Board members often lament the lack of time in board meetings to focus on strategic issues and trends that really affect the future of the institution. Many boards struggle with spending too much time on the present, or even on the past. They prioritize reports from staff and committees but leave little time for robust discussions about moving forward.
How can a board build a better board meeting in order to bring about change in the institution?
The In Trust Center’s Wise Stewards Guide: The Roles and Responsibilities of Boards in Theological Education suggests several discussion questions for a board to consider when thinking about how to spend its meeting time. Questions like: “Is adequate time reserved in meetings for strategic thinking and discussion of priorities and strategic indicators?” and “What are the three to five strategic priorities of the school over the next three years, and how are they used to frame the board’s work?”
According to “Designing Trustee Meetings That Matter” (Trusteeship magazine, May/June 2019), board size, understanding of roles and responsibilities, and culture all factor into board performance. Tending to the structure and agenda of the board meeting requires a dedicated effort -- and most likely some oversight from the executive committee or an agenda committee.
The article says that restructured board meetings can result in greater trustee ownership, engaged conversation, and a movement from oversight to insight. Although meetings need to include time for committees and formal business, the bulk of the time can be focused on plenary sessions for trustees to focus on big questions that the board has agreed are important to the future of the school.
How might you restructure your board meetings to get the very best from your board?
Read more in the Trusteeship article or the Wise Stewards Guide. You can also read more about this topic in another blog post, “Top Strategic Issues.” And, of course, if you have questions or would like resources on structuring your board meetings, we welcome your email at firstname.lastname@example.org.