Board meetings require balance. While nobody appreciates a meeting in which brevity is the only value, unduly lengthy meetings discourage and exhaust everybody – directors, audience and manager. After about 3 hours, good concentration and judgment is hard to come by. A length of 60-90 minutes is a very reasonable and achievable goal for most board meetings. Try these tips to get there.
1. Come prepared
Good managers provide boards with “board packets” in advance, helping directors come to the meeting prepared, avoiding time wasted as directors “get up to speed” about items set forth in the packet. Prepared directors are more efficient – read your packet.
2. Avoid overly ambitious agendas
Watch out for the overly loaded agenda. Some issues can dominate a meeting, requiring thirty minutes or more. Try to handle only one such issue per meeting, if you can. Sometimes a board needs to meet more frequently, as there is too much to be done in one meeting.
3. Set the room up for a board meeting (not a town hall meeting)
A board which sits facing the audience (and not each other) invites audience participation, but the audience was not elected to serve. The semicircle is the best shape, so the audience can hear as the directors talk – to the other directors.
4. Use open forum properly
Many meetings are too long because both board and audience fail to respect open forum. During open forum the board should not interrupt, and during the rest of the meeting the audience should not interrupt.
5. Use consent calendars
Most routine decisions should be handled via consent calendar. Assessment liens, routine bills, and other non-controversial matters can then be passed with no discussion and one vote. Any director desiring discussion can pull an item from the consent calendar.
6. Don’t force unanimity
Some excessive deliberation results from over-emphasis upon unanimity. Unanimity is not legally necessary, and puts too much pressure on directors who wish to disagree. Disagreement is not disloyal. Unanimity is important only on very important subjects on which the community needs to be shown strong board support.
7. It’s okay NOT to speak
Part of the art of being a great board Chair is recognizing when there is a consensus and it is time to vote. Part of the art of being a great director is recognizing when a motion is clearly on its way to passage so no further remarks are necessary.
8. Use committees
Major topics can be researched, analyzed and discussed in committees or task forces which then recommend action to the board. Committees are also a great place for members to become involved, and to identify potential directors.
9. Keep on track
The Open Meeting Act requires that the board only discuss items which were disclosed on its agenda. Other spinoff discussions are often tempting, but that is not fair to the members who did not know it would be discussed and distracts from the agenda at hand. Stay on target.
10. Adopt meeting rules
Meeting rules educate members regarding meeting procedures, set behavior boundaries, and help curb disruptive behavior. Adopt meeting rules (and follow them!).
A one hour meeting is a good goal. Try hard to avoid exhausting three hour meetings. Efficient meetings are worthwhile, and will encourage others to take their turn at future board service.
Kelly G. Richardson Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Partner of Richardson | Ober | DeNichilo LLP, a California law firm known for community association advice. Submit questions to Kelly@rodllp.com. Past columns at www.HOAHomefront.com. All rights reserved®.