Skip to main content

Cliques on Boards


There's a propensity for like-minded folks to cluster together in group situations. When so many boards are comprised of people who know one another outside the board room (or may be related to one another) clustering  is common....and can be a common problem.  As we strive for greater diversity of board members, those who aren't from the same social or familial circles may find it especially difficult to break into the circle that is the board.

The executive director, nominating committee and board president need to be mindful of clustering or cliques, and consciously work to minimize their effect.  The first rule of thumb is that everyone is diversely, but equally, skilled in the board room -- a tenet that needs to be voiced and modeled at every turn.  It is to the long-term advantage of the organization to institutionalize this democratic vision.

There are several practical ways to minimize clusters:
  • mix up the seating at meetings.  Humans, being who they are, tend to sit with the people they know and in the same locations.  Assign seats much as a savvy hostess would for a big dinner party, making sure that folks who don't know one another sit together and sprinkling the best conversationalists around the table.  Use table cards large enough for all to read -- especially helpful for the new folks to learn names and faces.  If you can, scramble the seating half way through the meeting.
  • build small group discussions into the meeting agenda and assign people to these groups (or have folks count off or look for a colored sticker on their name card).  Who says financial issues are only dealt with by the finance committee?  Or building issues by the building committee? Mix it up in small group discussions!  Your board members will get to know each other better and your organization may reap the rewards of new insights.
  • build in social time for board members whenever and wherever possible.  These are opportunities to kick back and get to know one another.  Board members of an organization I know go out for beer after their meeting.  Other boards incorporate a meal before or during their meetings.
The goal here is to get a diverse group of people thinking and (hopefully) performing as a team. You're the coach.  No spectators allowed!

Photo:  TEAMWORK...by deSKOLtrolado

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

4 Nonprofit Resolutions for 2021

Even though 2020 will technically be in our rear view mirror soon, its ramifications will be with us for years to come. Make no mistake, there's a lot of work to do. So, here are my four really tough, but really important, resolutions designed to lay some solid groundwork for doing your best work in 2021. Aren't you glad there are only four? If you're interested in my resolutions from previous years, take a look here  and here .

4 Strategies to Pivot and Lead Through Disruption

Organizational Resiliency in This Crucible Moment

I am currently working with two colleagues from the cultural and heritage fields to think and write about organizational resiliency in times of upheaval and ambiguity. We believe resiliency in this crucible moment requires, first and foremost, nonprofit organizations activate equity and inclusion by embracing it as central to all their internal and external work. It begins when organizations commit the time to examine their own historical roots and practices as a critical step to ensure they “live” their most meaningful missions, visions, and values. Resiliency requires many organizations also renegotiate what it means to be valuable to their communities. The traditional idea of “value” has changed and is changing, and recognizing the extent to what our communities really value is key to being wanted, needed, and, thus relevant. All organizations must retool their financial mindsets, taking a hard look at their current financial realities and realigning the costs of doing business with