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There is a myth that anyone can be an effective board member. This isn’t true for multiple reasons. A person may

  • Not understand or want to understand board governance
  • Can’t wear multiple hats simultaneously ensuring that all voices are heard in the boardroom
  • Want to do business with the entity and it would be a conflict of interest
  • Have difficulty stating their opinion and goes along to get along
  • Want the CEO to do the board work because they are too busy
  • Be unable to follow through on accepted responsibilities
  • Not be committed to the mandate of the entity.

If this is the case, how do we select the best board members?

Step 1. Write Out the Selection Criteria

Do you know how often board members accept seats on boards only to discover that

  • the board has more meeting than they thought.
  • they have to travel to board meetings.
  • there is no or little compensation for the time they spend on board work.
  • there is no compensation for personal expenses such as baby sitting or family care.
  • some meetings require them to take annual leave from their jobs.
  • the notice for special meetings is so short that they cannot make accommodations in their personal/work lives.

To avoid this situation, tell people upfront what is required and let them decide whether they can meet your criteria.

A sample of such a criteria list might include statements such as the following

___ 1. I can attend 5 face-to-face meeting between the hours of 2pm and 7 pm each year.

___ 2. I have no reason to enter into a contract with this organization/business.

___ 3. I am willing to serve on at least one committee of the board.

___ 4. I agree with the mandate of this organization/business and can support it fully.

___ 5. I have no ongoing disagreements with this organization/business.

___ 6. I can fully support the role of the board members in fundraising.

___ 7. I agree to take my turn representing the board at meetings with our partners.

This sample is not designed to be all inclusive. It is intended to help you get started as you design a list that is critical to the effective functioning of your board.

Step 2: Choose Team Players

There are many great people who work well alone but are not effective in the board room. This includes individuals who

  • Speak frankly without any concern for others feelings. (There is a difference between speaking one’s truth and attacking others).
  • Arrive late for meetings and leave early.
  • Use backroom politicking to get their way.
  • Are unable to listen to multiple points of view.
  • Only want to use power ‘over’ and never power ‘with’ those the board represents.
  • Use bullying tactics to silence others.
  • Are not concerned about marginalizing any group the board represents.

The board can choose people who

  • See themselves as a cog in a wheel. They know the importance of doing their part to keep the wheel moving smoothly.
  • Can communicate positively 100% of the time.
  • See conflict as normal and a vehicle for growth.
  • Want to leave a positive legacy.
  • Can see the big picture from multiple points of view.
  • Are willing to require the CEO to provide all options with pros and cons prior to making any decision.
  • Are willing to make decisions.
  • Refrain from diminishing any ideas.

Step 3: Evaluate Board Member Performance

How often have I heard people complain about someone behind their back and wonder why they didn’t tell that person directly. It is impossible to improve if we are never told how others perceive our behaviour.

This can be done via a peer-evaluation process. It does not have to be complex.

It is crucial to be honest with a person who is putting their name forward to serve others. To talk about them or negatively evaluate them without them having the opportunity to self correct is ethically unacceptable.

Step 4: Orient Board Members

I don’t mean giving them a binder of materials and asking them to read it. I mean talking about

  • What the policies actually mean.
  • Reviewing expectations of board members and the board as a whole.
  • Setting a meeting schedule well in advance of meetings.
  • Talking about board governance.
  • Distinguishing between board governance and management.

Step 5: Ongoing Dialogue

There is a need to constantly talk about the governance role. One orientation doesn’t work. Make sure board members have a way to gracefully leave the board if a member finds that your board is not for them.

Their exit is important because the real expectations don’t match what they were told, or they thought something different from what they were told and aren’t prepared to meet the actual expectations. No board needs a seat warmer. Engagement and commitment to the mandate is essential.

Do you want to

  • reduce stress and achieve harmony in your personal and professional life?
  • be a more effective and efficient leader in your workplace?

If you want to be on top of your game, then you will benefit the most from coaching.

I am offering a free 20-minute consultation to help you decide which coaching package is best for you. Click the button below to schedule a call.

Dr. Brenda Kelleher-Flight