1. Set the context for issues and discussions. Provide background information and historical perspective. Explain “how the organization got to this point.” Outline the purpose of the discussion and define the desired outcomes—for example, to make a decision, to gather more information for a future vote, and so on. Use the agenda item cover sheet to help set the context. But at the meeting, set the context orally, as well.
  2. Distinguish between routine and strategic issues. Focus on strategic dialogue and decision-making, not on reporting. Don’t waste time on routine issues.
  3. Distinguish between governance and management. Be clear, beforehand, what of the upcoming discussion is “governance” and what part is “management.” A good rule of thumb is that the board focuses on defining results and the staff focuses on the means to achieve those results.
  4. Make sure that each person has the opportunity to speak, including every board member and the CEO. The board chair or committee chair should not dominate the discussion, but should facilitate discussion by others. The board chair can do several things to ensure a productive meeting:
    • facilitate the discussion and monitor participation
    • stop those who are inappropriately dominating the conversation and allow others to speak
    • move the discussion along by discouraging the repetition of similar comments; ask for a summary of
    • key points to help move the board toward action
    • ask if the board is ready to vote.
  5. The board chair should manage the meeting time and make sure that it is used well. Remind the group of the time allocated for each item on the agenda. If time runs out, ask the group if it wishes to modify the agenda in order to have more time to discuss the topic, or if it wishes to end the discussion and move the agenda. Beware! Two hours per month in a board meeting is almost always sufficient time. If you are meeting more often or longer, take a look at what you are doing and how you are doing it.
  6. Monitor and question your own process. Examine the topics you are talking about and decide if that’s what you should be discussing. Use minimal parliamentary procedure to conduct business efficiently.
  7. Make sure the board accesses and uses relevant information for deliberation and decision-making. Don’t just look at your organization in a vacuum. Make sure you are using contextual data. For example, if you are voting on an increased salary for your CEO, you should know how the proposed salary compares to other charter and district schools in your area.
  8. Make sure the board considers alternative actions reflective of diverse points of view, hears all sides, and assesses the positive and negative consequences of various choices.
  9. Ask tough questions, find areas of commonality, vote, and support the decision you finally make.
  10. If the board is planning to delegate work to a committee or task force, it should first make sure the full board has approved the process and defined the parameters of the work.

Adapted from Simone P. Joyaux www.simonejoyaux.com