When it comes to mastering the running of a board meeting, there is no manual for a Chairperson of the Board to consult. This is because every organisation has its own culture, set of laws and bylaws, and legal considerations to follow. If you are running a private board meeting or one for a nonprofit, there is no set of rules to follow.
Do you know what the elements of a good board meeting are? In this short clip from the Better Boards Conference, Brian Herd from CRH Law covers the elements of a good board meeting, how the minutes relate to the Agenda, what a basic Agenda should look like and how and why the Agenda should link to board member actions.
- There must be a realistic Agenda (list of topics or matters to be covered)
- There must be a record the issues discussed and the decisions made in the Minutes
- There must be a list and delegation of Follow up Actions
People from all walks of life find their way on to Boards and Committees. There are tens of thousands of sporting clubs, school councils, church groups and non-profit social groups in Australia, and each one of them requires a Committee or Board to oversee their management. There is a growing need for a simple step-by-step guide for those who might not be sure of their rights and responsibilities as a Committee or Board member.
A Board is a collection of individuals, elected or appointed, who jointly direct and oversee the activities of an organisation, whether for profit or not-for-profit. Other descriptions of this collection of individuals include Boards of Governors, of Management, of Trustees, and of Directors to name a few.
These were the words of Mary Parker Follett (1868 – 1933) an American social worker, management consultant and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behaviour.
Along with Lillian Gilbreth (1878 – 1972), Mary Follett was one of the two great (women) management gurus in the early days of classical management theory.
So how does this relate to a Board of Management?
The power of three is universal; the tripartite nature of the world is heaven, earth, and water.
Life itself is birth, life and death. It is the beginning, middle and end. Three is a complete cycle unto itself; it is past, present and future. And, yes, successful meetings have three essential elements.
A good meeting, whether of the Board of a multinational, or a fundraising committee of your local basketball team, will always have 3 essential components:
A Board portal is an online environment in which Board members and executive officers can better manage Communications, Agendas, Minutes and supporting documents, with a view to reducing paper, and streamlining the process of distributing and managing Board resources.
Security is an important consideration. What may not be known is that, in many cases, documents are more secure using Board portal/Cloud technology than the current old fashioned way of managing papers. With, say, 7 Board members receiving couriered or posted papers there are multiple ways that documents can go astray, from leaving them in airport lounges or taxis, to losing them at the office, or even throwing them in an open access trash receptacle. Over time members can become blasé about their responsibility to keep documents secure.
Once the papers have left the office from which they were generated all security controls are potentially compromised.
To suggest that Board portals increase the risk of compromising security implies that current paper-based systems are free of security risk. There’s plenty of evidence to the contrary; one just needs to talk to Board secretaries and executive officers who have to find replacement papers for Board members who have misplaced theirs.
Not using Board portals for fear of security breaches is like refusing to fly for fear of planes crashing, when there is a higher statistical likelihood of a fatality ‘crossing the road’; it’s simply not rational to avoid flying in the face of the more probable risk of injury crossing the road.
Until there is evidence of hackers regularly breaking into Board portal papers, it might be better to focus on maximising the benefits technology can offer, while accepting that security is everyone’s responsibility.
The team at Our Cat Herder knows that online Board portals are an important development in modernising the way boards and committees are managed. But don’t just take it from us! Better Boards Australasia has been discussing the growth in Board portals in both non-profit and for-profit environments. They note the cost-effective and time-saving opportunities an online Board portal offers. Check out the Better Boards article for further reading on how to improve Board/Committee operations by embracing technology like that on offer at Our Cat Herder.
Although women play in their teams, watch from their stands and are involved in their administrations sport still runs a distant second when it comes to including them in high-level decision making.
With the SAJC, SACA and the Adelaide Football Club all looking for board candidates this year it remains to be seen if they get the right “man” for the job. It’s an issue that unites traditional foes Port Adelaide and the Crows, with each of their sole female board representatives unified on the role of women at board level.
“What football clubs do now is yes, primarily based around the AFL team, but there is so much more to it than that and it’s a market that very much involves women,” said the Power’s Amanda Vanstone. “The Adelaide Football Club is a business and like any business it needs diversity. The viewpoint that because football is played by a male team it should be governed by men is irrelevant,” said Kate Gould.
by Ali Clarke, Adelaide Advertiser 9 August 2014
Or, what about those meetings where Members debated minor matters at great length, making lengthy speeches in the process, while motions on major or significant strategic issues were passed with barely any discussion at all?
How many Board members can you recall who seemed filled with hubris; a sense of their own importance? “I’ve been placed on the Board of this symphony orchestra because I’m successful in business, so you should listen to my advice; I think the orchestra should play more Stockhausen.”
Does a person who is successful in business, say in the field of insurance, mean that he/she should give advice to the staff about how they should go about running a symphony orchestra? An arts manager would be no more equipped to advise this individual Board member about insurance than would the Board member about what an Orchestra should play.
So why then is the successful insurance executive on the Board in the first place?
Generally, it’s thought that people with skills to contribute make good Board members, particularly – though not limited to – non-profits. The Insurance person obviously has skills in managing an insurance company, but this does not mean his/her experience transfers to advising what a symphony orchestra should play? The specific skills or expertise Board Members hold should be clarified by the Chair, and the individual concerned. That person’s contributions to the enterprise might then be better directed to their sphere of knowledge and experience.
In other words, stick with what you know, and hold back and listen on topics that aren’t necessarily your domain. If a Board Member hasn’t the professional awareness to self-administer this, then perhaps they ought not to be on the Board.