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The Board Speaks: Getting on the Same Page

Posted By Darrin Hubbard, Wednesday, December 3, 2014
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Imagine this scenario:

You’ve just completed your daylong Board Meeting preceding your Annual Convention. Aside from the usual business items covered in the meeting, there was a strategic plan check-in and several sensitive or maybe even contentious topics were acted upon. Fast forward to the next day at the conference at the opening reception. A Past President, partner in the tradeshow and interested colleague asks, “How was the Board Meeting?”. How do your Board Members respond? Do they vent about a decision that did not go their way? Do they give three different answers? Do they share an outcome of a vote that was to be kept confidential until all parties were notified?

You may have left the meeting in agreement, but it is easy to see how you can lose control of the message quickly.And it is completely understandable when you think about the other responsibilities your Board Members have such as their job, thanksgiving plans, their kids, the grocery list, vet appointments… you get the point.

So what do you do? Some of our clients publish a column on board activity in the newsletter. This works well because you can articulate, word for word, the messages you want to share. The problem with this approach can be the timing. If your e-newsletter has a monthly distribution, what are your board members communicating before the information is distributed? When they liaise with your committees or partnering organizations, what messages are they sharing in the interim?

One good solution that I have found is to develop talking points. Track important conversations and outcomes during the meeting; as the final order of business, ask the board to agree to three brief talking points that are ready to be made public. What do you want people to know about the time the board just spent together? Send the agreed-upon talking points to the board in an email so they can refer to them when it is convenient. If you are proactive in developing the messages your board shares, you can better manage the communication and perception of the work of the board.

A few tips on talking points:

  1. No more than three talking points – focus on the most important points you want to be made public.
  2. Paraphrase – empower your board to use their own voice, not recite them word for word.
  3. Keep them short – make it easy for your board to recall the talking points.
  4. Put them in order of importance – do the prioritization for them.

Here are a few sample talking points that have been used over the past few months:

  • Approved committee recommendations to make website more user-friendly
  • Appointed task force to investigate credentialing
  • Established Nominating Committee and revised its scope
  • Approved operating budget for the upcoming year
  • Approved proposal to develop a new chapter
  • This year’s conference has a record number of attendees, including 25 first-timers
  • Signed an extension with the current publisher of the magazine
  • Strategic plan for 2015-17 was approved
  • Established a new award recognizing emerging leaders in the organization
  • Approved the concept for a new fundraising campaign

What does your board do? I’d be interested to hear what approaches are being used by other organizations.

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