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Board Getting Bogged Down and Off Track at the Board Table – Take Back Control

Your Board meeting is stuck and your 3-hour agenda is in jeopardy. What do you do?! Rather than allow panic to set it, take a deep breath and refocus. Keeping a Board on track during a meeting is an art form and even the best facilitator sometimes needs other tools to control a Board that has gone “off the rails.” Here are 5 tips that can help you get your Board meeting back on track:

  1. Take a Strategic Break– Take a 15-minute break to regroup and to allow the room to calm down. Use this time to speak to the offenders taking the meeting off track and develop a strategy to get the meeting back on track (i.e. defer to a task force, take it offline or assign to next agenda if it is in line with the strategic plan).
  2. Innovate Your Board Meeting Agenda – Take the boredom out of the Board room in innovating your Board meeting agenda. Think of ways to change the room setup, enhance the agenda, allow for blue sky thinking and other unique ways to maximize engagement and activity. Read more about innovative agendas here.
  3. Small Groups– It is very ineffective, at times, to conduct a full group discussion at a Board meeting. If there is an issue that requires a solution, think about breaking the Board up into several groups analyzing the same issue and presenting the top solution. This will help to ensure all voices are heard and there is diversity in the solutions. After each group voices their opinions, it is then the large group’s responsibility to identify the top solution(s) from what was suggested. This will allow for more intelligent and focused debate. 
  4. Polling– If you have a large Board, you might want to think about employing tools to poll the Board instantly around issues to determine if there is increased agreement. is an online tool that you can use to develop polls that can be completed at the Board meeting. Another tool is to use physical “clickers” and poll “yes” or “no” answers during Board meetings. This allows everyone to weigh in to provide a consensus around overall agreement or disagreement on an issue.
  5. Robert’s Rules of Order– “The application of parliamentary law is the best method yet devised to enable assemblies of any size, with due regard for every member’s opinion, to arrive at the general will on the maximum number of questions of varying complexity in a minimum amount of time and under all kinds of internal climate ranging from total harmony to hardened or impassioned division of opinion.”Quoted from Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised. Understanding parliamentary procedure is necessary for a good Board meeting to function but should not be stifled by not using it properly.

Ultimately, every action at a Board meeting, needs to be focused squarely and precisely on the mission of the organization. The mission translates into providing value to each and every one of your members and key stakeholders. Losing that value through inefficiency and indecisiveness at Board meetings is giving your members an excuse to spent their dues dollars somewhere else if they don’t perceive progress. If we put it in this perspective, shouldn’t every Board meeting advance the mission and goals of the organization? Staying on track is staying true to the mission of the organization and ensuring relevance and value to the members.