Does your Board take time to look beyond the usual agenda items and focus on the big picture? Holding a longer meeting (often called a retreat) can create stronger focus and allow for more in-depth processing of ideas to keep your board focused on a strategic direction. Retreats also allow for a more relaxed climate so members can enhance their relationships and address issues in a more systematic way. Retreats may have gotten a bit of a bad rap in the past as more social outings than effective tools. In reality, they are important longer meetings that can help a group form, align and move forward.
As I talk with non-profit executives and board leaders, they are often hesitant to ask board members to commit time to meetings. Many are focused on keeping meetings short out of respect for the busy schedules of Board members. I agree there are tools and methods to keep routine meetings focused and brief. We have all been victims of long, tedious meetings where information is presented in excruciating detail or side topics and egos dominate the agenda, so that little else happens. The key to any effective meeting is to use the time wisely. Fundamentally, there are really only three ways to “spend” any meeting time: