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Using the BoardREADY Card Deck: Top of Mind

Using the BoardREADY Card Deck: Top of Mind

Keeping Discussions on Track with the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck

Previously, I mentioned the Wisdom in the Cards exercise myself and other CSAE staff and leadership participated in at the January 2017 Leaders Forum. Beyond this use of the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck, we also used what we are calling the Top of Mind exercise.


Top of Mind using the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck

During a discussion exercise, a number of the participants (myself included) volunteered to hold one of the cards selected by the facilitator, Amanda Fenton, ahead of time. As the discussion progressed, we card holders participated, same as everyone else, but also monitored the overall discussion.

If the group discussion ever began to lose sight of or waver from a given card's topic or perspective, that card's holder waved it for all to see. That person then had to remind the group of the card's relevancy, point out how the discussion had wandered away from it, and re-frame things according to their card.

I recall having to only wave my card once, reminding everyone of its importance.


How to Get Started with the Top of Mind Exercise

The "Top of Mind" exercise is extremely easy to do. It can help your own board, committee, staff, or other critical group discussions remain focused and prioritized.

To begin, the pending discussion's facilitator chooses 3 to 5 cards from the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck ahead of time. The choice of cards will be determined by their relevancy to the discussion's agenda or purpose. They can be selected for any number of reasons, including a direct relationship to the topic at hand or offering a perspective the facilitator wants participants to filter the discussion through.

With the participants present but before the discussion starts, the facilitator asks volunteers to be responsible for and hold the cards, one each. They must then keep their assigned topic "Top of Mind" and relevant. It is worth noting, however, that their holding and use of the card does not mean everything they say is correct or trumps the opinions of others. The volunteer must justify why they are bringing the card into play and use it as something to keep the discussion on track, not to derail or end it.


Flag on the Play

Let's look at an example of how the Top of Mind exercise could work.

Let's say your board needs to brainstorm ways to modernize aspects of your association but is afraid of losing sight of the parts of its past that made it successful, the facilitator may choose "Honouring the Past" as one of the cards. If ever the discussion begins to totally ignore past successes while chasing future opportunities, the participant holding this card would hold it up. They would then present why they think the past isn't being honoured and how the discussion needs to reposition itself to keep this perspective in sight.



Watch this brief instructional video on how to conduct your own "Top of Mind" session using the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck







This is the second of an on-going series of CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck exercises that explore how your organization may use this resource. The following exercises developed by Amanda Fenton, will be part of this series as it continues:


  1. Wisdom in the Cards: Randomly dealing cards to members of small discussion groups to drive focus and inspiration while addressing challenges.
  2. Top of Mind or Placeholder Cards: Distributing to volunteers 3 to 5 relevant cards selected by a facilitator that are held up when appropriate to remind the group of the card's importance and messaging.
  3. End of Day Reflection: Participants select and ponder a card that reflects something positive they got out of the meeting and share that perspective in turn at the meeting's end.
  4. Work Group Integration: Small groups working on an action or program plan (etc.) can use 2 to 3 appropriate cards to drive discussion regarding how the work reflects the cards' topics.
  5. Random Pull: Randomly draw a card during a discussion to see how its content impacts and brings new perspective to the point at hand.
  6. Personal Development: Pick a card during a board evaluation or performance reviews or the like that reflects a strength and another for something you need to work on. Discuss as part of the process.
  7. Identify Competencies or Mindsets for Board Recruitment: Use cards to identify attributes required of future directors or team members.

More to come soon!



BoardREADY, Card Deck, Boards, Amanda Fenton, Strategic Planning, Troubleshooting


Publications, BoardREADY



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  • Thanks CSAE for continuing to showcase new ways to use the CSAE BoardREADY card deck. I've heard some executives and board members talk about feeling a bit overwhelmed by the card deck, so these activities - with the great video intros, will go a long way to building confidence and understanding in how the CSAE BoardREADY card deck can add value. Keep up the great work.
    3/9/2017 10:39:38 PM Reply

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