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Mastering Effective Leadership in Chairing Board Meetings

Recently, having been asked to take on the role of chair of a sub-committee of one of the boards I serve on, I had the privilege of chairing my first few meetings.  While I was excited at the opportunity, there was also some degree of apprehension about all the things that could go wrong especially with my first meeting as chair being a virtual one!  A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the benefits of saying ‘yes’ when what you would really, really want to say is ‘no’ (mostly because you are afraid you won’t be able to deliver – you can read that article here).  Well this was one of those for me!  I have chaired several meetings in my career, but none in this current role where it seems there is a lot more at stake – the quality and safety of medical care.


So I did what I often do whenever I am about to embark on something new (which is often) - I researched as much as I possibly could about how to chair board meetings as a non- executive.  There’s a lot of helpful information out there – as well as a few that were not so helpful.  Here are some valuable lessons I've gleaned thus far, acknowledging that learning remains an ongoing process:


1.     Facilitation over expertise:  Recognize that my role isn't to possess all the answers but rather to facilitate an environment where diverse expertise can contribute meaningfully.

2.     Shared responsibility: It is as much my meeting as it is theirs – therefore the success of the meeting hinges on collective participation and everyone, including myself, plays a vital role in fostering effectiveness and efficiency.

3.     Listening first: Give everyone the opportunity to speak first before adding any contribution I might have.

4.     Courage in seeking clarity: Don’t be afraid to seek clarification, prioritizing understanding over the fear of appearing uninformed.  I would rather understand fully the information being shared than pretend I have full knowledge of what is being discussed and make the wrong call.

5.     Respectful engagement: Respect individual’s preference about whether they speak or stay silent.

6.     Clarity in outcomes: Ensure each agenda item discussed, is accompanied by clear action points, who’s responsible and agreed timelines.  This enhances accountability and understanding.

7.     Constructive challenge: There are good and bad ways of bringing challenge – try and do it the right way – with grace, recognising that most executives really are striving to perform their best.

8.     Gratitude and recognition:  Finally, don’t forget to thank everyone at the end for their participation and in doing, fostering a culture of appreciation and acknowledgment.


What strategies do you employ when chairing board meetings?



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