My First Board Meeting

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Parents, you know that feeling you get after you’ve brought home that brand new baby (or in my case, babies) where you suddenly say to yourself, “Oh damn. What have I done?” Yeah, that’s my feeling after my first board meeting. But let me give you a run-through of how it was. Note, I can’t pre-publish any board decisions. I’m also not giving you a blow-by-blow account of the discussions (especially since there were no blows, at all). This is a story of the types of things we did, how it went, how I feel about it. This is my blog, my blog post, my thoughts and feelings. This does not represent an official PASS communication. We good?

While the board meeting itself is, for me, only a two day affair, we tacked a day on at the beginning to take advantage of an offer from Microsoft to tour one of their data centers. Let’s put the entire day into one word: Nerdgasm.

On to the work of the board.

The first half of day one of the meeting was dedicated to going through Insights communications styles seminar. I found this extremely useful and, I think it’s going to be even more useful over time going forward. Understanding how my fellow board members and the HQ people communicate will help facilitate that communication and will help PASS. I’m glad the board chose to do this before I was involved. Communication can just be hard. Any kind of tools or practices that make it easier are very important.

We had a nice discussion around some points of governance that we’re going to be taking out to the community in order to get feedback on. Once we get a feel for how people think, we can make more informed decisions. We got an overview of global growth and it’s current status. It’s important to keep this in mind since it’s no longer a portfolio, but is folded into all the others. There was a long and useful discussion around SQL Rally. We got a review of the speaker selection process from the 2014 Summit. It was a good day. I feel like I have a better understanding of what’s going on. I was able to contribute in areas where I had some knowledge. It was a good day.

The second day was primarily focused around discussions on the Business Analytics Conference. I can’t discuss much about this because there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s going to have to be context driven and should absolutely come out of the mouth of the executives, not me. Suffice to say, the discussion and information was extremely interesting, very helpful to me personally, and I really appreciate the incredible amounts of work that has gone into this event. I will suggest, if you’re interested in PASS and it’s direction as an entity, you should be paying attention to this. It’s important.

Finally we got to the goals. Interestingly enough, I misunderstood the purpose of the goals. I thought I was going in there to get approval, and man I was armed for bear. Come to find out, nah, it’s a chance for feedback from the board proper and then, “Have fun storming the castle.” It’s up to me to pick the goals I want to achieve for the Chapters and then work through the processes we have in place to get them accomplished. Well heck, that’s easy. Now, my plan was to share my goals right here and now, but, I got such good feedback on the goals, that I want to rework them a little, and then I’ll publish them here, there, everywhere. I’m honestly feeling a little bit better about accomplishing something useful for the Chapters than I was heading into the Board Meeting.

That’s about all I have. The minutes will be posted… on whatever schedule they get posted on (not sure), and I could maybe do another blog post after the decisions & details get released. One point that I took away from everything, and it’s something that’s hard for me as a technologist, decisions get made and stuff gets set in motion. Sometimes, it might be stuff that you certainly would have done differently, but you weren’t part of the team. Regardless, you need to look at it, understand it, and then, figure out how best to add your own contributions in order to make the team successful, even if, given your druthers, you’d have done this completely differently. And no, that’s not some veiled reference at some fight or huge disagreement. It’s an overall feeling and directly relates back to the very first thing I said. This whole Board thing is a bigger, tougher, more fascinating challenge than I realized going in. I’m actually a little more excited about it now because of that.

11 Comments

  • Grant, I think this is a useful post in terms of helping anyone who is contemplating a run for the Board understand what it’s like, and I think that’s something to keep in mind as you blog. Sharing that part of the experience is definitely useful.

    I can also appreciate you respecting/trying to figure out the boundaries on what you can blog about, especially after the first meeting. That’s not easy, but not impossible. I say that to get you thinking about what you can/want to say, when, and why. Chapters is “yours” so you can say quite a bit there, but I hope you won’t default to silent on anything outside of that. I ended up feeling like you had a good first meeting, but not much beyond that.

    The part about goals is disappointing. Lack of guidance or bad interpretation or whatever, sucks to go in thinking one thing and wind up with another. More than that, I wonder about the hand off from previous goals? Is it realistic/fair/good for the org to elect someone in October and have them come up with goals by their first meeting? If so, surely those goals need review/discussion by the Board to make sure they match the overall strategy and the new Board member gets off to a good start.

    I definitely wish for more about the content.

    Thanks for posting.

    • Hey Andy,

      Pretty sure I won’t default to silent, but I’m still working out what’s appropriate and what’s not. I suspect I’ll default a bit to quiet as I get the boundaries well & truly established.

      As to the goals, that was the one thing that I’ve been working on from very early on. It was made clear from the election that this would be on me. There were goals from last year. I liked some of them. I didn’t like others. I wanted to make my own priorities and very much welcomed the fact that I could. I got great feedback from the board. I think, in this area especially, things worked very well. While I misunderstood part of the process, the overall process did what it was supposed to.

  • jonmcrawford

    “One point that I took away from everything, and it’s something that’s hard for me as a technologist, decisions get made and stuff gets set in motion. Sometimes, it might be stuff that you certainly would have done differently, but you weren’t part of the team. Regardless, you need to look at it, understand it, and then, figure out how best to add your own contributions in order to make the team successful, even if, given your druthers, you’d have done this completely differently.”

    That is very insightful commentary on anyone joining any team anywhere. Especially in a leadership role. Successful leaders take what they are given and find a way to make it work.

  • Geoff Hiten

    Grant,

    Hand-off and continuity is hard, especially given how the budget and election cycles work. Sounds like you figured that out pretty quick. My suggestion is to figure out what budget and plan is best for meeting your goals and start outlining that within the PASS detailed budget for next year. That comes faster than you would believe. But it’s your seat, so feel free to ignore my advice.

OK, fine, but what do you think?