Good Governance In The Age Of Teleconference Meetings

Scheduling board and committee meetings is a chore under normal operating conditions. Add the pressures of shelter-in-place orders along with the sorts of heavy agenda topics most boards are facing, and you have ideal conditions for making shortsighted decisions based more on frustration and fear than stewardship.

Having said that, there are a few pointers to help keep your board and committees on track and above reproach:

Record Every Teleconference Meeting

One of the better byproducts of using teleconference software is the ability to record the entire meeting. Granted, you’ll want to pause recording for any topics that would normally be conducted in closed sessions as defined by your bylaws, but recording meetings provides a wealth of benefits. Two standouts include:

  • Improves involvement. It provides a way for absent members to not only catch up but become versed in the full range of discussion. In the end, it provides the most thorough method for keeping everyone on the same page. I would go so far as to recommend making it a requirement for absent members to review the full meeting recording.
  • Maximizes transparency. The reality is most organizations will be making difficult decisions over the coming weeks. Recording meetings provides an added level of transparency that can help boost buy-in among stakeholders. Saying you have nothing to hide is one thing, showing it is the real deal.

Imagine Everything You Say Will Be Broadcast

Now isn’t the time to be playing governance games by trying to leverage a crisis to benefit an agenda. For board and committee chairs, reminding members at the onset of meetings that they should be comfortable with any of the institution’s stakeholders hearing whatever it is they want to say.

If you don’t think it’s something you could say publicly, that’s a good sign you should revisit the topic and continue workshopping until you arrive at a place where you are comfortable going public on any topic.

Case in point, in what is already becoming an infamous recording, Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter conducted a teleconference meeting attended by approximately 200 employees. Not long after the meeting, a recording of the audio went public. At nearly an hour, it’s a long recording but well worth a listing.

I have to imagine the organization’s executive leadership team may have approached the planning phase differently with this point in mind.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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