Board Meeting Etiquette Part 7 (General Etiquette)

The effectiveness of Board meetings has a significant impact on the ultimate performance of an organization. And they require a certain etiquette in order to be most effective. But how exactly should they be treated? Why should we have them? What should be discussed? Who should attend? Answering such questions can be difficult for first-time entrepreneurs who find Board meetings to be a foreign experience. Even veteran entrepreneurs should be reminded of proper Board meeting etiquette. So I’ve asked some experienced entrepreneurs and investors to offer their opinions about Board meeting etiquette in the context of small, private businesses. Their responses have been compiled into a series of seven separate blog entries.

Please share any general thoughts you have about Board meeting etiquette.

“There should be an outline and opportunity for each member to have a time to express whatever they want, but overall, it should be at the direction of the Chairman. The Chairman needs to call for a vote. The Secretary needs to be assigned to take meeting minutes or find a 3rd party meeting “stenographer” or the meeting can be recorded for future reference. The Chairman needs to call for a specific vote on matters that Board members or management bring up for a decision.” –Jaime Villagomez

“Keep it simple.” –Allan Young

“Prepare a board meeting packet and distribute to board members at least one week in advance of the meeting.  Include items that require board vote and approval so board members can consider them ahead of the meeting instead of trying to process them in the meeting.  Detail in the board packet will depend on what your board members like – some like lots of detail and some don’t.  For the meeting itself, prepare a crisp, short presentation for the company overview, but keep a lot of data and detail close at hand. Take notes.  Be formal with items requiring a vote – introduce voting items by motion, seconded by another board member and voted upon by all board members.” –Gregg Rosann

“Since the CEO tends to stuff the board with trusted allies, some boards provide only a rubber-stamp function. This is a total waste of time. A good CEO is one who encourages honest discussion and toleratesdissention on major issues. Likewise, it is not good to have cross-directorships, where the CEO serves on the board of another company whose CEO serves on his.” –Robert Rieger

“As is the case in general, Boards have experienced various levels of legal liability and cooresponding challenges. As a result it is critical that Boards’ and their members consider seriously and manage accordingly their responsibilities and follow due process and legal procedure at all times. All topics and discussions should be held in greatest confidence and recorded.” –Tricia McGarry

“There can (and should) be issues discussed regarding the (always) pending threats to the business. Disagreements better happen in a board meeting. If it is a year of “feel good” meetings then the board is dangerously blind.” –Scott Spurgiez

“The Board employs the CEO, who is responsible for maximizing shareholder wealth. It is common for the Board to also employ other chief executives.” –Jacob Webb

Previous questions:

Pt. 1: What is the purpose of a Board meeting? Why should we have them?

Pt. 2: How long should a Board meeting be?

Pt. 3: Who should do the speaking in a Board meeting and why?

Pt. 4: When is it appropriate, if ever, for someone other than a board member to attend a Board meeting?

Pt. 5: How often should a Board meeting take place?

Pt. 6: What is the most important topic a Board of Directors should address during Board meetings?

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