Using the Round Robin Method for Efficient Board Meetings

This method will cut the time of your board meetings in half.

When boards of directors are faced with difficult issues, it can be disconcerting to encounter deafening silence in the meeting. Wishing to go along with the consensus before any consensus has emerged, members are sometimes hesitant to speak up. There is a simple and effective way to counter this problem. The leader can go around the table, inviting each person in turn to give an opinion about the issue.

Some folks who don’t yet have an opinion will pass, and that is fine. They are given another opportunity to speak at the end of the round, if they wish. But when specifically invited, members are often willing to venture a comment, an opinion, or a question. Even introverts who seldom pronounce their views may respond well to this procedure.

We have found that a quick round of comment using this method of discussion clarifies a group’s current position. Perhaps the position is that more information is needed, or that there don’t seem to be any reasonable alternatives to pursue, or that the obvious choice is too painful to accept. Any of these, while challenging, is better than dead silence.

The leader – president, chair of the board, or facilitator – may take part in the discussion too if the board is a small one. We recommend that the presider, the person running the meeting, speak after the other members have spoken. This counteracts the natural human tendency to defer to the person in authority. It also allows the presider to sum up what he or she has heard. This is important, since there will usually be a range of views, and sometimes discussion can wander off the track.

We have found the round robin method benefits small boards. It makes meetings fair and efficient and guarantees a better-than-silence outcome.

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