It’s really interesting how different groups influence the direction we take in our seminars. I closed our Building Better Governance six seminar series in last November with an evening seminar on the importance of and the need to invest in the Top Team (both trustees and senior staff), and a breakfast seminar on how to run Effective Meetings.

Of course we have a standard set of things we like to talk about, mostly connected with our research into good governance practice, and our findings from the range of governance reviews we carry out with diverse nonprofits.

As you would expect, we always have some slides to act as a reference point and some extra materials in our web based knowledge bank developed especially for the programme. But the vibe of different groups takes us down different pathways on the day.

In these two closing seminars from the Edinburgh-based series commissioned by SCVO, we explored some really interesting aspects of both topics. Just to give you a flavour of some of the great ideas generated by the group, here are some of their views on what makes an effective board meeting:

  • Groundrules, code of conduct
  • Professional attitude
  • Chair sets the tone
  • Chair/CEO same hymn sheet
  • Focus, on track, on time
  • Effective chairing: everyone speaks, summarise, give feedback
  • Consensus; knowing when to draw to a close
  • Purposeful agenda and concise papers
  • Summary sheets
  • Consent agenda
  • Papers 5 working days
  • Proper conversation (not monologue or dialogue)
  • Safe environment
  • Meeting review
  • Action log
  • Nudge emails
  • Interesting visuals, materials, change locations, energisers at key points

Additionally in the group work during these seminars we developed powerful new thinking:

  • We defined characteristics of effective and ineffective top teams (so we could recognise what kind of team we’re in and take action to make it even better)
  • We defined the knowledge, skills and behaviours of effective top team members (so we can build appropriate recruitment, induction and development programmes; it is really interesting how many aspects are shared by both trustees and staff)
  • We explored our aspirations for our top teams (so that everyone present could be stimulated by each other’s ambition and think about optimum ways of developing the team)
  • We looked at some of the theory about critical thinking and tapping the brainpower of trustees to ensure better quality decision making
  • And established a bank of questions for trustees and staff to use to ensure better generative, strategic and fiduciary thinking in board meetings

And all that in the space of a few hours together: amazing what a few brains in a room together can create. If you’re interested in coming along to our next seminar series, take a look at the dates, topics and times.

You’ll be very welcome.