When you accepted your board appointment, you assumed responsibility for more than just showing up for meetings and hoping for the best. Your commitment to prepare thoroughly and think through strategic issues is critical to your board meeting’s success.
Boards are looking for people who are willing to put in the time and do the work to make an impact. The directors’ challenge is that they have limited time to meet face-to-face, so it’s crucial they use the available time effectively. Ensuring that board meetings are effective comes down to each board member being well prepared. This allows the board to focus on moving forward with strategic issues, instead of spending time reviewing background information and reports that were available before the meeting.
For you, the individual board member, being ready all comes down to following a process. This process is captured in our ROCK Model®.
Your package of board material – the agenda, the minutes of the last meeting, reports, financial statements, proposals, etc. – should arrive with sufficient lead time for you to thoroughly review the contents. Depending on the organization, this may take from one to several hours. Make sure to set aside enough focused time to go through all the contents.
Start by reviewing the minutes of the last meeting. This will refresh your memory and help you get into the right headspace. Review the action items in the minutes – are they connected to the items on the agenda? Are there any actions you were responsible for? If so, what’s the status?
Next review the agenda so you have an idea of what items will be coming forward. Note which items are of particular importance, especially where a board decision is expected.
Follow this with a quick review of the supplementary information and reports, just to get an idea how much material is involved.
After your quick review, think about the upcoming meeting. Are there items where you are looking forward to the discussion? Or conversely, are there items that you are dreading? Are you expecting some items to be contentious?
Think about the discussion points where you can add value. Pull together any supporting material that will be useful for that.
Then read the material slowly and thoughtfully, making notes as you go. Note the areas where you want to make a point, where you would like more information, or where you would like to ask questions.
One of the most profound ways that directors can make a difference is by asking meaningful questions. Search the DirectorPrep.com database of questions to find the right questions for the items on the meeting agenda.
Finally, assess your readiness for the meeting by asking yourself some Self-Preparedness questions from the DirectorPrep.com database. Or use this Readiness Checklist
With this process behind you, arrive at the board meeting well-prepared and confident that you can add value to board discussions. Ask probing questions, make your views known, and be ready to take part in the meaningful and engaging conversation that follows.
If you are willing to commit the time to prepare thoroughly before each meeting, then your answer will be “Yes, I’m ready” and you will be confident that you can make a positive contribution. Your preparation and your confidence will be noticed and appreciated by others around the board table.