Three Ways to Improve Your Board’s Decision-Making

intentional practices mission. vision. values strategic planning and policy development Oct 24, 2023
Three Ways to Improve Your Board’s Decision-Making


Board meetings are often in a category of their own. But they might be reframed as your Board’s primary forum for decision-making.

Taking this perspective, what happens around the table needs to be more inclusive, more intentional and more thoughtful. But how?


Here are a few suggestions:

Let’s start with the assumption that you have the right people (intentional recruitment and selection of Board members), in the right seats (a skilled and committed Chair who can facilitate meetings), on the right bus (you are heading in the right direction, working to realize your mission). These are important precursors to effective decision-making for sure, and have been addressed in many previous blog posts. Just contact me if you need resources or advice.


Then, at the meeting: 

1. Put your honest thoughts out on the table.

Of course, Board members need to feel secure and have a sense of psychological safety. In other words, no one is going to attack them or try to belittle them. Encouraging (and occasionally demanding) appropriate behaviour at the table becomes an issue for the Chair.

The Chair can also encourage participation by calling on individual members (Martha, we haven’t heard from you on this topic) and encouraging deeper contributions (Sam, could you elaborate a bit on your point, so we understand it more fully).

Preferred behaviours should also be incorporated in your ground rules or attached to the signed oath of office.


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2. Have thoughtful disagreements.

Help to shift opinions while listening and learning. It can be difficult to generate differences of opinion even if you know they exist. Sometimes, they are not thought through, sometimes, they are hunches, sometimes, they are based on ideology.

The Chair may, from time to time, ask different board members to lead a discussion on a contentious issue by taking different sides of the argument. Not a formal debate (although that is also a possibility) but a statement of fact and opinion from each perspective. Make clear that the individual Board member may not hold the position but has been asked to present it. Then, call for questions of clarification only. Only when everyone understands, open the discussion.


3. Have agreed-upon ways of deciding.

Do you usually work by consensus? This can work best most of the time as it is inclusive, and everyone can agree, as long as it does not end up with mediocrity (the likely consensus on preferred ice cream will always be vanilla).

You may wish to vote when there are differences impossible to overcome, but there are winners and losers with votes, so your culture becomes important too.

Methods of decision-making should be clearly stated in your ground rules.


Remember that our e-book Effective Meetings: Welcome to the Board Room is free on request.


What are your main “pain points” dealing with decision-making?

What advice would be most helpful to you?
And we always assume that you are asking for a friend!


Get in touch. We’ll address your questions and concerns in an upcoming blog post.




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P.S. May I ask a tiny favour? Would you mind sharing this blog with one person? I would love it. You can post the links in your Facebook Groups, LinkedIn or even send an email.

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