Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results — Albert Einstein
As Boards and organizations, we inherit many things we do, because that is what we have always done. Although because we have always done it a certain way, is that the best way?
- When Boards value expediency over deliberation. Keep meetings short! We are on a time crunch. We don’t have time to have this discussion. Maybe the reality is we don’t have time not to have this conversation.
- Major decisions get made in Executive Committee; not full Board meetings. Executive Committees take on the role of “mini-Boards” where important decisions are made without meaningful input from the Full Board. Granted there is a place for Executive Committees, however when the community you serve sees only the face of the Executive Committee, they will assume they are the ones “in charge” — not really good for either the organization or the members of the Executive Committee.
- Board Chairman who serves as the “boss.” They see their role as in charge, (and this is certainly not all, or even many Chairs, but like a bad beer, you know it when you have to taste it). This is the Board Chair with no boundaries with the staff and the staff doesn’t know who their supervisor is — is it the Executive Director, The CEO, the Program Manager? Watch for Board Chairs who like it this way, and have the Board address this issue. If not addressed, it can turn very caustic. Pay attention when the Board Chair does not see their critical role of facilitator, mediators and supporters of all voices when making important decisions. Particularly when it is obvious their opinion on the issue(s) was made long before the meeting started – This is not seeing the Chairman’s role as statesmen and allies of the whole organization.
- Critical board decisions are delegated to committees with limited training, support or a work plan provided to the committee of what the Board and organization expects the committee to complete, what success looks like and by when.
- Staff is excluded from meetings… oh,no they are not invited, they are only staff…I am sure there are many schools of thought on this, so I will add mine. Unless an issue is private, discusses a confidential or legal matter, invite the staff to participate. Or host a short Executive Session with only the CEO and then bring the staff into the meeting. They will be responsible for implementing the ideas, executing the strategy, staying within budget and fulfilling on deadlines. They also know what is going on day-to-day, they can help a good policy decision become a great one, they can see a financial issue, and bring it up before it is too late. And they are there and thanked personally for the time, energy and dedication they put into the organization, and they can thank you personally for your commitment and service.
- What happens in our Board Rooms and on our Board Retreats model our values to the whole organization and to our communities.
When I work with community organizations, I recommend we start with a conversation about some assumptions we have about our Board and our Board meetings and ask a couple of questions — and I do this with some creativity to keep it lively, fun, and not defensive. We do this for our co-trustees, our staffs, our supporters and ourselves. And, we all learn a lot about each other and ourselves in the process.
1. What are the things we do at every meeting? Which of these work well? Which could be changed, modified, or done away with?
2. What is the culture that drives our Board meetings? Does this culture live our values? Our Mission? Our Vision?
3. What are three things we can do this year to improve our meetings?
4. And, how at the end of the term can we evaluate our success?
I know there is a great deal of wisdom among those who read this blog. Would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and if you serve an organization or on a City Commission, or Board of Directors, please take a few minutes to add your thoughts. Enjoy a great week!