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Change the Dynamic of Difficult Board Meetings

Julie Zuraw
Chief Operating Officer,
Argo Real Estate

Change the Dynamic of Difficult Board Meetings

Setting the Stage

If there’s one thing I’ve learned working with boards, it’s that board members sometimes find themselves dealing with more than they thought they had signed up for. It’s a volunteer position. It’s much more labor-intensive and challenging than most realize. Those who run for office are people compelled to take responsibility and to lead. We have a great deal of respect for board members and really work to partner with them to get done what they need to get done. Now, because a board is a democratically elected group, there are times where there are people in the board with different – and strongly held – opinions. At times, this can lead to difficult conversations.

Following the Action

There was a board once – this was a large, 400-unit building – where difficult conversations were becoming the norm. In fact, the board was really split into factions and was having difficulty getting business done. Disagreements would sometimes end up becoming personal.

We needed to introduce some structure to these meetings. We suggested that the board follow Robert’s Rules of Order to the letter. It’s a disciplined protocol for having conversations and making decisions that’s fairly easy to follow. It had an immediate impact and really changed the dynamic of these board meetings.

As a result of that, we staged an Argo U class – which is something we do for clients on a quarterly basis – on how to run effective board meetings using Robert’s Rules of Order. It was highly attended, because this is one place where boards really want to be effective.

Doing It Right

If you’re meeting once a month, that needs to be a really tight, rich, decision-making meeting. In this case, introducing that kind of discipline helped them get there. Being a board member is hard, and our job is to make it easier. Sometimes, that means bringing more structure into the board environment.

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