Cross-posted from Rebekah Burch Basinger's excellent blog, Generous Matters. Read her original post here

Motions are the primary means by which a governing board provides directions to the CEO and other staff, so you’d think considerable care would go into shaping them. But think again.

More often than not, motions are created as follows:

Hoping to bring resolution to a time-sapping discussion, the chair asks, “Will someone state that as a motion?”

Board members shift in their chairs, eyes down, mouths clamped tight-shut. A few awkward moments and then — thank goodness — an intrepid volunteer takes up the challenge, stammering out a motion-sized summary of the lengthy conversation.

The board devolves into an editorial panel, wordsmithing the life out of the attempted statement.

The board secretary struggles to keep up with the swirl of revisions and proposed additions. When asked to read the motion back to the group, the look on his/her face screams, “Help!”

Further editorial work ensues until someone in exasperation calls the question. The less-than-coherent motion is approved, leaving it to the CEO to make sense of the jumbled mess.

Fortunately, there is a better way, or so the folks at Board Effect tell us. To be a boardroom hero, check out and follow their advice for creating motions “that will be carried out exactly as you [and your board colleagues] intended.”

Here’s how.


Remember that a motion should be clearly and concisely worded.

Think through your motion carefully and determine exactly what it is you want to accomplish with it. Include details and support it. Anticipate questions and objections and answer them in your motion. Address any legal concerns in your summary.

If there is a fiscal component, include how the action will be funded. Main motions that require funding may require two main motions — one to pass the action and one to fund it.

Review your motion to see if it asks for a clear action to be taken. State a time frame when applicable.

Of course, it’s hard to do all this on the fly. So board chairs, a word to you:

When it’s time for motion stating, call a 10-minute break, recruit the board’s best thinker(s), and let him/her/them sum up the discussion as a concise, complete, and coherent actionable statement.

Do I hear a second?

For more on making the most of board meetings, see:

Rules of engagement for board and staff

A five-step cure for boredom in the boardroom

Strategies for avoiding meddling by meeting