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5 Tips for Effective Board Discussions

By Brandi McGrath Kong, Director of Member Services


Board meetings – everybody has to have them and very few people love them. However, their place in our clubs are essential. They help us make sure that business gets done, that policies get passed and that we can enjoy learning, socialization and fun during our club meetings. 

There are a few basic understandings that help set the stage for effective board discussions. Keep in mind, board meetings are THE place to handle club business. There are very few times that business should bleed over to club meetings. 

Meetings must meet any requirements set forth by your club’s bylaws. This includes the frequency of meetings and if there are mandated meeting dates and/or times. Your board should also be transparent about its meetings when and where possible. Meeting dates should be published in advance so that guests can attend if they’d like, and meeting outcomes should be made available to members afterward. 

Once you are certain everyone is on the same page, you can focus on ensuring that any business conducted at your board meetings is done effectively and efficiently. We recommend following these five tips:

  1. Stay on topic. The agenda exists for a reason. The board chair is there to keep everyone focused on the matter at hand, and while there may been a need to deviate from time to time, these instances should be few and far between.
  2. Be respectful. Everyone at the table gets to have a voice. Even when you don’t agree, listen to their opinions without interrupting or becoming defensive. The vote will have the ultimate say, but all discussion leading up to it should be open, inclusive and fair.
  3. Confidentiality is key. You may handle some very sensitive and personal issues during your time on the board. Your membership should be able to trust that such matters will not go beyond the sanctity of the proverbial board room. And when that is infringed upon, it is important that board members are held accountable in an appropriate manner.
  4. Pursue specific outcomes and objectives. Don’t have discussions just for the sake of having them. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time. You’re there to do business on behalf of the club, so make sure that is what you’re doing.
  5. When you leave a Board meeting, you’re one Board. Communicating a board decision isn’t the time to say, “Well, we all voted for this, but Bob didn’t, or “I was the dissent here.” Communicate the decisions and support the Board as a singular body.

You can find additional guidance on this subject in our Effective Board Meetings training, as well as in other manuals and trainings available in the Sertoma Member Center.