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Use this Simple Strategy to Spark Great Board Conversation

by Molly O'Connell

Frustrated or discouraged by bored faces in the board room? A “silent start” may actually help get meaningful conversations started.

csr_lets_talk_about_itAt our recent Executive Leadership Forum, dynamic keynote presenter Susan Meier shared a simple strategy to help you move beyond routine tasks and into more strategic and generative conversation. This activity is easy to incorporate, and can be used for a variety of purposes.

How to Try a Silent Start

  1. First, take a stack of note cards and hand them around.
  2. Provide a prompt, such as:
    • What should we be talking about that we’re not?
    • What’s something this organization should never stop doing/never give up?
    • What separates us from our competitors?
    • What are we known for? What do we want to be known for?
    • If two years from now this organization is struggling, what would you guess are the reasons?
  3. Ask each person to write a response and then collect all the cards again.
  4. Shuffle them and hand them back out.
  5. Ask each person to read the card they received.
  6. Discuss!

The Flip Side

If you have the opposite problem, and heated conversation makes it a challenge to wrap up topics and move on to other business, try this variation. Hand out note cards and invite each person to write a response to the question, “If you could add just one more thing to the conversation, what would it be?” Collect the cards and review them after the meeting to identify anything that should be discussed in follow-up, or brought to the table at the next meeting.

About Executive Leadership Forums

Through our Executive Leadership Forums, MANP brings together nonprofit staff and board leaders to explore emerging issues and pressing topics facing the nonprofit sector, and to build relationships with other nonprofit leaders. Disengaged boards can threaten a nonprofit’s ability to advance its mission, and yet this issue ranks as one of the most common challenges nonprofits face, making it a ripe topic for discussion and learning.

Susan Meier’s thought-provoking presentation included ideas and tools we know will prompt rich conversations in board rooms across Maine. We look forward to continuing to support Maine nonprofits with more training and resources on building strong boards as we head into 2017!

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