Published on Oct 6, 2023
The work you do after a board meeting is just as important as the meeting itself. In fact, you could argue that there’s no actual point in having a board meeting if you’re not following up with the decisions you made during the meeting.
But all too often, what happens during board meetings doesn’t translate to our day-to-day work. Things get buried in meeting minutes and fall off our radar. We get back to working on whatever priorities pop up and all of a sudden it’s time for the next meeting.
As a result, progress ends up feeling sporadic and disjointed. You know you’ve done a lot of work in the last three months, but it’s hard to tell how that work is building toward your high-level strategic priorities.
We like to think of board meetings not as standalone events, but as the beginning (and end) points of a continuous loop.
Each quarter, you set goals and priorities for the months ahead. Each of those high-level goals gets distilled into specific action items—tasks we plan to complete in the next three months. And each of those action items gets delegated to specific members of the team who help plan and strategize on a more granular level.
As we make progress day-to-day and week-to-week, we’re able to see exactly how our effort is contributing to those larger goals. If we notice we’re getting off track—spending too much time in an area that isn’t aligned with our top priorities—we can adjust in real time and refocus our efforts where they matter most.
At the end of the quarter, there are no surprises. We don’t have to look back and see if we’ve hit our targets because we already know where we stand. And we’ve had time to communicate any important updates or changes to our board and investors.
This not only makes board meetings a whole lot less stressful, but allows us to shift our meeting time from past progress updates to future strategic planning. Essentially, closing the loop on last quarter’s goals and laying the necessary groundwork for the quarter ahead.
For this method to work, you have to close the loop at the end of each quarter. Each goal you’ve set needs to either be marked as complete or rolled forward into the next quarter. That way you know you’re making strategic progress, instead of just sporadically investing energy into ever-changing priorities.
If you do nothing else, establish a consistent process and stick to it. What that process involves (we’ve shared some suggestions below) matters less than having a consistent process in the first place. You need to know exactly what steps you’re going to take after each meeting. How will you turn what you discussed in the meeting into clear, actionable steps? How will you delegate work and share accountability? How will you align your internal team and stakeholders behind a shared plan?
Most people invest a disproportionate amount of time in meeting prep. And by the time the meeting is over, you just want to get back to work. But remember, post-meeting follow-up is just as important as the meeting itself. Literally block time out on your calendar just for follow up. That way you can stick to your process without worrying about how you’re going to squeeze it in.
Compile and approve your meeting minutes—this is just something you have to do. Then compile any other notes you collected throughout the meeting. Write down any key takeaways, make a list of things to follow up on, and jot down additional ideas while they’re fresh in your mind (if you don’t want to take your own notes, Surfboard has a handy feature that creates a meeting transcript for you).
Take a look at your goals and priorities for the next quarter. Now, what specific steps are you going to take to get there? Some goals will be big (like strategic moves for the business) and others will be small (like sending some additional info to a board member). Anything that requires you to do something should be represented on this list. Once you have it, share it with your board members. Visibility and accountability are always good things.
Now that you have clear goals and action items, get your leadership team together to debrief. Make sure everyone is on the same page and figure out how you’re going to delegate the work. This is your time to decide who is responsible for what. Give your team time to discuss, ask questions, and get clarification. You should all leave feeling completely aligned on your priorities and plans.
Throughout the next quarter, share your progress as you make it. Let your board and investors know what you’ve achieved and what unexpected challenges or roadblocks you’ve encountered. Whatever you do, don’t postpone sharing bad news until your next board meeting—when it comes to working with your board and investors, surprises are never a good thing. Just keep lines of communication open so you can quickly and efficiently respond to changes as a unified front.