Board meetings are critical to an ASC’s ongoing and long-term success. They designate time to address regulatory issues required to maintain compliance. They serve as an opportunity for leaders to make important financial and strategic planning decisions. An ASC board meeting also allows leadership to address problems or areas in need of improvement.
In my 10-plus years serving as a surgery center administrator, I’ve run my fair share of board meetings. Regardless of how each board meeting turns out, I strive to learn something to help the next meeting go smoother.
Guidance for Conducting a Better ASC Board Meeting
Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned over the years.
- No established rules. There are no firm guidelines for running an ASC board meeting. In fact, board meetings do not need to be formal. What matters is finding a format and approach that allows you to accomplish what’s necessary in the time available.
- Get to know your board. Learn about your board members; specifically, what they want to get out of board meetings. Using this information, adapt your approach to cater to these needs.
- Be consistent. Once you develop a format that works well for your board meeting, stick with it. This serves several purposes. A template will make developing agendas easier and help ensure you do not omit important topics from one meeting to the next. It will also help focus the meeting – board members will know when certain agenda items are up for discussion. If time is consistently allocated to specific topics, board members are less likely to push for earlier discussion on an issue.
- Take command. As the individual running the board meeting, you play a major role in determining the meeting’s effectiveness. Talkative or strongly opinionated board members have the potential to hijack a meeting. Maintain control and keep the meeting on task.
- Allow for discussion. Build in time for some discussion of key issues in every board meeting. The key word here is “some.” Most meetings last 60 to 90 minutes. A mere 15-minute discussion will eat up a large percentage of that time. Keep discussions short and focused so you can move through the agenda. If an issue requires lengthy discussion, designate a time following the meeting for interested individuals to continue their conversation.
- Focus on key items. Going into an ASC board meeting, know which issues are the most important and make sure to cover them. Good preparation and organization of information will help ensure efficient use of the available time. If you plan to provide details, make sure they are critical to the discussion and any decisions. Do not dive so far into details that you take time away from other key issues.
- Keep it high level. When weighing what details to provide, such as financial or quality data, keep in mind that most boards look for a high-level perspective. This would include what’s going right or wrong within the ASC and your recommendation on next steps (more on this below). A high-level perspective typically works well for most topics unless one requires deeper discussion because of its urgency or seriousness.
- Come up with solutions. If your agenda includes the sharing of shortfalls or areas of concern, be prepared to outline plans for correction. You want board members to leave the meeting feeling confident that you are already working to address any problems.
- Make decisions easier. Agenda items that require board members to vote on an issue or make a decision can quickly derail a meeting. If one board member shares an opinion, others are likely to share their thoughts as well. This can quickly turn into a lengthy, possibly heated, discussion. Avoid this scenario by steering members away from unnecessary confrontations. Rather than asking board members what they think the ASC should do, provide options to choose from. Share your recommendation, with a short explanation of your reasoning. The board may still want to engage in a discussion, but providing a few options rather than presenting an open-ended question should help bring about a faster decision.
- Be upfront with bad news. If you have bad news to share or anticipate needing to discuss a difficult subject, don’t shock board members by using the meeting as the first time you present this information. Provide board members with a heads-up that the meeting agenda will include the concerning topic. Make sure the board president is aware of the matter and, when possible, to discuss the issue prior to the meeting. If the matter affects specific board members, hold conversations with them in advance.
Bonus Tips for a Successful ASC Board Meeting
Here are a few additional pieces of advice to help you lead constructive meetings:
- Efficiency is important, but poor preparation can quickly overshadow its significance. If you don’t present ideas in an organized manner, the board may perceive you as less efficient and knowledgeable.
- When you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. You’re better off being transparent than trying to appear knowledgeable about an issue when you simply are not. If the information provided turns out to be incorrect, the board is likely to lose confidence in you. Rather, take the time to research the information and provide a correct response. By taking this approach, when you say you know the answer to a question, board members will trust you.
Considering the infrequency of board meetings – with many ASCs only holding them quarterly – every minute of every meeting is of the utmost importance. To run your next ASC board meeting more effectively and productively, prepare fully and take total advantage of the time allotted.
Diane Lampron, Director of Operations