Q: I’ve been reading your articles and was wondering if you knew of a tool to give to a board to help them assess meeting and facilitator effectiveness.

A: The web is filled with templates for evaluating meetings and facilitators. Keywords such as “meeting evaluation forms” or “facilitator evaluation templates” will bring up a plethora of options, any of which could be adapted for your organization’s use.

In choosing and/or designing the most appropriate assessment tool, there are several factors I find important to consider. First, is what do you want to evaluate? You mention “effectiveness.” You might find the three dimensions of success identified by Interaction Associates, Inc. to be a helpful framework with which to begin. They believe there must be a balance between Results, Relationships, and Process. Results include such things as whether your board accomplished what it set out to accomplish through its agenda and whether those things brought the organization closer to achieving its goals and reaching its vision. Relationships cover the degree to which people feel valued. Are they treated with respect? Are their ideas sought? Appreciated? Is there a sense of mutual trust? Process deals with how the work gets done. Is the agenda reasonable, meaningful and relevant? Does the meeting protocol help rather than hinder effective decision-making? Are problems adequately identified, sufficient options explored and agreement obtained in a manner that is acceptable to all? Do we know how and by when plans will be implemented?

Once you decide on the content you wish to assess, consider the old adage, “form follows function.” Do you even need a formal (written) evaluation or will an informal one provide the information you desire? More and more, boards are taking an informal approach, invoking executive sessions at the end of meetings, excusing staff and asking themselves honestly how well they are doing. This is not your parents’ Good and Welfare, where the board chair or facilitator went around the table and asked everyone to comment on what worked in the meeting and what didn’t for the “good and welfare” of the group. We’ve found such a process tends to result in responses that either emphasize the positive – usually to the exclusion of any constructive criticism – or fail altogether to bring out anything of real value. Instead, groups are substituting either an open discussion or a quick multi-voting process – e.g., thumbs up or down – to ascertain how well the group is doing on one or a few key areas of potential concern.

If you prefer a formal evaluation process, taking a template off the shelf is certainly the easiest approach. But, it rarely provides feedback that is as valuable as that which is gathered in a manner designed to get at your specific concerns. Determine what you want to learn today. Write up two or three questions that get at that. While the typically-used Likert Scale is easier for people to complete, using an open narrative format will provide you with the most helpful responses. It just requires establishing a board culture where people expect to complete regular evaluations that are honest and comprehensive.

Regardless of the evaluation system that you choose, the key is to make the results of the assessment known to the group as a whole, decide what specific steps need to be taken to turn less than exemplary actions into exemplary actions and set measurable objectives for future meetings.