As with any group setting, when you bring a board of directors together, some members will be more prepared than others. Most directors will study reports in advance and be ready to share their input accordingly.
Others, however, may feel more inclined to coast through the meeting, glean what they can, and share opinionated statements on the spot.
These unprepared board members can occasionally create a difficult group dynamic.
The good news, though, is that there are steps your board can take towards encouraging (and even helping) members to adequately prepare.
Set clear expectations.
When new board members join, take some time during orientation to outline what the board will expect from them in regard to meeting preparation. Let them know how early board meeting materials will go out, so they can plan their schedule accordingly.
Send the materials out in advance…but not too far in advance.
Find the happy medium between sending board materials out too early and too late. You want it to be close enough to the meeting that directors will remember all of the information. However, not so close to the meeting that they don’t have time to adequately review it.
The perfect time frame will differ from board to board depending on your industry and the size of your board packets, but 2-3 weeks is a good standard launch point.
Make it easy to review the materials.
Board members are busy people, so their time is extremely valuable. Establish a system that makes communication stress-free and effective. We, of course, suggest that you implement the use of board meeting software. This replaces file storage systems like Google Drive, DropBox, etc.
Not only does it simplify board meeting preparation, but it also helps directors access important information easily. Plus, they can message other members, vote, take surveys, or look at their board calendar all in the same place.
What if they don’t improve?
Unfortunately, not everyone is cut out for board membership. In fact, 35% of directors say someone on their board should be replaced. In this instance, it’s important that your board takes all the right steps towards respectfully removing a board member.
Before you leap to that extreme, though, be sure that your board has set members up for success by proactively communicating expectations and giving board members the tools they need to meet them.