Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Top Tips for Working For and With Boards

I'VE WRITTEN THESE TIPS FROM AN EXECUTIVE'S POINT OF VIEW.  I do believe that the executive wears three hats when dealing with her board:  a leadership hat, a facilitative hat, and an implementation hat.  I think that most of these tips would fall predominantly in the first two hats.

Your Board is Your Team:  your board may not be the most sophisticated, the wealthiest or the smartest, but this is not an “us” vs. “them” rivalry.  Your nonprofit is the enterprise in which you are all vested.  If you’re not, maybe this isn’t the team to be on (that goes for staff and board members, too).

Communicate:  be the first to pick up the phone.  Try to spend 20% of your time engaging individual and small groups of board members in meaningful conversations about the mission of the organization, your needs as the staff leader, and your staff’s needs.  Strategize with them; use each one as your personal brain trust.
 
Don’t Hold Back on the Bad News:  trusting and mutually respectful relationships get that way because each participant knows they’re getting really useful information and unvarnished opinions.  When no one wants to “talk turkey”, it usually means your board (and you) haven’t been able to coalesce as a team.
 
Help Boards Understand…and Learn:  work with board members, individually and collectively, to figure out what information about the organization is most useful to decision-making (in addition to your insights and recommendations) and develop the means to deliver meaningful, measurable and readable information and evaluative tools.  Take some extra time to reach out to and work with board members who you know are having a hard time understanding or processing information.
 
Help Your Board Do a Good Job:  board members are expected to do a wide array of things – not all of which may come easily.  As the staff leader, work hard to make expectations clear.  Find ways to support board members as they strive to meet their responsibilities, perhaps with training opportunities, facilitators, and practice.

Keep and Sense of Balance and Perspective:  working for and with boards is just that:  work!  But it should be rewarding work and, yes, even fun at times.  Know that a sense of humor is an important skill that shows you can roll with the punches. 

Photo:  Communication
from DailyPic

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