Designing the Ideal Board Meeting

This is the first of a multi-part series on Board Meetings. The question of what the ideal board meeting looks like comes up quite a bit in my world and I’m hoping to add my voice to the debate through a few posts (with what I hope will be clear and actionable advice). We’ll cover the creation of a board agenda, the board deck, pre-board communication, how to best run a board meeting, decision topics vs. discussion topics and post meeting follow-up, among other ideas in the coming weeks.

I hope that the reasoning behind designing a good board experience is obvious, but it’s worth stating that getting your board together is expensive. It’s expensive in terms of out of pocket costs – travel, hotels, etc. It’s expensive in terms of time – you and your management team’s time to prepare materials, organize your thoughts and prep for the meeting; your board’s time to prepare for, travel to, and attend your meeting; and everyone who supports that effort’s time to coordinate it all. Given all the costs to get your board together, planning and executing an effective board strategy is critically important.

The opportunity here isn’t just a governance and reporting one – which is how too many companies approach their board work. It’s a chance to constructively and methodically gather your thoughts about your business, get feedback from people not as close to the day-to-day operations of the company as you are, and get feedback on (or in some cases make) key tactical and strategic decisions.

It’s important to remind yourself that a board doesn’t operate your business. You and your management team do that. In fact, we’ll talk in a later post in this series about the mistake many companies make in essentially running too many decisions through their board as a decision making entity and how to best leverage the expertise of your board without outsourcing the management of your business to them. It’s also important to remember that board work isn’t a discrete set of actions that happen only when a board physically gets together. It’s ongoing oversight and help for your business that’s punctuated by those meetings but that actually takes place on an ongoing, rolling basis.

So with that as the preface, let’s jump in….