Structuring the agenda for your first board meeting as chair

One of the most visible and obvious roles of the board chair is to run the board meetings. Once a month, once a quarter, or whatever your meeting schedule may be, your leadership ability takes center stage. While others will play support roles during these meetings, it is you who will need to take the lead, direct the discussions, and manage the agenda. It is during these meetings that the business of the board is supposed to get done, and you need to take responsibility for ensuring that the essential business is accomplished and that board members leave the meeting feeling they have made a meaningful contribution.

As you and the chief executive prepare the agenda for your first meeting as board chair, consider asking yourself the following questions:

Are we clear about what we really need to accomplish in this meeting? How would we finish the sentence, “This meeting will be a real success if we…”?

Is the meeting agenda structured to achieve the desired outcomes we’ve described? Have we placed those items at the start of the agenda and allocated enough time to deal with them?

As we look at the agenda, are there reports or other information that could be presented in writing rather than use valuable meeting time? Can we reduce reporting time and increase time available for meaningful discussion?

Do we have at least one item on the agenda that will engage the board in a discussion of a strategic nature? Is it an item that links to our strategic plan? Are we allocating enough time in order to have a meaningful discussion?

What preparation will be required in order for people to be ready to fully participate in our discussions and make decisions? What information do we need to provide in advance? What else do we need to do in order to get everyone up-to-speed?

Which items do we anticipate will require action, follow-up, or next steps? Are we prepared to suggest a course of action at the end of discussion?

While we’ll discuss other successful meeting strategies in future blog entries, by focusing your agenda preparation on the questions posed here, you will be setting the stage for a successful and engaging board meeting.

For more board governance advice, explore the Starboard Leadership Consulting web site:, or contact Jeff Wahlstrom at (207) 992-4407.