Ever get frustrated trying to schedule orientation for your board of directors? Wish you could improve their leadership skills, but can’t get them to commit the time? Your answer may be the Leadership Minute – incorporating discussion of bite-size elements of governance and leadership theory into your monthly or quarterly board meetings.
By providing articles in advance of the board meeting, and having your board chairman set an expectation that all board members will come ready to discuss them, you build a shared body of knowledge to which your board can refer as challenges arise. One month you might focus on fiduciary responsibilities, another on effective communication, and a third on roles and responsibilities. Brainstorming a list of topics you think would benefit the board, and then seeking articles to meet that need will keep you focused. Better yet, involve your board in identifying areas where they feel they’d like to know more.
Great sources of material include Harvard Business Review, Chamber Executive (the ACCE Magazine), or Associations Now (from ASAE). ASAE even publishes an annual insert, now called The Associations Now Board Brief: A Quick Guide to Volunteer Leadership, that is full of valuable information – you could spend several months working through it with your board. Our board also found that topical books, such as Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Jim Collins’ Good to Great made great discussion material, but needed to be broken down over several meetings in order to get board participation. The US Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management also regularly shares valuable articles through their social media channels. Keep a file of potential articles you come across, and you won’t find yourself scrambling before a board meeting.
An added benefit of instituting a Leadership Minute is that your board will feel like you are investing in their skills as leaders, not just seeking their time in support of the organization. Some may even bring articles for you to share with the group or offer to lead the discussions.
It does help to have a few questions about the material ready at the meeting, as some topics are harder to start than others and board members may initially be nervous about speaking up. Rotating which board member leads the discussion can also increase engagement, and allows them to select a topic about which they are passionate. Ten to fifteen minutes of discussion is usually sufficient, but don’t be surprised if conversations continue long after the board meeting if an article piques their interest! But be careful not to put your Leadership Minute at the end of your agenda – it becomes too easy to shortchange it if your meeting runs long, and board members may resent having prepared unnecessarily.
What articles have you found helpful in educating your board of directors on best practices? Please feel free to share!