NEDA, The Non Executive Directors’ Association has released their 6th edition handbook for NEDs. While I did not obtain a copy yet, I looked at the 5th edition. The handbook is very thorough and covers many topics that would be useful as a go-to-reminder for well experienced NEDs, or as a starting source of information for new NEDs.
In this post, I thought it would be good to unpick the role of the chair in a board. Running meetings, although we attend tons of them, is still a special artful skill. Some are good at it and others can certainly improve.
Here are few things that would help you become a better chair as defined by NEDA.
Before we tap into the tips, it is essential to understand that being a chair does not mean you have more legal obligations than the rest of the board. You may be required to perform couple of extra tasks (such as line managing the CEO, and help advancing fellow board members), but nothing more legally required than other board members (to my knowledge when this post written Nov 2022).
With that in mind, you need to understand that being successful in chairing meetings, you are a key facilitator. Facilitation is a skill. It is the ability of ensuring everyone is engaged and feels safe to contribute, agree and oppose to whatever is being discussed. Most importantly, facilitation, is ensuring board members feel safe to say: Sorry, I do not understand; or Sorry, I need more information before I can contribute.
This skillset does not come natural to many and it needs fostering and enriching all the way.
NEDA defines the chair as responsible for ensuring that:
- there is enough time allocated to discuss each item on the agenda
- board papers are circulated in a timely manner to allow NEDs to read them and be well prepared
- the board is able to decide on the level of risk the organisation is willing to accept
- all board members are well aware of their duties and are able to discharge them
- the board is engaging and listens to the broad spectrum of the stakeholders of the organisation (internally and externally)
- new board members receive their induction when they are appointed; and
- there is a professional development commitment for all NEDs to keep their skills and knowledge updated
On top of all that, and while it is the responsibilities of each board member, the Chair must ensure they are operating with utmost integrity at all times to ensure the reputation of the organisation they support is upheld throughout their tenure.
So what are some practical tips you can deploy when chairing a meeting:
Four Steps – PLEG
Ensure the papers are well circulated and you allocate enough time for the most pressing matters. A board meeting that is rushed is not an effective one and wont enable the NEDs to discharge their duties appropriately
Active listening is a skill that can be trained. Make sure you actively listen to everyone in the meeting. Keep a close eye on their body language or their tone of voice too as this could give you further indications on how they feel during the meeting
Ensure that each board member and executive has the space to contribute. Don’t be afraid asking individuals by name asking them for their thoughts and opinions and build on it where appropriate
Helping your fellow board members further develop their skills will help you grow as a chair. Having them engage in this process by having a safe environment will teach you valuable lessons on interacting with different personalities
What is your experience chairing board meetings? Are there any key tips you can share with me? Get in touch or add your comment below. Alternatively, lets get social 👇