The Ten Most Common Mistakes Boards Make

The Chair of a Board that is not performing too well approached me recently. He complained about long, stretched-out meetings that often left items on the table, a culture of tons of emails---copied to all---between meetings that never seemed to come to a conclusion and much more. He asked for help.

I did some research. I have worked for and served on Boards for more than 25 years and on two continents. I have been the functionary, a Board member and the Board chair. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly!

Reflecting back, I compiled a short list of the most common mistakes I've seen Board make. This is what I came up with:

  1. Weak agenda and process. 
  2. Board members arrive ill-prepared.
  3. Weak time discipline. Slow or poor decision-making.
  4. No Code of Conduct.
  5. Not speaking with one voice.
  6. Getting involved in the execution (management/operational decisions) vs. Board/Strategic decisions.
  7. Misuse e-mail communication.
  8. Misunderstand the role and power of committees.
  9. Not effectively leading the ED/CEO.
  10. Drift too far away from constitution/bylaws – legal and other limitations for the ED/CEO to follow.

Yesterday I presented my findings to the Board on an hour-long Zoom session. It led to some lively discussion and great learning. Hopefully they now have the material and the shared experiences to help them improve.

We all want to be part of an effective, well-run meeting. It's not rocket science to get there. All you need is consistent rules and some discipline ... and the fun through effective collaboration will soon follow!

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