should feel heavily controlled like they would in an actual debate competition.

In other words, set time limits for laying out arguments. Give individuals a structure that ensures balanced speaking time. When directors feel as though they have an equal opportunity to speak, it’s easier to focus on the topic at hand rather than on potential unfairness.
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Technology and Nonprofit Boards: 3 Ways Tech Can Move You Forward

nonprofit boards invest technologyNonprofit organizations are notorious for being slow to adopt new technology. For many, it’s simply because they operate on a hand-to-mouth budget with very little room for extra spending.

For others, it’s a determined commitment to keeping overhead costs low. In the meantime, though, useful advances in technology are presenting more and more opportunities for nonprofits to grow and to thrive. It’s important that nonprofit board members be the driving force behind making these changes.

Here are some reasons why we think your organization should take the plunge and invest in its technological infrastructure.

  1. Spending money helps raise money

Yes, we’ve put a slight spin on an old adage, but we think that it’s an apt one in this instance! We know that in the nonprofit realm there can be a potentially harmful attachment the ability to report astonishingly low overhead costs. Check out this article, which explains a phenomenon called “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” The article reads, “In response to pressure from funders, nonprofits settle into a ‘low pay, make do, and do without’ culture…every aspect of an organization feels the pinch of this culture.”

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What’s the Worst Board Meeting Ever

Let’s be frank: not every board meeting is going to be a walk in the park. Sometimes, board meetings are tedious, contentious, and even directionless. Here’s a list of some things that can truly go wrong at the worst board meeting…plus tips for handling them if they do!
The Worst Board Meeting Ever

One or two members dominate the meeting

This is a common occurrence in boards that contain one or two big personalities. Unfortunately, those dominant members can derail a potentially effective board meeting by bulldozing over other opinions or making members fearful of sharing their views. In this instance, it’s important that the board chair steps in to ensure that all members are getting an equal opportunity to speak.

If the board chair isn’t able to step in, here are some ideas for dealing with a particularly strong personality in the boardroom.

The board chair can also address the issue with the member in question outside of the meeting. If the domineering member is the board chair, it’s important for other members to speak up in support of reevaluating the way the meeting is conducted; suggesting a stronger use of Robert’s Rules of Order might also help alleviate disputes.

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Is Your Board A Broken Board?

broken board

Because boards are ever-changing entities, they often go through phases of effectiveness. Some phases might include sharp financial growth and strong teamwork between directors and management.

Other phases might include the exact opposite.

And still others could be a combination of the two—both positives and negatives. Once in a while, though, you may find yourself on a board that is essentially broken. What do we mean by broken?

Put simply, we mean that because of one or more internal issues, the board is unable to operate with its highest goal (shareholder benefit) in mind.

Here are some signs that you might be serving on a dysfunctional board. Don’t worry, though; all hope is not lost! In fact, here we’ve got some tips for how you can help bring your board back to life.

Lean on parliamentary procedure

Are you having trouble getting through a basic meeting because of clashing agendas or antagonistic discussions? In this instance, it’s important for boards to turn to their parliamentary procedures; in the U.S. these procedures will typically follow Robert’s Rules of Order. The board chair will have to take an extremely active role in overseeing this process.

They will need to conduct themselves with as much neutrality as is possible in order to establish an environment where discussion and voting can occur within the appropriate constraints.
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Building the Most Effective Healthcare Board

Building the Most Effective Healthcare Board

Healthcare is one of the fastest moving industries in the world. Hospitals and health providers are investing in new technology, new processes, and new personnel constantly while working to ensure that they can provide top-notch care at a reasonable price—that’s no easy task!

Healthcare boards—or traditional community-based boards—are finding that between changes in compliance legislation and the pace of innovation, staying ahead of the curve takes some serious effort.

So how can your healthcare board be a leader in the field and not just playing catch up? Here are a few of our suggestions:

Embrace diversity

We speak to this topic often on our blog, but it rings particularly true for the healthcare industry. Healthcare boards should strive to include a representative sample of the groups they’ll be serving. A mixture of ethnicities, genders, religious affiliations, and even age can help healthcare boards ensure that they’re not overlooking the needs of any potential patients.

A diverse board also means a diversity of ideas, which ultimately leads to better decision-making.
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Do You Need a Higher Ed Millennial Board Member?

 higher ed millennial board member

In April of this year, the “Millennial” generation surpassed the “Baby Boomers” as the nation’s largest living generation. Conversely, while the American workforce is getting younger, the composition of trustee boardrooms is getting older.

According to the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), “the fastest growing age group on boards is individuals over 70.” Meanwhile, only 15% of independent boards members are under the age of 50.

Maybe these statistics aren’t shocking to you. With age and experience comes wisdom, right? Absolutely. However, this age-homogeneous boardroom could also be holding back the growth of colleges and universities. Here are some ways we think Millennials can impact your board of trustees for the better:

Millennials are closer to the college experience

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Building a Startup Advisory Board

Startups are unique, entrepreneurial creatures. For that reason, establishing a formal board of directors doesn’t often make sense until the company receives sizable investments from professionals who want board seats or require the existence of a startup advisory board.

startup advisory board

Until then, the startup needs to be agile, but it can still benefit from the guidance of other leaders as an advisory board. So, how do you put together the right group of individuals for this task?

Decide on a structure for the board

Take some time to evaluate how you want your advisory board to operate and why you want it to exist.

How many people do you want involved? (We suggest 3 or 5 members to start.)

How often do you want them to meet?

Will you hold formal votes, or will your meetings be more discussion-based?

Look for specialists who fill in your gaps

Have a tech background but are unsure about marketing? Look for a marketing executive who can help take you past the basics. Reach out to people who will make your startup more well rounded—not necessarily the people with whom you already have a lot in common.
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Business Lessons from Sports Teams

Putting together an effective board isn’t all that different from developing a standout sports team. OK, so you won’t necessarily be looking for someone who’s built for speed or for an athlete who’s able to push an F-150 using only their own strength. But you will need to create an environment that encourages group success.
good board team
We’ve looked at some business lessons from sports teams that you can apply to your boardroom dynamics.

Find specialists, but focus on determination

Countless business journals (and our own blog!) have called for adding specialists to the boardroom; tech experts and professionals with entrepreneurial backgrounds have been particularly sought after in recent years. These “playmakers” bring big benefits to any boardroom.

The tech experts, for instance, help provide a healthy defense against cyber threats as well as an innovative, offense-focused mindset.

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Board Membership 101: Self-Evaluation

Since boards of directors are self-governing bodies, it’s important that they take the time to reflect on their performance both individually and as a group. The New York Stock Exchange requires listed companies to participate in some form of an annual self-evaluation, so many organizations already have a process in place.
Self-Evaluation

But for some of these companies, board self-evaluation can be met with an attitude of obligation rather than receptivity to the benefits of a well-executed assessment.

For other, smaller companies, the practice of yearly self-evaluations has simply been overlooked in the past. These assessments, however, provide an outstanding resource for bettering board functionality. For example:
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Board Membership 101: Financial Oversight

Chances are good that if you ask a stranger on the street what a board member’s most important job is, they’re likely to mention finances. Boards have long been seen as the “make it or break it” play callers for corporations that either boom or bust.
Board Membership 101: Financial Oversight

Financial oversight, while closely related to fiduciary duties in general, calls for a board member’s attention to detail and ability to understand the current position of the company’s financial assets. Although every decision a board member makes may not be a financial one, all of their decisions will affect the financial future of the organization they serve.

Providing a company with great financial oversight takes serious effort on the part of board members. Here are some ways that they can excel:

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