Second Life – Board Expectations

There are few things more uncomfortable than sitting on a board of directors and not knowing why I am there or what’s expected of me.

I take that back – there are plenty of things more uncomfortable than that. But none of them are as easy to quit. And board members who are not engaged are the second death (out of nine) for our organizations.

This week I’m still speaking to the CEOs* out there about your responsibility to foster an excellent board environment.  One in which board members can excel in their engagement and commitment to your organization. Setting expectations for them is at the top of the list.

(*CEOs, EDs, Pastor, etc.)

There are many ways to approach this. Establish a selective recruitment process. Create a board development committee. Use a participatory process in which current board members produce a shared definition of expectations for themselves as a group. But as the executive, you must initiate this dialogue.

This quote from one of my board members sticks with me: “Just wind me up and tell me how to spin.” This was the CEO of a very successful multi-million dollar business. He made multiple critical (and obviously successful) decisions every day. But when it came to our work together at this not-for-profit, he wanted a sense of direction and expectations.

In the end, board members need to be given clear expectations. They need to be told why they are on the board – both in general (why anyone is on the board), and specifically (what gifts and resources they bring that can help the mission). And many times, they need to be directed toward the activities that will most help the organization accomplish its mission.

Don’t be afraid to ask more of your board members. You won’t scare them off, at least not good ones. The opposite is true – more board members become disaffected and fade into the woodwork for lack of meaningful involvement than from being asked to do too much.

Set some expectations, and don’t let your board lose the second of their nine lives!

Next week – #3 – Board Accountability.