7 unwritten rules of board meetings

The Dayton community is rich with numerous organizations, boards, and committees that you can get involved with. I know the idea of joining a board may be a bit intimidating at first, but like any other activity, practice makes perfect.

Below are 7 unwritten rules of board meetings that will help you fit right in with your new board pals.

1.) Be respectful of everyone else's time

Time is one of the most precious things people have. You can never get back lost time, so make sure your time is well spent. Board positions are usually occupied by upper level management and C-level officers from all different companies. Being respectful of their time means sticking to the agenda, not going off on tangents, or talking about items that have nothing to do with the organization.

2.) Fighting is not a form of communication

I have been a part of a few boards where people would flat out yell, scream, and fight with each other in front of everyone. This is not an appropriate form of communication. I guarantee that there will be conversations in which you disagree with others, know that you are all there for the same cause and his/her way may not be your way. Keep an open mind and a calm form of communication.

3.) Keep it under wraps

Board meetings usually discuss the direction and path that the organization is going to move down. Sometimes there will be newsworthy moves internally and externally, either with people or a collaboration between another organization. Keep it confidential! Let the marketing or PR person for your organization reach out to news folks to announce the news. Who knows, what you are telling people may change and then you would look silly.

4.) Step up and volunteer  

Organizations, boards, and committees seek to fill open positions from individuals who are well-connected in the community. Know that when you hop onto one of these, you may be asked to use your connections to get the word out about the organization or to help make more people aware of its cause. There are also usually subcommittees to get involved with inside the board. I highly encourage you to get on one of them. If your strength is social media, hop on the marketing committee. If you like to fundraise, join the finance committee. Don’t sit idle while others work.

5.) Be financially committed

A lot of boards will ask for you to make a financial donation. This is something to check before joining. If you are asked to make a $25,000 donation and you barely have $25 to spare, chances are that may not be a good fit for you. If there is no monetary donation, I HIGHLY encourage you to make one of whatever amount you can. It is always a great feeling to say, “Our board is 100% financially committed to our cause." A dollar is still a donation.

6 – Friends at the end

As mentioned before there may be some heated conversations.  The one thing that you need to remember is that even though you may disagree in the board room, you are still friends outside those walls.  Set petty differences aside and don’t let it affect your relationships.


7 – Treat Yo’ Self… and others

This really isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I am hoping that some of my fellow board members read this article and do this.  It never hurts to bring in donuts or some sort of treat for all to enjoy.  I just like snacks!

Bonus Rules

Check out a few more rules below that folks have been giving me after reading the article.  If I am missing more let me know!

Cathy Ponitz

"I would add perhaps the most basic of expectations: Come prepared. Read what you are supposed to read. Ask good questions. Be ready to engage on an informed level."

Liz Heitner

"I would add that you were asked to join the board due to your unique talents, expertise, resources, etc. Ensure you are engaging and delivering on that value you bring to the board room table. If you don't feel plugged in, sidebar with your chairmen to understand how and where you can assist to add value."

Lisa Grigsby

"Don't be afraid to step down if your situation changes. Job changes, personal challenges, family issues come up, it's often better to be direct with leadership about a change in your availability than to just not show up or contribute."

Tina Marker

"Always guide the train down the tracks with the mission in mind. Be prepared to serve as a visionary, strategist, policy maker, and critical elevator of growth and progress. Give leadership the tools they need to function and stay out of day-to-day operations (let them do their job). Ensure members are aware of the bylaws/code of regulations and it is applied. Have a passion for the organization/company."

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