Being a board member is a significant responsibility and with that must come a commitment to be present and participate in board meetings. Easy to say, hard to do for some.

Board meetings can be intimidating for some and getting involved isn’t always easy. You might not be comfortable with some of the agenda items in the meeting. I hear often from board members that they occasionally don’t feel comfortable discussing the finances of the association so they shy away from the conversation during meetings when the treasurer provides their report.

It’s perfectly natural to shy away from discussions that board members are not comfortable discussing, but it is important that each board member be involved and participate in the meeting. Board members are accountable to the association members, key stakeholders, regulators, funders and the community at large.

A big responsibility falls on the board chair to get board members involved but it doesn’t rest solely with the chair. Each board member needs to take responsibility for understanding issues that come up, weighing in with an opinion and thinking for themselves for the good of the association.

There are a few ways to get board members involved and participate at board meetings. The simplest is to do a round table check in with each board member on important issues. If you don’t do this regularly it may take a while to implement with your board. Making changes and introducing new ways of doing things takes time, but if done right it is a great mechanism for gaining insight from each member of the board on an issue.

Another way to get board members involved is to create a job description for board members so that everyone is clear on what is expected. A board must hold its members accountable for their performance. It’s not possible to hold them accountable unless they are clear about their responsibilities. Reviewing the job description annually at a meeting and during board orientation for new board members will go a long way in board members understanding that participation is valued and required at the board table.

As I spoke about in a previous blog, evaluation is one of the cornerstones to running a successful meeting and getting participation up during meetings. We have recently completed a peer-to-peer review of one board I work with and I am excited to see the results and have board members hear what their peers are saying about how they perform as board members

The key to board participation at meetings is creating a culture for the board where members are ready for meetings in advance, they feel that their voice matters and have their fellow board members listen to one another with respect and really hear what is being said. In that culture the focus must always be on the purpose of the association to fairly represent the many stakeholders and do what is right for the whole of the association and the community.