A 360 Degree View from the Board: Part 1 – The Board Chair

StreamLink Software and BoardSource are teaming up to present a multi-part blog series entitled a 360 Degree View from the Board.


8726195965_dd0b78b619_z.jpg“Some aspects of board service are constant. Each player in the boardroom, whether it’s the board chair, board member, or chief executive, has a role to fulfill and a set of expectations to meet. Other aspects change with the times. Committee structures change, processes are refined, and strategic plans help both board and staff members refocus organizational direction and work toward greater impact. In recent years, the rise of smartphones and other technology have created a culture accustomed to having any and all data within reach at all times. Have these technological developments changed the way that nonprofit boards interact during and between meetings? Are boards doing all they can to use technological tools to maximize efficiency and focus on exceptional governance?”

Danielle M. Henry

Communications Coordinator, BoardSource

Part One: A View from a Board Chair

The following questions were presented to Adam Roth, former board chair for Cleveland Reads, and the LeadDIVERSITY Alumni Association. 

What role-specific activities do you have to do in order to prepare for a board meeting, and what is the level of time and effort required?

There are a number of key steps required in preparing for a board meeting. One is to review the agenda with staff leadership to make sure the meeting flow and timing is determined ahead of time.

Another is to make sure agenda topics link to strategic issues as opposed to diving into operational ones. This step will help keep the discussions focused.

Finally, the chair should spend time prior to the meeting identifying performance improvement goals for the board as a whole.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role as it relates to the board?

The biggest challenge is ensuring that the committee chairs and the board as a whole are aware of the strategic goals directly impacting their roles. If you come into a board chair role and there’s no strategic plan in place, it creates a critical barrier. Developing a thoughtful strategic plan becomes the first step.

Once the strategic plan is in place there needs to be an annual review process. The review should include an evaluation of the goals thus far and assignment of non-completed goals to the appropriate committee.

The committee reports to the board must link back to these strategic goals. This approach accomplishes two key things. First, it keeps the board out of operational issues and second it focuses the efforts of the board in a consistent approved direction. The Chair must own this process otherwise the board will produce less.

In what area do you see the most need for process improvement?

In addition to the strategic plan process mentioned above, the next major process element involves full board engagement. It is important to ensure the board and committee members are meeting the expectations set by the board and organization. Without an effective process in place, it becomes difficult and time consuming to track the goals and expectations. It is critical to evaluate and process board performance in order to move the organization forward.

How has technology changed the way you conduct board business?

Technology improvements and process improvements go hand in hand. For example, we now see automatic tracking, measuring and evaluating board performance in some board management software tools. Furthermore, technology has created processes that ensure board members have all the information they need at their fingertips including strategic goals for committees, meeting agendas and materials and benchmark monitoring. Technology has done a great deal to create a more engaged board and to build public trust.

About Adam Roth

describe the image

Before serving as President of StreamLink Software, Adam was Chief Operating Officer for West Side Ecumenical Ministry (WSEM). Adam supervised all of WSEM’s programs and was responsible for system development and integration, quality control, resource development, new program initiatives and community collaborations.

Adam holds master’s degrees in social work and management from Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and the Weatherhead School of Management, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of Wooster.

Image Source: Mountgomery County Planning Commission 

Learn strategies to better engage your board in our free ebook, Maximizing Board Engagement and Effectiveness.