It is hard to believe that a month has gone by since my last post. Two month end closings and about a dozen virtual meetings. Like any matter where people are involved, the results take on a decidedly bell-shaped curve from excellent to “oh-my-god-never-do-that-again”!
Let’s start with what works well.
Get Organized – Stay Organized
The virtual meetings which have worked well have one thing in common, we had an agenda and the chair stuck with it. The opposite is true as well; when the board chair was not in effective control the meeting went sideways. Believe it or not, it is absolutely no different than meeting in person.
If you are planning your first one, make sure your board knows your expectation. Create a relatively easy agenda with easy-win items. And then don’t let it deviate. Prove to your board that an online meeting can be successful.
I don’t think it can be said enough times – prepare a board briefing packet. Put in everything that supports your agenda: Officer reports, management reports, committee reports. Tell your participants you expect it in writing so you can have it flashed on the screen. If they don’t have a written report, then they cannot present. Make it a rule and stick with it.
I will let you in on a little secret, we do all the preparation for our boards. We prepare management reports, the financial report, the committee reports if chairs would like, even the minutes. This way, all directors have the same material to study.
We also prepare recommended motions. If a report recommends that the board take action, then someone should be ready with a motion to accept those recommendations! What the final motion says is up to the director, but knowing one might be necessary saves time and eliminates confusion.
Oh, and finally, we prepare a meeting script. Don’t roll your eyes, no one ever won an oscar without a script! The vast majority of directors would also starve to death if they had to do improv! Unless you do a lot of meetings for lots of boards, you are probably not going to remember everything you need to say and do to make the meeting work.
The Power of the Gavel
It is as true in an online meeting as an in-person meeting, the chair controls the tempo and order of business. Every meeting which ends up going to hell is due to, in some measure, the boad chair losing control. It could be that a director consistently wants to talk out of turn or hijacks a debate in the hopes of intimidating the other members.
As chair, you have the primary duty of ensuring the order of business is carried out successfully. This means, getting organized, preparing and then not letting the members run amok! You must be ready to stop members from speaking out of turn.
Virtually, this could be as simple as talking loud enough to get the board attention or, in the worse case, signaling the meeting host to mute the speakers microphone. I would strongly recommend that the chair follow a script like below:
Chair, “The member is out of order. I insist the member stop speaking out of order. If the member continues to do so, I will instruct the meeting host [manager] to disable your microphone until such time as the member agrees to follow the order of business.”
The tone is important. Don’t call out the director by name and don’t cut them off without warning. Finally, if they continue, you must cut them off or you will look like you are all bluster and no action and the behavior will continue.
Effective Meetings Can Happen
As we look at all the meetings we have held in the past month, successful meetings have all of these qualities plus one more – a healthy respect for the process. If your board members are not interested in conducting the business that is vital to your association, then all the planning, organizing and control will mean nothing. Sadly, some directors don’t believe it is their duty to be a successful member of the team; they think their duty is to disrupt and ensure that real business can’t be done. But assuming that you don’t have that particular problem, a virtual meeting can be as effective, if not more so, than a physical meeting in almost all circumstances.
Business must go in, even in today’s COVID-19 environment. Move online and prove to your association members that your board is up to the task of overseeing your association so that future boards can be successful too.
If you would like a generic copy of a meeting script or our board briefing book, send us an email requesting them. We are happy to share our tools to help you and your board be successful. And if you would like to see if C.O.R.E. Services might be a good fit to help your board, feel free to visit our website for more information and to request a conversation. We are here to be of service to you.