Here are a few examples of recurring board processes: nominations, recruiting and elections; GM evaluation; GM compensation; board self-evaluation; setting board priorities; agenda planning; officers roles and elections; code of conduct review and consideration of conduct issues; acting on reports from management; and responding to member or customer input. That doesn’t even take into account the infrequent board decisions related to purpose, expansion, debt or strategic alliances. It’s worth thinking through how to work together to realize board holism with all decisions, such as those as described above.
Here are a few tips and ideas to consider:
- Before “doing” a process, take time to talk about it first. It’s possible that some members of the board are new and haven’t been through it before, or that those who have been through the process before don’t remember the steps, purpose, or nuances of the process.
- Review questions together about the process. For example: What agreements have been made about this process already? What do our policies say? Do we understand the process we are about to use? Does it make sense to us?
Who speaks the board’s voice?
Often the president or chair of the board is authorized to speak on behalf of the board. However, it is very common for directors, or officers, to be asked about board process, board decisions, board actions, or about management decisions or actions. The principle of board holism likely would also apply to newsletter articles written by directors or speaking engagements, formal and informal, in which a director is addressing board process, decisions or actions.
Given that there are a variety of ways the board’s voice might be expressed, even when the chair is the primary or delegated “voice,” it can be helpful to practice as a group how directors would express themselves regarding a process, decision or action.
- Frame a question that could be asked by a member. Quick examples: What’s the board do, anyway? How does the board evaluate or compensate the GM? What’s the board’s role in elections? Why did you pick that location for the new store?
- Then go around the room with each director answering the same question.
- The point isn’t that everyone says the same words, but rather that the words each director chooses do express the shared understanding of all directors.
This practice can be especially useful following a deliberative process and board decision where all directors were not in agreement and yet the expectation is that all directors support the decision. Practicing answering questions out loud and hearing how others will answer the same question in the context of a board meeting, can help affirm alignment around decisions the board has made and show everyone what “speaking with one voice” looks like.