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What Does the Holiday Dinner Have In Common with the Board Room?

This holiday season, most people are looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Kids will play games with their cousins, aunts and uncles will share funny stories from times past, grandmas and grandpas will dispense their wisdom in-between the main course and dessert.

The holiday table can be very much like the Boardroom table. For some people this is a very stressful time, when they fear that someone will say or do the wrong thing and set off an argument and ruin the festive occasion. In business meetings, employees and company leaders sometimes have the same fears.

For others, the pressure of trying to pull off the perfect meal or perfect Board meeting is too much, as they attempt to impress their in-laws or at work the investors, funders, board members, etc.

For those of you feeling the pain of burnout and self-doubt, I encourage you to take a breath first and then prepare.

To make the holidays enjoyable for everyone, don’t aim for perfection, instead aim for preparation. Again, it's the same in preparing for Board meetings. Understand that the most important thing is that you’re together. If the gravy is little lumpy and the turkey is dry, it’s not the end of the world. If you don't have all of the reports or answers, you can deliver them electronically later, if necessary.

To help you both relax and put your best foot forward here are 10 tips to ring in the holiday season and the Board meeting:

1. If you’re hosting, clean up early and enlist the help of family members or staff members.

2. If you need help setting up the dining table or the Boardroom table make sure you have asked people to help in advance to make copies or set up Zoom.

3. Gather enough chairs or seating for everyone to be comfortable.

4. Make sure you have enough paper products on hand (toilet paper in the bathrooms, napkins on the table or agendas and reports for everyone).

5. Prep your dishes early. Go ahead and chop your vegetables, season your meat, mix and arrange casseroles ahead of time and bake pies and cakes early. Send out your agenda and financial packets early to give members time to review them.

6. Have games, movies, or music on hand as entertainment. This keeps people from getting bored, especially the children. Keep the meetings interactive, ask for input and pause for questions.

7. Put out snacks or fruit. I always have nuts, a bowl of fresh fruit or a light dip with crackers for my guest to nibble on. This way you don’t have to feel rushed while you’re putting the final touches on the meal. If the meeting is at lunch time or close to dinner time, keep snacks and bottled drinks or coffee on hand.

8. Keep the conversation light and fun to avoid conflicts. Stick to the agenda items and not personal opinions. Don't push buttons and don't allow anyone to push yours.

9. If alcohol is an issue for any of your guests, refrain from having it and have a variety of non-alcoholic drinks instead. Be mindful of drinking at work events. Stay professional. Again, try to avoid known conflicts.

10. Assign task early, such as who will fix the children’s plates, serve the older guests, set the table, clear the table, and wash the dishes or load the dishwasher. Get your committee members involved so that all of the work is not on you.

Holiday time is wonderful time to spend with family and friends, and it can be even more enjoyable with a little forethought and preparation. Board meetings are a great time to connect with board members and share in the mission.

Afterwards, be sure to take time to rest and relax knowing that your efforts were appreciated. Count your blessings and name them one by one both at home and at work.

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