Does your regular meeting format include heavy meals, hours of meeting time with little exercise, or a lengthy checklist of approvals and reports with minimal participation or debate? Make wellness one of your first ‘board resolutions’ in 2019.

Boards come together and meet for one reason – to make decisions – and to make decisions that provide the best possible guidance to an organization and its stakeholders. Before people can make well-considered, thoughtful decisions, they need to have the right information, the right tools, a safe environment for frank discussions, and clarity of mind. The atmosphere in your boardroom should support and stimulate this critical thinking role. If the mood in your meeting space has become dull and sluggish, consider leveraging basic wellness principles to recharge and revitalize your upcoming board schedule this year.

Food

Board meetings are often fueled by bottomless coffee, sweet trays, and heavy meals. If your board meets across several days, or for hours at a time, this combination can lead to a lack of energy and focus in the room. Try changing up the food to a healthier, lighter format – many hotels are now offering special catering menus that emphasize trendy superfoods, lighter entrees, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Look for packages with titles like ‘Renew’, ‘Healthy Break’, ‘Fresh Take’ etc.

Room / Environment

De-clutter your meeting space and streamline what is placed at each chair. Maybe you can do without the power cord jungle, or stack extra pens and notebooks on a separate table out of the way, rather than pre-setting a multitude of items at each place. Most directors will have their own supplies with them anyway, either personal favourites, or a briefcase pre-packed for business. Streamlining the sightlines at the board table will help to settle the mind, and create a sense of calm. If you can find a meeting location with natural light, this will also help bring a feeling of wellbeing into the room. The ability to see nature, and the outside world, always lifts the energy. No one does their best work in a basement with the lights dimmed, watching endless presentations in Powerpoint.

Exercise

Another feature of typical board meetings is hours of meeting time, with few breaks. The scheduled breaks are often only long enough to have a quick meal or a coffee. Consider taking only one break, but for a longer time, and include an exercise option following the mid-day meal. Maybe a group walk, or a winter skate, a light stretching break, etc. If you are meeting in a hotel, perhaps they would supply a fitness trainer from their on-site gym as part of your meeting package. Ask –it might become a favourite part of each board session! Directors will return refreshed and ready to start the second half of the meeting with their full attention.

If your board meets across several days, and there is usually an evening social event – consider an outdoor fitness-based option such as a hike, skate, climbing wall class, etc. There are likely local tour companies who could lead an excursion if there is a nearby national park, or other outdoor site to explore. Here in the National Capital Region, it is possible to book a tour that takes your group to Gatineau Park where they can hike to a shelter and enjoy a meal served outdoors, fancy linens and all. Spas, boutique hotels, and wellness retreat centres are also good sources of ‘fitness first’ group programming. Include options if some members of your board aren’t able to take part in the full outing – wellness includes accommodation of everyone’s needs.

Reaching Strategic Outcomes

For a board to guide an organization towards its highest potential, the way the board works has to go beyond the basics. The board needs to target, and work towards, the outcomes that will ensure the long-term continuity of the organization and the satisfaction of its stakeholders. This means elevating the quality of discussion and debate.

Healthy Debate and Diversity of Thought

Bring an aspect of mental wellness into the room – and consider assigning a challenge function at each meeting, to ensure that group-think doesn’t prevail. Achieving strategic outcomes means having bold and frank discussion, letting go of sacred cows or untouchable subjects, and welcoming ideas that might challenge the status quo. The director assigned this role should seek to introduce challenging questions, contrarian viewpoints, or brand-new ideas during key discussions that day. Formally designating a specific person to take on this task should help to eliminate any hesitations others may have about contributing their best thinking. A fulsome discussion is one where pros, cons, and everything in between is discussed thoughtfully and with respect for all views.

Leverage technology

Lastly, the environment in your boardroom should demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, in all its forms. Save trees – leave the proverbial paper ‘burden’ at home by ensuring your directors have access to a high-quality board portal technology. Challenge yourself to provide e-tools that are functional enough to make every director leave their binder at home once and for all.

Looking ahead

Follow one, some, or all of these tips and your board will be off to a fresh start in 2019!