Board Development Operations

Are We Meeting or Truly ‘Meeting’?


While Soccer, (Futbol), is indeed the “Beautiful Game“, we can compare good associations or organizations’ board of directors’ meetings to athletic contests that are well-officiated. Imagine you’re putting on the Zebra stripes, donning a whistle, and viewing this topic with me through the lens of a referee.

Both require preparation, experience … and leadership.

What do your board meetings reflect in terms of discussion and interaction?

Some board meetings are characterized by interaction between members … lively debates … the sense that through discussion good decisions will be made. Points of view differ, but the ultimate goal always remains: What is best for our association? That is why we are leaders. Leaders communicate.

Some board meetings are characterized by the hackneyed cliché “Yada yada yada.” The meetings have the same discussions, same people speaking up while others remain silent, same points made and usually the same outcomes.

Other meetings are characterized by one or two board members playing quarterback, receiver and official — in other words, dominating discussion while the rest of the board members listen or text, doodle, check email, leave the room and scan the hallway for activity on a frequent basis or stare out the window for ships on the horizon.

Good interaction between and among directors on an association board does not occur by chance or by luck. It is intentional.

As a leader, what can you do to enhance discussion and interaction at meetings of your board?


Whether you are the president or chairperson or the newest member of the board, you can establish energy, inclusion and respect for opinions of others by your actions.


Don’t interrupt with objections or declarations. Ask qualifying questions after someone has finished making a point. And don’t allow others to interrupt or object.


We’ve all got them — the quiet ones who sit and listen. Call on them. They usually have opinions and quite often good opinions or points. But they need that push. “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t spoken” is as good a way as any to engage quiet members of your board.


Sometimes they intimidate by volume, sometimes by sarcasm or ridicule, sometimes by self-aggrandizement. But bullies they remain. Try a one-on-one intervention first outside of the meeting. If that doesn’t work, do what we do with an angry and demonstrative coach during a game — lower your voice, speak calmly but directly and say what needs to be said. (One of my favorite is, “Yes, I could agree with you… but then we’d both be wrong”) Waiting or delaying only encourages bullies to continue.


It’s not that they don’t have good things to say or contribute to the discussion. It is that it takes them two to three times as long as others to get to the point. Suggestion: Ask everyone to limit their comments to 90 seconds or less. Note: Most sporting officials are good storytellers and while that may be entertaining during a long drive to a game, it isn’t during a board meeting. Lengthy anecdotes as a means of making a point can be compressed for time without losing value. Lead by example and encourage brevity.


Fine anyone who begins a comment with, “I agree with (another board member who just made a point).” without adding substantive – NEW – ideas to the discussion. Keep the discussion relevant and move it along.


Rabbit holes are, as the term implies, holes that lead to underground burrows. Translation for board meetings: Members of the board who are easily distracted by irrelevant or unrelated issues and who sidetrack or hijack a discussion. Example: The board is discussing an increase in membership dues and “that” board member launches into a diatribe about the evaluation of your organizations past performance in another area.

By allowing that board member to take the discussion down a rabbit hole, the board has allowed one person to dominate discussion and to waste the boards focus on the agenda item on the table. And the board has now become a captive audience for the benefit of a board member. As a leader, (ALL board members are encouraged to), bring the discussion back to the key issue or situation. Be polite but be firm. If the evaluation of your organizations past performance is an issue, by all means place it on the agenda for future New Business. Right now, you are discussing membership dues and the value members receive from membership.

If your board members are going to meet, you should meet.

Use your time effectively and hear from all voices. That will take leadership … and that is what we are and why we were elected to serve our organization as members of the Board.

Contact S3 Solutions for additional tips and insightful solutions to help keep your board meetings a thing of “Beauty!” Now go out there an “Play Ball!”