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August 13, 2012

Always welcome a change of scenery – whether it is in your personal or professional life, the ability to adjust perspective simply by changing our location can have a dramatic impact.  Several months ago one of the boards I sit on stumbled upon a great idea.  The organization’s headquarters, where we usually meet as a board each month, was undergoing renovations so one of the board members graciously volunteered to host the meeting at her office.  The results were dramatic.

The conference room in the organization’s headquarters is a stately rectangular room that struggles each month to accommodate our board.  For our meetings, the tables were configured in an outline of the room and board members (of which there are many) would sit on either side of the tables.  Although it was not an ideal setting, it was certainly suitable for the board meetings.  It was not until we met “off-site” during renovations that we fully realized the limitations of our boardroom setting each month.  We met in a large training room in the office of the board member who volunteered her space. The room was set-up classroom style with individual seats (complete with table attached) configured in semi-circle fashion around a rectangular table where the officers sat. As we all filed into the room that morning there was of course several jokes about being back in college and the academic records of certain board members.  But as the meeting progressed that morning, a level of animated and productive discussion ensued that we had never before seen in our board meetings.  

By the close of our board of directors meeting that morning, each board member had privately reached the conclusion that it was our new setting that had created such a unique and positive impact on our board meeting.  As everyone shared that thought, it occurred to us that this should not be the lone occasion in which we meet as a board outside of the organization’s main office.  The result:  we have since not been back to the organization’s main office for a board meeting. Each month, a board member steps forward (as if it is part of our board member responsibilities) to volunteer his/her office to host the meeting.  As a board we all look forward to seeing a new office each month and how our meeting room will be configured.  At one recent meeting, the room was a dining room at a board member’s office.  The room had several circular tables with 7 to 8 chairs around them. We wondered if this type of arrangement would work.  It did — in fact many felt it was the best setting yet.

A new location for each board meeting is not a reality for every board.  Nevertheless, even to just occasionally change the setting of a board meeting can be a worthwhile exercise that improves board performance.

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