My board doesn’t focus on important things; we spend half our meetings rehashing old votes or talking about the cost of office supplies, and then the last 10 minutes on something that affects the entire organization.

Sound familiar?

Some of the fault lies in board culture, but there ARE ways to tweak board meetings to move the focus toward the future.

Here are seven ways to manage board meetings so your time focuses on substantive discussion and issues:

  1. Put Mission & Vision at the top of the agenda. That way, any member can refer to the mission during a discussion: “How will this decision move our mission forward?”
  2. Begin with a mission inspiration. Renew your energy by starting with an inspiring story about the organization; it affirms that your work is important.
  3. No more than two important topics at a single meeting. If the topic is important, give it the attention it deserves. Announce discussion topics in advance so board members come prepared.
  4. Send needed information at least 2 days in advance. Give board members time to absorb important information and formulate their thoughts and questions. Create the conditions for a more informed discussion.
  5. Return topics to committee if you can’t come to a conclusion. If it looks like the matter needs more thought, let the committee do more research and refine the proposal. Discussion without sufficient information invites frustration, bad decisions – and very long meetings.
  6. Only revisit decisions when things change. Decisions can change if you get new information or circumstances change, but merely rehashing decisions takes time and energy away from a focus on the future.
  7. Restate decisions and commitments before adjourning. Give the group a positive charge to go out into the world and be proud of your past and future accomplishments. Simply state what you decided in the meeting, and the commitments you each made.

Individual board members may differ in how ready they are to accept these suggestions. But the ultimate goal – focusing on the future – is a worthy one. So take the incremental steps toward focused meetings, and watch the board reenergize!

Do you have more tips? Put them in the comments, so we can all share in your wisdom! Or send them to me at