People Matter 2019 started off with four interviews all focused around one important question: “Is your board any good?”
What should the relationship between a board chair and an executive director look like? What are the warning signs of a bad board? How can you tell if your board is truly engaged with the organization’s mission? If a board doesn’t reflect the people its organization serves, is it a good board? Hear answers to these questions and many more as we share the most important takeaways from our first topic of 2019.
1. When interviewing candidates for your board, listen to the language they’re using to see if it’s aligned with your mission, vision and values.
“I think this is the movement we will continue to see. We’ll see boards that are represented more by the people who are at the center of the work the organization is doing. If I’m looking at an organization and I look at their board, and their mission is to end homelessness and they don’t have a person that has experienced this, I might not be likely to really get “on board” with that board.” – Kristine Sloan, StartingBloc
2. The board needs to look at the organization holistically and make sure the whole organization is focused on its mission and what it wants to accomplish.
“You and the staff need to be a team that knows where you’re going — that sets up strategic plans. If you don’t have a strategic plan, the first thing you can offer to help with is… let’s think about our mission. It looks like we’re doing a lot of things. Do they hang together? Or was this thing a little shiny object over here we had a chance to go after? And a little money over here that somebody said, ‘You can do this project and we’ll give you some money for it?’ They need to hold together better than that.” – Susan Ross, moss+ross
3. In board meetings, there should be positive constructive tension.
“First and foremost, I think the better boards are congenial before and after the meeting, but in the meeting there is positive constructive tension. What I mean by that is, I want people there to express points of view, and I want people to challenge the points of view. Don’t challenge the individual, but challenge the point of view they expressed. It takes a pretty strong board to be able to bring persons onto the board who will challenge their thinking.” – Chuck ReCorr, The Harvard 100
4. The first thing you want to see in a board is engagement.
“What I’ve found in terms of leadership roles on boards, it’s better just to go to somebody who you’ve identified as not performing the way you would expect them to and just address it — have a conversation. Is there something going on? Are you not able to give to the board what you thought when you came? It’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think it’s important to, instead of letting an issue like that fester, have the discussion. If there are life issues going on and that person is no longer situated, able or energized to serve, let them roll off. You can find somebody to take that position who’s really fired up.” – Lee Whitman, SAFEchild (’03-’09), Band Together (’12-’18)
You can watch all of the People Matter interviews for “Is your board any good?” here.