Two 'Must Have' Tools for Harnessing Your Board's Value
By Ralph Stow

The key to staying focused and driving value.


Feeling pretty good about yourself, eh? You have a good board, you have figured out who and what you have for board members, so now it’s time to “harness value” from this rogue nation of board personalities. Here are two tools that should be in every toolbox that might prove useful to stay focused and drive value — a “Board Norms” document and an “Expectations Agenda.”

As directors, we all bring our experience and expertise to the table in different ways. One surefire way to create tumult is to have a director feel his or her inputs are not heard or valued. As pedestrian as this may sound, annually agreeing to Board Norms has provided some informal guardrails and laid the groundwork to averting board conflict, allowing the body corporate to stay on track internally and with management.

The Board Norms document is a collection of statements on how the board will operate, both as a group of individuals and also as a body alongside management. Much like a mission statement, Board Norms are reviewed and approved annually and signed by each director.

More tactically, and depending on the typical timing between board packet disbursement and meeting dates, I have also found a useful tip for meeting agendas that can help in making sure all “other” issues are captured, if not discussed, in any particular meeting, helping to create harmony among directors.

Generally, the longer directors have to prepare for a meeting, within reason, the better the outcome of the meeting. However, I have also noticed that longer preparation time can lead to individually important issues discovered in the meeting preparation that are unknown to the group and often unheard or shunted aside to complete an established agenda. This can leave a perceived important issue left with little time or attention in the meeting and potentially a distracted director.

Just after opening a meeting and approving minutes. I routinely ask each director for their “expectations” for the day, other than explicit agenda items. These are listed on a “parking lot” whiteboard and we either get to these immediately, find an item on the agenda that will cover that topic, make time at the end of the meeting, or put this item on a future agenda. Either way, this small tactic seems to quell the need for ad-hoc bunny-trail discussions and makes each director feel like they are being heard.

These two tools can hopefully become a part of your toolbox and help derive the value out of the board that you are seeking.

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