Back to Basics to Training the Board

The short article below was meant for a Board of Directors of a non-profit organization. It bares a striking resemblance to joining any committee, commission, etc in order to get things done. It doesn’t matter how big the group or how important to the world is its decisions. It has more to do with establishing rapport and bringing your ideas into the mix once the group sees you as one of them. Substitute “committee,” “work group,” “commissions,” “task force” for Board and see for yourself.

What does a new board member of a non-profit or for profit organization do to achieve change and growth. There are three main keys to success I discovered. The story first.

I’ve just been named to the Board of Directors of a non-profit organization and want to move the directors in a direction beyond what they are used to for some 40 years. Of course, the board hasn’t had the same directors that long.

In fact, to invigorate the lackadaisical situation, a few new Board members were named and the stone-wallers (those members that didn’t do anything) asked to leave; however, the attitude remains about the way things have been done have been for as many years.

I was asked to come on board to change attitudes about production and take charge of that aspect, while working for the Board president and other members of the Board as applicable.

Now, the question is: how do you change attitudes?

You can only change an attitude by getting someone to accept change. Accepting change is hard, but it is the only way. You can provide as much of your background and experience as possible with the hope the Board would want you to suggest changes or introduce new ideas. That may come with a cost.

To the Board, it may make you appear more of an egotist than someone that really wants to work.

There are three basic tactics to bring them to your side and actually accomplish why you took the job.

  • Woo them. Try to be seen as a team member rather than superman who can do anything. Be a helper. Don’t try to change too fast. I hate slow but it’s necessary. Listen a lot and don’t judge. This requires patience, but you’ll gain followers not enemies who always shut down your proposals.
  • Wow them with work you do your way. Don’t broadcast it–just do it. Give the team credit for the job well. You’ll be giving credit to people who are seeing positive results to the way you wanted them to in the first place.
  • Work them. See if it’s time to modify the bylaws (rules of engagement). Wait for someone else to suggest it. With your latest success or successes in mind, the president of the board may do it. Even better. Be quiet at first (look like you’re deep in thought). Let other Board members look to you now for so some of processes and techniques to put in the by-laws.

Congratulations. You are now one of them.

Maybe it wasn’t as fast as you like but it works.

Next, is expand into new areas in the new business with the Board on your side.

Much of the work may be being done by the Board members themselves; the Board should work, but it should also be making sure others are recruited to work for or with them in specialized areas, having able assistants who can attend meetings in their places. In other words, a single Board member may be responsible for ensuring meetings are scheduled consistently, and if time and place have to changed, word can be sent out as soon as possible.

I have seen Boards where people have been named to the board to give the company credibility, not enhance the company with its advice and oversight. There is a lot of information on building a board, however, I think you can put it simply. Think what you need and assign people to make it happen.

The first question I asked the Board members when I was introduced formally was why and how they came to be on the board. No one said they were to enhance the image; they genuinely seemed to care and everyone seemed forthcoming, but it seemed I was the only individual board member who had an agenda; this Board’s agenda seemed due for a facelift.

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