In this newsletter installment we’ll give you some insights on how to run the perfect meeting with your Board of Directors. All the planning in the world and the perfect agenda will mean nothing if you can’t use that planning and the agenda to run a smooth, productive Board meeting. Here are some suggestions for putting your plan into action.
Start On Time: In order to stay on your agenda, especially if you’ve prepared a timed agenda, requires that the meeting begin promptly at the scheduled start time. Delaying a meeting encourages members to be late and punishes those who were on time.
Stick To The Agenda: Stay focused on the desired outcomes by using your previously created agenda. An agenda—particularly a timed one—can keep the meeting from getting bogged down on one issue. If you’re using a timed agenda, stay on track by ending each item on the agenda by the specified time.
Have An Endpoint: To avoid unproductive tangents and circular discussions, establish and end time for the meeting in advance and adjourn the meeting when you reach it.
Preempt Debate: You can resolve non-controversial items through “general consent” or “unanimous consent”. Under this method, the presiding officer asks, “Is there any objection to …?” For example, “Is there any objection to ending debate on this item?” If no one objects then the debate is closed. If a member objects, you can resolve the matter with a motion and a vote.
Otherwise, you can use general consent to adopt reports and motions, approve minutes and end debate. In fact, try to place a “consent agenda” near the start of the meeting that includes all non-controversial items, such as approval of the minutes from the previous meeting. Any member can request that an item be removed from the consent agenda and placed on the regular agenda for consideration and vote. The remaining consent agenda items are then unanimously approved as a group without discussion.
Manage Discussion: Discussion on an item on the agenda should only be allowed after a motion has been made to take action on the item and that motion has been seconded. After both of those have been accomplished then each Board member should be given the opportunity to ask questions or make a statement about the item to be voted on.
The Board may also set the discussion time prior to addressing a potentially lengthy issue. For example “Is there a motion to limit total debate to 10 minutes on this issue?” If this motion passes then the presiding officer should ask for speakers who have not spoken on the issue to address the Board first.
Alternate Pro and Con: After hearing from a Board member in favor of a motion the presiding officer can ask, “Is there anyone who wishes to speak against the motion?” If no one wishes to speak on a particular side, for or against, ask for unanimous consent to end the discussion.
When discussion seems to have reached a point of diminishing returns, ask for a motion to end discussion: “Is there a motion to close debate?” Most parliamentary books allow debate to be closed with a two-thirds vote.
Encourage and Equalize Participation: Discussion at Board meetings is often monopolized by a single person, but several formal parliamentary rules are designed to prevent this. For example, no one should speak a second time while there are Board members who wish to speak for the first time. If you are following formal procedure—such as during a particularly controversial issue—once a member has spoken twice to a motion, he or she should be prevented to discuss that motion for the balance of the meeting.
Use Proper Procedures: The North Carolina statues covering homeowner associations and condominium Association’s states: “Except as otherwise provided in the Bylaws, meetings of the association and the executive Board shall be conducted in accordance with the most recent edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. South Carolina statutes do not require the use of Robert’s Rules; however, proper procedure can help turn long, confrontational meetings into short, relatively painless ones.
Control Interruptions and Digressions: The presiding officer should acknowledge a tangential issue that has been raised by a fellow Board member but let the Board member know that it’s not relevant to the discussion and should be taken up later. Similarly, the presiding officer should make an effort to keep other Board members from dominating the discussion. The presiding officer may have to nicely state that because the Board member has already spoken, other opinions are needed on the issue.
Manage Conflict: During Board meetings, Board members should never get into an argument—or even direct discussion—with each other. If a confrontation begins between two members, your presiding officer should remind everyone to address all remarks to the presiding officer and not at each other.
End On A Positive Note: You cannot thank your volunteers too often. Thanking Board members for their time is not only gracious, but likely will result in greater enthusiasm for the association. That in turn should lead to even better meetings.