Serving on a board of directors, advisory panel or school board is a responsibility that ought to bring satisfaction. After all, it’s your choice to be there.
Here’s how to make the most of it, especially if you head the board:
Listen and respond quickly. When legitimate complaints come your way, suggest some form of immediate action and direct the person to the right authority.
Say, “Use my name when you call.” Offer to follow up if the person is not satisfied. Act fast or you’ll be perceived as lax.
Respond honestly, but under no circumstances should you criticize the entity you guide, and don’t guess about the causes of problems. Any negative comments will be embellished and repeated. Also, avoid asking potentially embarrassing questions in public.
Make the hard calls. The more responsibility an employee of your organization holds, the more accountable he or she must be. Sometimes those with the most responsibility will be your friends; you need to remain firm and fair with everyone.
By the same token, take your lumps when you’ve made a mistake. Learn the art of apologizing in public. Self-deprecation helps.
Keep meetings fair and efficient. Follow simple parliamentary rules and allow each board member to be fully heard. That being said, you can’t let meetings drag on until midnight. Don’t comment on the vast majority of agenda items and keep others on topic.
Above all, don’t make visitors wait. When a large group arrives to speak on a particular item, amend your agenda. Making visitors sit through long discussions tells them you’re self-important, and if people are angry, making them wait will only whip them into a frenzy.
Consider adding an open forum of three-minute slots before the formal meeting begins.
— Adapted from “Secrets of Board Success,” Lynn Hamilton, American School Board Journal.