Remember that feeling just before walking into your first board meeting? That combination of excitement and trepidation? You were wondering what you had got yourself into. But you couldn’t wait to make your mark.
But maybe that feeling has changed. Let's say you’ve been sitting on the board for a while. But now, instead of feeling excited and energized, eager to add value and make a difference, maybe you have a sinking feeling before your board meeting. Maybe you are not looking forward to it at all.
I’ve been there. We probably all have at one time or another. But why?
In a recent survey, I asked our community of board directors, “What do you think holds you back the most from achieving more satisfaction as a board director?” The single most frequent response was “lack of time,” especially not enough time for adequate preparation.
I get it. I really do. Time is at a premium for all of us. Including me. Including more experienced directors who have been serving on boards for awhile. You’re not alone.
But when it comes to fulfilling your board director role, that lack of time spent on preparation translates to feeling rushed, feeling unqualified, and definitely not feeling ready for your board meeting. It leads to that hesitation on the threshold of your boardroom, stopping to take a big breath before you enter, trying to calm that sinking feeling.
In preparing for a board meeting, savvy directors follow a repeatable process, even if they don’t consciously realize they are doing so. Personally, I find the PREP Framework guides me through the process:
So, after reviewing the board package, I spend some quality time on the Read in detail part of the process, identifying items I am looking forward to, items I am dreading, and items that could be contentious. Most importantly, I ask myself Where can I add value? Answering that question helps to remind me that I am there for a reason and have an important role to play. Then I carefully re-read the material, making notes where I want to make a point, or request more information, or ask questions.
When reading, for pleasure or business, I am often struck by how so many things I read can be applied to board work. Recently I came across a concept that helped me make sense of this issue. The author wrote about the difference between being prepared and being ready. Being prepared means having completed the required steps, done the required reading, filled in the required forms, etc. Being ready, on the other hand, implies an emotional state, one of energy and anticipation. It’s the opposite of that sinking feeling. You are ready to engage.
When it comes to board work, I am a firm believer that spending time with your board package ahead of time leads directly to being prepared and being ready. Not just spending time reading, but spending time thinking, considering, wondering. Doing what a savvy director would do.
Believe me, if you want to be fully prepared and ready for your board meeting, spending this focused time organizing your thoughts will pay off. And it will help to calm that sinking feeling.
Scott Baldwin is a certified corporate director (ICD.D) and co-founder of DirectorPrep.com – an online hub with hundreds of guideline questions and resources to help prepare for your next board meeting.
Share Your Insight: What techniques do you use to organize your thoughts before a board meeting?