IF YOU WERE TO MAKE A MAP of the to make a map of the diversity, skills, attributes and networks each of your board members brings to your organization's table, what would it look like? A board's combined talents form a profile that may be well-understood or barely perceived. And we should all know that what a group thinks of itself may not be anything like what others might think.
For a number of years I've used, and encouraged my client organizations to use, a simple chart to inventory these important elements. Yesterday, I sat with an executive director and the chairperson of her organization's nominating committee and watched them complete just such a chart. They inventoried gender, race, age, profession/avocation, skills brought to the organization, how each person is active in the organization, and what each person can help the organization accomplish.
It revealed obvious characteristics (average age is about mid-50s to 60); it also revealed some not-so-obvious gaps, such as the under-utilization of some board members, while others are active to the point of burnout. Even with the obvious stuff, it didn't quite hit home until it was seen on paper.
It also raised a question or two about why some folks were on the board in the first place.
More than once the nominating committee chairperson exclaimed, "I can see it now!" How board member talents fit together and complement each other is one very important byproduct of this exercise.A quick scan of the chart told us that, going forward, the nominating committee will need to be more strategic about identifying future candidates who can bring several things to the table: younger, of color, access to new/targeted networks, along with specific skills and/or interests that the organization needs.
If you haven't done this type of assessment, I encourage you to try it -- it took us less than two hours to do it (including related conversations).
Image: The Conference Board Review. The Identity Recession by Tony Spaeth. Winter 2010.