While public board and committee meetings have the potential to be both constructive and productive, often this is not the case. Sometimes independent board and committee members feel that nothing ever really changes as a result of meetings. At other times friction and bad tempers create more heat than light.
Knowing that a meeting is not working is one thing. Changing things is, of course, a different matter.
A helpful first step is articulating what good (and not so good) might look like. That’s where the Meetingometer comes in.
In the same way as a rev counter helps a driver to set their gears and accelerator in a way that’s just right for the engine, so the Meetingometer does the same for, well, a meeting. Just as a the rev counter shows you when you are in the green zone for your engine, so the Meetingometer tells you when you are in the constructive green zone for a meeting.
Support and challenge
Independent member of boards and committees have two meeting modes that they switch between; support and challenge.
Support – Independent board and committee members provide advice and new ideas to help executive members develop strategy and policy as well as make decisions and solve organisation challenges. In support mode independent members provide additional capacity, perspectives, knowledge and experience. This is sometimes called the performance role.
Challenge – Independent board and committee members act as watchdogs, monitoring performance and holding executive decision makers to account. In challenge mode independent members bring issues and concerns to the table and ask executives to justify courses of action and consider alternatives. This is sometimes called the conformance or assurance role.
So how will you know which zone you are in?
There are three meeting zones on the Meetingometer:
- Amber: Unconstructive support
- Green: Constructive support and challenge
- Red: Destructive challenge
While the most productive meetings will stay in the green constructive zone, those in the amber zone are harmless but have little impact. Those in the red zone, however, will not only lack impact but can cause lasting damage to the organisation and the relationships of those involved.
But how will we know which zone we are in at any one time? Below are some of things we might notice:
- Agenda items are chosen by executive members without the involvement of independent members
- Executive members dominate discussions, talk most and make the majority of suggestions
- Suggestions from executive members typically require yes or no answers, independent member questions are typically for information and clarification
- Evidence is largely provided by executive members with limited critical assessment by independent members
Constructive support and challenge
- Work planing and agenda planning reflect the input of both independent and executive members with no surprises on either side
- Meeting time is shared with both independent and executive members given time to answer each others questions and develop suggestions
- New ideas and proposals are developed and refined through discussion
- Evidence is provided and critically assessed by both independent and executive members, independent members keep in touch with interested parties
- Independent members bring items for discussion without engaging or preparing the executive
- Independent members make statements, ask long questions require only short answers and interrupt responses
- Independent members amplify shortcomings and ignore opportunities to discuss solutions
- Evidence of failure is provided and amplified by independent members who ignore or downplay evidence of success
Of course these are things you *might* notice. Every situation is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’.
If this post has been helpful then check out my Constructive Conversations course to discover more ideas and tips for working more constructively and productively.
This post was edited on 28.11.20 – the ‘green zone’ was simplified from two segments to one that combines support and challenge.