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Get Better Engagement with your Board – tips for the CEO

By Debbie Bradley, Group Account Director

As a CEO, you are fully responsible for your organisation; the running of the every day, being responsible to Board Members, communicating with stakeholders, and for the culture and the team that you lead.

Managing the Board and engaging members to be an effective part of the organisation’s strategic direction is key, and comes with its own challenges. Board Members are highly knowledgeable in many different disciplines, passionate, and willing to invest time and effort into reaching the goals of your organisation. How can you leverage these skills and engage your Board for the betterment of your Association?

1 Host an annual strategic planning session

It is important that everyone has input into the direction of the organisation and are on the same page. Clarity, consistency and collaboration are key.

As CEO, you must be confident that your strategy has full support from the Board for effective implementation. Take advantage of these experts who are at the height of their industry and seek advice as to the direction of the organisation. Consider sourcing an external facilitator to attend and run the strategic planning session. This will help allow for open and transparent conversation to get the best outcome.

2 Develop a 12 month strategic plan

Once you have conducted the strategic planning sessions, get it on paper and seek approval by the Board. Make sure everyone is aware of the quantitative things you want to achieve. Set objectives, a strategy and an action plan on who, how and when it will be implemented. A strategy on a page for the next 12 months is a great way to keep the organisation and stakeholders focused on the end game.

3 Clearly communicate the strategy with your wider team

To make the strategy work, it needs to be communicated and understood by the people in your team. It is important for the staff in your organisation to understand what you are trying to achieve and why the Board has made these decisions, so they can implement the message, changes or action with your members. Maybe have one of the Board or the Chair / President talk directly to the team, so they feel connected to the process and the strategy. It’s guaranteed the team will implement with more passion if they understand it.

4 Regularly report back against targets

Report back to your Board against the agreed measurements. Build trust with your Board by regularly and transparently keeping them in the loop. No one wants too many meetings, however reporting, especially around the communications channels, will help the Board feel confident the agreed strategy is making a difference to the goals set. Adjustments or changes to the strategy can also be implemented during the process.

5 Be inclusive – allow your Managers to report to the Board directly to build credibility

It’s not only important for you to develop a relationship with the Board members, it’s also important for your Managers to be able to present first hand to the Board. This will build their confidence, create engagement in their work, and a better understanding in what they are doing. It also creates a two-way communications culture from the top to the bottom of your organisation. This will eliminate the ‘ivory tower’ situation that can be perceived in organisations like Not-for-Profits.

6 Be clear on the role of your Board

When working on a regular basis with Boards it is important for the role of the Board to be really clear for both parties. The Australian Institute of Company Directors discusses here: What is the role of a Board?

7 Set a clear agenda for Board meetings

It is easy for meetings to get off track; keep to a strong agenda, communicate this to the Board well in advance and have someone stay on track of the minutes and follow-up. There are organisations like The Association Specialists that can help you professionally administrate meetings.

8 Get approvals in the meeting – make them action focused

Make your meetings with the Board action focused. What do you want to achieve in the half day that you have? Have a predetermined outcome and focus before you go in. Set the tone of the Board meeting by providing an outline of what needs to be achieved and decided on the day. You only get access to these skilled people for a limited time, so to move the organisation forward, you need to utilise their decision-making capability wherever possible.

9 Industry-based Board?

Consider a non-executive Board member from the legal, finance or communication sectors to give a new perspective. It’s truly important to have a Board of passionate, industry focused members; however, gauging an outside perspective can add real value. Try and include someone who is external to your organisation and has experience where you may have gaps in experience, on the Board.

Zadro have facilitated many Board sessions and specialise in strategic communications planning and implementation. We advise on the steps required to be able to reach the goals of the organisation and to build a culture that is inclusive for our clients.

If you would like to talk to us further about facilitating your annual strategic planning session, please call Debbie Bradley on 02 9212 7867 or email debbie@zadroagency.com.au.

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