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10 Ways to Be a Useful Member of the Board

Get your voice heard and make a difference

You’ve been invited to step up. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your rightful place on the board. You’ve spent lots of time and energy getting here, but what next? Founder of London accountancy firm FUSE Accountants, Faye Watts, herself a member of a number of boards, shares what she considers best practice…

1. Body Language is Powerful

Facing people head on as you speak is vital, even if that means looking at everyone in turn. Don’t hide your head in your notes or turn your back to your audience to read off a screen behind you. If you are taking on the role of chairperson, eye contact will become especially the most important factor. You will use it to orchestrate your group, putting some people in the spotlight and taking the attention away from someone who may have been hogging it for too long.

Don’t be afraid to use your body. Even if you are only slight, in fact especially if you are slight, using your body can add weight to your words. Use your arms to hold people’s attention, swivel towards people to bring them into the conversation. Use your body weight. Lean in, or out. Never turn your back on anyone though.

2. Bring Ideas

Asking “what are we going to do about x” will instigate debate and allow you to be a thought leader. Even if you don’t know the answer, have a couple of decent suggestions to show that you’ve given it some thought yourself. You can then ask the room for alternatives. Remember that the board is more than just marketing, fund raising or finance: it’s about everything working together to benefit the organisation as whole.

3. Promote Accountability

Ask the question everyone avoids. “Who is going to do that and when?” Pin people down with names actions and deadlines. Who will they account to? Don’t be afraid to step in and bring the meeting back on subject if it has really gone off-track and the chairperson isn‘t doing this. Merely asking “are we getting distracted by xyx” may be enough to bring the conversation back to the original topic.

Likewise, tell people when you will be doing something and be accountable yourself. Show them that you can deliver.

4. Don’t Enforce Your Opinion…unless you have to

Even if you’ve been taken on as the financial expert, let other have their say on the subject. Yet, at the same time, if you know for sure that something is a good/bad idea let them know. Explain rather than tell, and think of it as a process of sharing and leading a conversation rather than imposing your knowledge..

5. Know when you use small talk

Using small talk well can be an art and incredibly useful before the meetings get going, but once it the meeting is convened, stick to business. Leave any gossip or updates until afterwards.

6. Make your own notes

Even if there will be minutes, making your own notes allows you to keep your own tally of what’s happening, plus any ideas you have mid-meeting but want to check out before you raise them next time.

7. Check the Tech

If you are joining via Skype or other, do your best to ensure a good connection and that you’re in a place where you won’t be disturbed or have background noise.

8. In Case of Absence

Apologies are the etiquette of course, but it also helps to pose a question to the board to show that you are still involved.

9. Closing the meeting before AOB

Remind everyone of the who, what and when action points, these can easily be forgotten mid-meeting so re-highlighting these will ensure everyone leaves the room with a clear action plan.

10. Confidentiality

This goes with any board position and it’s vital to respect that.

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