Lumen Impact Group
Lumen Impact Group

It’s Not Enough to Just Show Up: Encouraging Participation in Board Meetings

Published: April 3, 2024

By: Amy Ruck Kagan, Senior Partner

In my capacity on the charter school board, I’ve come to understand that our meetings are where the rubber meets the road. Whether due to busy schedules or competing priorities, the time we spend in these meetings is often the primary opportunity to move our work forward. Recognizing the value of this limited time, I’ve honed strategies to ensure we make the most of it. Let’s explore a few proven strategies that can maximize impact and facilitate efficient decision-making during these crucial sessions.

Facilitation Techniques for Productive Meetings – Guiding the Discussion

Imagine a board meeting as a collaborative group project. As the facilitator (often times the board chair), your role is to ensure that everyone’s contributions are heard and that the group stays on track towards the board’s goals. This starts with setting clear agendas and outlining the topics to cover and the outcomes you aim to achieve. Throughout the meeting, it is important to ensure that every board member has the opportunity to speak, encouraging active participation and diverse perspectives. By keeping discussions focused and relevant, you can make the most of your time together and drive progress.

The Power of Active Listening and Respectful Debate – Encouraging Open Dialogue

In board meetings, I’ve discovered the incredible value of open dialogue. By creating an environment where all voices are valued and respected, leaders can foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. This means prioritizing active listening and ensuring that every board member feels heard and understood. Even when opinions differ, it’s important to encourage respectful debate and recognize that it’s often through these discussions that the best solutions emerge. Get comfortable with modeling this behavior, set norms around expectations of participation, and start practicing those pregnant pauses! By embracing diversity of thought and encouraging constructive conversation, you can unlock the full potential of your team- and ultimately have a meaningful impact on your schools. Read more about how to encourage participation even before the meeting begins in this blog post.

Decision-Making Aligned with the Organization’s Mission – Staying on Course

Every decision we make as a board is guided by our school’s mission and goals. To ensure alignment, we rely on data and evidence-based practices. We have data-based discussions. We set expectations and make decisions by using this information to guide our thinking and have a willingness to ask hard questions. By gathering pertinent information and analyzing key metrics and sharing these with your team to ensure that everyone is working from the same understanding of the data, you can make informed decisions that propel you towards your objectives and allow you to prioritize efficient processes to turn decisions into actionable plans. By staying focused on what truly matters for your school or organization’s success, you ensure that every action you take moves you closer to your collective vision.

As a board chair, the top priority is to keep your organization’s mission at the core of your board actions and decisions. As your North Star, the principles that guide the organization should also be guiding the work and goals that the board strives to achieve. Without the full participation of the board, key voices, perspectives, ideas, and knowledge is left out of conversations and decision making. Opening the circle to all team members strengthens the work and outcomes.


"Lisa did a fantastic job with our entire strategic planning team. Her process was beyond organized. As a new administrator, I was able to lean on Lisa for her expertise and knowledge of strategic planning. She did everything from meeting organization and to facilitating subgroups, focus groups and staff culture surveys. Her work with the school board and administrative team was respectful, while also filled with appropriate advice and constructive feedback. I could not imagine going through this process without Lisa. She will continue to be a trusted resource for years to come."
Jamie DeWitt
School Leader, NexTech High School
"Lumen Impact Group has been critical in supporting Bluum’s efforts in Idaho to manage our $17.1 million federal Charter School Program grant. As one of the country’s first non-profit organizations to receive federal CSP funding, the stakes for our work are very high, and our efforts to help open, expand and replicate public charter schools face scrutiny. I sleep better knowing Lumen Impact Group has worked closely with us to build our processes, procedures and playbook for managing the responsibility of directing and overseeing a significant federal grant. I highly recommend them to others. They are true pros."
Terry Ryan
CEO, Bluum
"As a family-owned and operated company, we needed to preserve our culture and define our mission, vision and values better as we grew. Lumen Impact Group helped capture a variety of diverse perspectives and hopes for the future in a way that connected everyone involved. Lumen Impact Group helped us create a clear strategic focus and for our future stabilized our culture. Lisa also coached our leadership team in supporting implementation."
Mark Smith
President, Krapohl Ford & Lincoln
"Lisa Diaz and Lumen Impact provided invaluable support to Colorado Charter Facility Solutions during our start-up phase. I was the new non-profit organization’s executive director (and only employee at the time), and Lisa knew answers to questions that I did not even know to ask. She made sure the board of directors was set up correctly and that the organizational documents were in place. Lisa helped me establish the organization’s goals and ways to track progress. Lisa is organized, patient and kind, and worked quickly, thoroughly and collaboratively. She is a good listener and even acted as an executive coach/therapist at times. When necessary, Lisa can be direct, yet she is always focused on the goals of the organization and its success. I highly recommend Lisa Diaz and Lumen Impact Group. "
Jane Ellis
Executive Director, Colorado Charter Facility Solutions
"I have worked with Lumen Impact Group at both the individual and organizational level. As a coach, Lisa has a natural ability to get to the heart of the matter quickly and to ask questions that help her clients translate insight into action. Each team member who has worked with Lisa in a coaching capacity has demonstrated visible growth that has positively impacted individual and team performance. As an organization, we are trying to be purposeful about the culture we are creating, as a means of best fulfilling our mission. Lumen Impact Group has been a tremendous thought partner along the way and has facilitated critical steps in a collaborative yet efficient and fun way. Our team was in awe at how much we accomplished collectively in a short period of time. We are moving toward our ideal culture much more quickly than I thought possible, and I have no doubt it is because of Lumen Impact Group’s guidance. "
Kasey Miller
Chief of Staff, National Association of Charter School Authorizers