Strategically Building Your Board

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Outstanding board members certainly don’t grow on trees. In fact, finding the right group of business leaders to impact your organization for the better is a true challenge. Not only must you consider individual fit and ability, but also how the group will work together. Here are some tips to help you tackle this undertaking in pursuit of exceptional corporate governance.

  1. Think strategically about the organization of your board.

Before you can expect directors to think strategically about your organization’s future, you need to think strategically about your board. First, take some time to consider what size board makes the most sense for your organization. Perhaps you’ve been operating with 7 members, but changing to 9 members makes sense for tactical reasons. Don’t choose a number at random; be sure you can back up the decision with consideration and research. Next, update your board member job descriptions. Make sure that the expectations for directors are clear. You can’t anticipate success from anyone unless you’ve provided them with an outlook for their role.
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Why Boardrooms Need Marketing/Communications Leaders

commphotoHistorically speaking, boardrooms have favored business leaders with backgrounds in business strategy and finance. As the technological landscape has progressed, though, they’ve also been eager to embrace individuals with vast experience in cyber risk. Marketing and communications professionals, however, have remained on the perimeter of boardroom involvement. But as news and PR cycles continue to grow more powerful, invasive, and easily accessible online, it’s high time for boardrooms to embrace their media-savvy peers as vital corporate leaders.

Just ask United Airlines. In the wake of their current PR nightmare (which involved dragging a man off one of their flights), their CEO released a statement that came across as tone deaf to many readers. Not to mention, United Airlines stock has dropped $1.4 billion in the wake of this crisis. Combine this event with the recent confusion over two teens who weren’t allowed to fly wearing leggings, and you can bet that the United Airlines’ board isn’t having a very good couple of weeks.
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Reviving a Disengaged Board

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Although boardrooms are filled with successful business leaders, they’re still comprised of human beings who will occasionally falter. General disengagement is one of the most common struggles that boards—particularly nonprofit boards—will face. It’s not a death sentence, though; a disengaged board is not beyond repair! In fact, here are some tips for reviving your boardroom and getting on the path towards a high-functioning and involved leadership team.

  1. Set clear goals.

Many leaders are deadline-oriented and need extremely clear objectives in order to know how much effort they need to exert to meet or surpass expectations. Don’t be afraid to set high goals, so your board members feel the push to excel.
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Better Board Agendas

Better Board AgendasThe agenda and the board book have been the centerpieces of board meetings for decades. While the board book provides important information and reporting, the agenda acts as the guide for the course of the board meeting. It may seem like nothing more than a simple list, but the agenda wields serious influence over a board meeting’s progression.

You’re probably thinking, how can a basic list be improved? But we’re here to say that it can be done!

  1. Ask: Does this agenda item involve everyone?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often boards include agenda items that should actually be discussed in smaller committees or one-on-one outside of the board meeting. Boardroom time should be focused on group-oriented tasks and decision-making in order to get the most collaborative value out of your gathering.

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Board Software Vs. Emailing Board Documents

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These days, most boards are making the shrewd choice to go paperless. While some opt for centralized communication through the use of board software, others have simply stuck to email for their needs. In fact, according to a 2014 Thomson-Reuters study, approximately 43% of boards were still emailing their sensitive board documents. While email prevents added costs to board operations, it also poses many potential downfalls and risks.

  1. Email isn’t secure.

You’ve seen the headlines. Email hacks are a dime a dozen these days. Not long ago, we wrote a blog about the infamous Salesforce leak, which originated with an email from Colin Powell. Because they sent their board documents via email, their hypothetical plans for 14 different company acquisitions became public knowledge. When boards opt to utilize board software, however, they’ll be able to rest easier knowing that there’s dedicated security and heavily monitored data encryption protecting their materials.

  1. Email doesn’t enhance board member communication. 

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Directorpoint’s “ActiveConvert” Builds Board Books in Seconds

board bookIn most cases, board books are quite large. For companies who’ve smartly chosen to go paperless, they know that uploading hundreds of documents can also take some time. Thanks to our new “ActiveConvert” technology, though, Directorpoint customers will be blown away by how quickly their board book comes together in our software.

We’re so proud of this major time-saving tool, and we’ve decided to call it “Active Convert” because our software begins converting your board books the second that you upload a document. In other words, as you’re adding information, our converter is working quickly behind the scenes to prepare the files as a cohesive board packet.
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The Limitations of Board Meeting Software Alternatives

The Limitations of Board Meeting Software Alternatives

It’s no secret that effective board meeting software comes with a price tag. While that amount can range from low-cost to fairly expensive, some companies are eager to seek out what they see as “cost-free” file-sharing options such as Dropbox or Google Drive. While both of these board meeting software alternatives provide file storage and the ability to share documents, the “free” versions of these accounts have serious limitations. Plus, this style of file sharing can create frustration for board members who are forced to access board information through multiple platforms: email, cloud storage, calendar tools, etc.

Not So “Free”

Although Dropbox and Google Drive both have a free account option, it doesn’t take long for boards to surpass the allowed amounts of data storage, which can lead to monthly costs for the organization based on file sizes and/or their number of users. Plus, board members must create and manage their own accounts using this type of file sharing tool. Unlike Directorpoint, which provides unlimited storage and is perfect for archiving past meeting information, file-sharing alternatives make their profit by nickel and diming customers for more storage.
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Dealing With Unprepared Board Members

Unprepared board members

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.

  1. 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.
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How to Take Meeting Minutes

how to take meeting minutes

For many people, the phrase “taking minutes” is intimidating. Contrary to the way it sounds, though, taking meeting minutes does not involve writing down a minute-by-minute account of everything that happens in a board meeting. The individual who is taking the minutes does need to be keenly aware of what is happening during the board meeting, but they won’t be expected to quote everything that their fellow board members have said.

The purpose of taking board meeting minutes is mostly to provide a legal record of motions, votes, next steps, the progress of action items, etc. For that reason, it’s important that the minute-taker follow along closely with the movement of the meeting and the decisions made within it. The minute-taker need not record anything that could be viewed as subjective—in fact, they should avoid using adjectives and adverbs to ensure that they’re only recording factual information from the meeting at hand.
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Board Meeting Chair Responsibilities

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A successful board meeting happens in large part because of exceptional leadership from the board chair. Being an effective chairperson encapsulates many different qualities. In particular, the chairperson must be a good facilitator of discussion in order to help board members make the best decisions possible. In order to facilitate those discussions in a fair and well-ordered way, the chairperson should have a working knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order. They are expected to be able to guide the rest of the board members through the parliamentary protocol.

As the facilitator of boardroom discussion, it’s the responsibility of the chair to ensure that all of the agenda is covered and that the meeting isn’t derailed by spending too much time on any one topic. Additionally, they’re responsible for making sure that both sides of any debate receive equal speaking time to make their case. The chair can also help directors form motions and provide clarity if an aspect of the parliamentary process becomes confusing. Primarily, however, it’s important that the board chair guides the boardroom through each stage of the meeting, which are:
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