Building a Better Board in ‘The Extra 30 Minutes’

by. Christopher Stevenson

A month or so ago, NCUA board member Michael Fryzel wrote an excellent article about an easy way to incorporate ongoing professional development into credit union board meetings. He called it “The Extra 30.”

Here’s how it works.

Each month, directors arrive 30 minutes early to their board meeting. That extra time is spent exploring a topic that is relevant to the board or the credit union. It may be anything from understanding key ratios or an aspect of the competitive environment to compliance and what regulations mean for the credit union. The important piece is that The Extra 30 is spent focusing on a topic relevant to the board and the credit union.

The benefits of this kind of ongoing development for boards are terrific. When the time is spent on improving board function and the role of governance, it helps boards be more effective and avoid repeating mistakes from the past. When the focus is on strategy development and the competitive landscape, the discussion helps ensure the board maintains a strategic perspective instead of focusing on day-to-day operations. Essentially, these 30 minutes can help prime the pump for more effective board meetings that are geared toward strategy and good governance instead of getting stuck in the weeds.

It may be tempting to use The Extra 30 as a time for directors to complete online courses on the basics of credit unions and the role of the board. After all, if board members aren’t completing their studies between board meetings, why not give them time to complete assignments “in class”? But I contend that focusing on individual learning when the group is together diminishes the opportunity for sharing ideas and asking questions that will naturally promote learning and understanding. Not only that, but it inhibits the opportunity for raising the elephants in the room–those challenges that every board faces that are difficult to address and remedy.

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