Streamlining Boardroom Culture: From Soiree to Serious

Some boardrooms are more like social clubs than places of business. It is time to change the way people think about what it means to be a member of the board. Boardroom culture doesn’t need to be boring, but it does need to be focused.

A board of directors is a group of individuals whose job it is to steer the course of an organization. That is true of a corporation or nonprofit. In business, shareholders with a vested interest make up the board. Conversely, with nonprofits the background of members is less certain.

Boardroom culture- soiree or serious

Boardroom Culture Pitfalls

Boards of directors can fall into bad culture habits.. These stem from the fact that board work is not as regular or as mundane as staff work. For example, a needed sense of urgency can go missing as members develop a feeling of privilege. This can appear as seeming to enjoy their position of relative status more than attending to their duties.

Here are some ideas on streamlining the boardroom. Your goal is to establish a new style of messaging that will clarify the individual board member’s role from the outset.

Establish Seniority & Authority

Where accountability is lacking, structure and follow-through will also be absent. Most committees have a chairperson to provide this structure. Committees that lack a structure have difficulty enforcing accountability. That’s why it’s so important to have seniority or other type of system to provide a framework. Without being legalistic, everyone needs to know which board members have the authority to direct, reward, censure, or dismiss other board members.

Of course, this will not work if the benefits of membership are not clear as well.

Meeting Procedure

Many committees are poorly run. They accomplish little and pose a real threat to the organization. This is usually due to there being only vague ideas about what is to be accomplished. Meeting organization is an easy fix if senior board members will make the effort to draft a mission statement, (usually referred to an an agenda), for each meeting. Luckily, it is easier than it sounds, and you’ll find that focusing on a single goal dramatically cuts the length of meetings.

RELATED: Agenda Templates Anyone Can Use

Member Orientation

Much of the trouble with boardrooms comes from lackadaisical on-boarding procedures. For example new members are brought in as if they have been granted membership to a club. Stress the fact that they are in a position of privilege which enables them to make valuable connections with influential people. A boardroom culture of respect and gratitude is helpful for everyone.

RELATED: IMPORTANT: Documents New Board Members Need


The previous sections are about giving guidance to your members. These things should be done in a way that promotes engagement. First, we have direction at meetings, from the assertive actions of senior members. Then we have more meaningful orientations, where the benefits and duties of new members are made clear.

Follow-Through on Tasks & Accountability

Senior board members set an important example for the boardroom culture. Furthermore, their enthusiasm for board service impacts productivity. Emphasizing the benefits of membership encourages follow through, and promotes a sense of accountability. Moreover, new members learn that supporting the team improves everyone’s experience.

Meeting Prep Without Expecting Too Much

A simple one-sentence statement on each goal should be sufficient to guide a meeting. Members should be able to briefly state how they intend to promote each goal. Others are free to comment on each statement, offer support, or dissent. Simply having a structure for discussion will move the meeting along efficiently.

Setting Clear Expectations

Members should understand that they shouldn’t abuse the freedom of volunteer service. Rather, flexibility is a necessity for talented, creative, and resourceful people to produce results . These are people who cannot and should not be micromanaged. However, they can only be held accountable in terms of goals.

In the end, your goal is to strike a balance between structure and creative freedom. Many committees err on the side of freedom. With work and attention, you will be able to maintain a healthy middle ground between these two polarities.

Interested in how to make your board of directors more productive through the effective use of technology? Boardable is a software platform that centralizes all communication between you and your board. Find the best meeting times, securely store all of your documents, archive discussion threads and more—all in one place. Click below to schedule a demo with a member of our Boardable team.

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