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What do you do at board meetings?

 By Gerry Czarnecki

If you are part of a typical board, your meetings probably follow a pattern that is in direct opposition to what governance professionals would recommend, and it is probably time for you to start challenging that pattern.

Does this pattern sound familiar? An infrequent meeting that starts with a socializing time, then a call to order, a quorum call, the approval of minutes, an explanation of each ministerial proposal or motion, then presentations by committee chairs, the treasurer and the president or executive director. Once a year, a budget is proposed; the board approves the budget and is informed on the state of fundraising. The meeting ends with an adjournment and a thank you for all who attended.

If that is where you are, then you are typical. If you are busy in your professional or personal life, you probably question the value of the time commitment. But wait, it does not have to be that way. Here are some suggestions to improve the process:

Make certain that the board decides to meet only as frequently as is required to make a meaningful contribution. Unless you are in crisis, once a month may be too much, and once a year is probably too infrequent.

Ensure that the board fully understands the difference between governance and management – even if you need to get training on that.

Ensure the board controls the agenda; do not defer to the president.

Ensure that all materials to be reviewed and discussed in the board meeting are sent to the members at least a week in advance.

Have management prepare an executive summary (one pager) for all topics in the materials, and that is the only material they will speak to in their presentation.

Have the board decide that all members will have read the advanced materials, and that management will not simply present the entire board book at the meeting.

Limit discussion on ministerial matters by using a “consent agenda” that allows all of those to be approved in one motion.

Limit reports and presentations by any person or committee to 10 minutes, recognizing that questions by board members may extend the time.

Limit the allocation of time for routine operational updates and dashboard reporting on operations to less than 50 percent of the meeting time.

Limit the “show and tell,” and maximize engagement by the board.

Encourage board member inquiry.

Focus on issues where the board can add value. Insist that a major element of meeting time is spent on “key strategic issues.”

If you change your meetings in these ways, you may work harder and be more intellectually challenged, but you will feel like you are contributing. Try it. You will like it.

Gerry Czarnecki is founder and chairman of the nonprofit National Leadership Institute (nationalleadershipinstitute.org), which helps boards of nonprofit organizations become strategic assets to the leadership team. His extensive background as a C-suite executive and CEO is coupled with current board leadership of corporate and nonprofit organizations. He is also chairman and CEO of the Deltennium Group. Contact him at 561.293.3726 or gmc@deltennium.com.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.