4 Tips for Communicating with Your Board of Directors
By: Brian Jensen
You probably remember it well: sitting through at least one meeting where it was clear that everyone was thinking the same thing, “This could have been said in an email.”
I know I have had that experience too.
Refocusing your communication goals with your coworkers, your supervisors, or your Board of Directors will help you tremendously in accomplishing tasks and having effective, efficient, and productive meetings when you do need to have them. You won’t be able to get rid of meetings completely, but having fewer meetings of greater quality will make everyone happier in the long run.
Here are some tips I’ve learned in my experience to make communicating with your Board of Directors more effective:
A surprise works great for a birthday party, but not so much for a board meeting agenda. Communicating early with your board members means they can fully engage in the meeting and bring ideas and feedback to the table. This will make your meeting much more collaborative and your time spent in-person more productive.
Make sure each board member knows their role as well as everyone else’s so information is communicated to the right person. If there is a critical issue—such as a crisis or a financial problem—communicate it to the appropriate person right away.
You should also know each person’s area of expertise or responsibility. Knowing this—as well as the communication styles of each person—will help you tremendously increase efficiency in your communication with a Board of Directors.
Err on the side of too much communication—even if it may be a lot of information. When it comes to a Board of Directors, you can’t over-communicate. When your board regularly hears from you (even if you don’t feel like there is much to say), they will appreciate the updates and being kept in the loop. Figure out if things need to be repeated on a regular basis for consistency and awareness: are there dashboards or KPIs that need to be on most official communication pieces, or delivered at the same time each month or quarter? Figure out a rhythm of communication and stick to it. This may require some trial and error (and diligence), but it will set the standard for how the board will run.
Don’t get caught up in ‘boardspeak.’ Know what you need to say, and say it. This will help you hold meetings that are efficient and clear, and members will walk away feeling productive and ready to help you with actionable steps for how the Board can advise, guide, or assist your school, church, or organization.
Always proofread board communications. Make sure that you are communicating with what we call “wow-making excellence” at Vanderbloemen.
While you are proofreading, also check to make sure that it really says what you want it to say. Board meetings may be infrequent, so make sure you include any essential or important points because your chance to remind or repeat information may be several months away.
It may also be helpful for you to include a digital copy of the agenda in an email so board members can reference it later. But make sure that any printed or written communication is clean and excellent as the printed agenda will outlive the in-person meeting.
Another good thing to do is to ask for feedback from a couple of board members. Ask them if they sense that communication is coming through clearly. Do they feel like the communication between you and the board makes sense to people who are not regularly at your organization or on-site every day? Their perspective is invaluable as they provide outside insight that you and your staff may not have.
Boards operate from a 30,000-foot view. So, figure out the right things to communicate for people at that level. Board members are busy people, and knowing how to best communicate with them— individually, and as a whole—helps tailor the forms of communication based on the position of each member.
This is where you execute your communication strategy. What needs to be done through phone calls? What should be in written form (email vs. hard copy)? What needs to wait for in-person (will this be in presentation form or open dialogue)?
Most times board members don’t need to be in the weeds of everyday operations, so having a solid communication strategy will increase the efficiency of the boardroom and decrease the risk of miscommunication. As the goals of the Board of Directors evolve, so will your communication strategy—so be flexible.
Bottom line, be intentional with the flow of communication that works best for your culture and Board of Directors. It may take a few tries to figure out what works best, but stay persistent and you’ll figure it out. Your board will thank you for it.