Building the Board You Need

Build a board that runs like a well-oiled machine. 

BLOG POST | Aug 29, 2017

Some boards seem to “just work.” Capable members trust each other. Discussions of critical decisions are pointed, purposeful, and informed. Egos and personal agendas don’t jam the works. Micromanaging doesn’t waste the time and talent in the room.

Such boards get results. They also provide the sublime satisfaction that comes with achieving mastery as a team. The pitcher sends it right down the middle like a machine … The shortstop scoops up the ball … With an exquisite “ping” in the mitt, the first baseman tags the runner. They do it again. And again. And again.  

Such well-oiled execution feels effortless in the moment, but it accomplishes more wins in less time than plays that feel more strenuous. The hard work went in before the game, when coaches chose the players and trained them for hours on end. 

You are that coach. With your board, it is imperative that you lay the groundwork well. Then you can sit back and watch as they hit it out of the ballpark like pros. Choose your boards well, plan for transitions in the group, and provide the tools they need to do the job.

You, too, can build a board with mastery. Join the upcoming BoardDocs webinar to sharpen your game for each crucial task in the board development cycle:

1. Recruit the Right People

The best board is a smart board; it is also a broad-based board. If everyone knows operations management and nobody knows financial analysis, no matter how impressive they may be, your board lacks the full expertise that it needs. If your board includes only men, recent studies suggest that you are likely to underperform. If members of your nominating committee all live in Texas, you’re limiting your reach for talent searches. Our webinar shows you how to create a matrix that visually highlights what qualities you are looking for in strengths across the board – capitalizing on your unique opportunities (contacts, experience, etc.) while compensating for blind spots or limitations.  It goes on to help you simplify the process of nominating new members.

Identify whom you need on your board. Figure out what it would take to catch their interest.

2. Bring Them On Board with The Tools They Need

Starting any new job is daunting. Sometimes, it’s simply ridiculous: You may be asked in your first week to analyze your budget when you don’t know how to find the right page in the computer system to access the relevant figures. Other times, the “not knowing” is cultural, almost existential: What matters here? What questions does it even make sense to ask? Each newcomer is apt to carry over answers to this question from the company in which she is a full-time leader. A good fit is then a matter of good luck. Don’t leave it to chance!

Bringing new board members onto the team requires clear communication, and it requires deliberate actions to foster personal connections. There are ways to clarify explicitly what you want the board to prioritize, and there are ways to make the new “country” of your organization a warm and increasingly familiar place for a “stranger in a strange land.”

Learn the specific components of successful orientations and onboarding transitions.

3. Keep Them Focused and Enthusiastic

Is each board member as engaged as he or she was on day one? People don’t lose interest for no reason. If someone can’t make a difference because actual influence seems arbitrary or covert, their engagement naturally dissipates. If the stated mission or strategic plan bears little resemblance to monthly or quarterly goals, expect a rush to the exit.

Something about your organization attracted board members to you. We’ll teach you ways to sustain their interest with meaningful buy-in to a highly functional team in which all the players are excited to participate. You’ll even learn time allocation techniques for running more satisfying, effective board meetings.

Discover techniques for sustaining board engagement.

4. Make Assessments Productive

Who evaluates whom? On what basis? Can feedback actually leave a board member eager to grow? You’ll see in this webinar that it’s possible to create evaluation strategies that keep each board member on an upward trajectory of improvement. Innovative tools keep standards clear.  They furthermore engender a sense of teamwork, as the individual is not the only focus of assessment. The result: yet more engagement.

See how the best organizations make assessments highly motivating.

5. Keep The Right People and Replace Dead Wood

Be prepared! Inevitably, some promising board members will surpass your expectations. You need to retain them and capitalize on their strengths. Implementing certain policies in a positive climate make it easy to keep them on board. Find out what they are!

Some people will not work out. With proactive anticipation, the entire group does not stop functioning while you (and your needed allies in the organization) clarify what went wrong. You’ll learn to respond when officials are voted out who are impeding progress. As important, you’ll see those moments as opportunities: you can “rebalance” your board composition without waiting for the next round of term expirations.   

Make board turnover part of a rich, generative culture of ever-expanding opportunity.

Register for an Upcoming Webinar

Build a board that runs like a well-oiled machine.  Keep it humming as things change over time. Click here to register for a complimentary BoardDocs webinar.


ICMA Blog


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