Does your company have a Board of Directors? An Advisory Board? Do you sit on a Board? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should ask, “How Bored is your Board?” I facilitate many Board retreats and advisory Boards on formation and strategy. This past year, we have been called repeatedly to help Boards revamp, and “rewire” how they are “being”. A few of the questions that I get are: “How do we get our Board to be more engaged, do more, respond better?” “How do I attract great people to be on my Board?” “How do I get people off my Board?” Common complaints of Directors of Boards are low attendance, people not volunteering for projects, and members not coming to agreement. I am not surprised by these findings.
Historically, Boards in the early 1900’s, were predominantly male; the meetings were long and often involved a social aspect. Time was made in an executive’s day or evening to participate and it was often seen as a measure of status to be on a Board. We are not the same today.
Although there may be a measure of status belonging to certain Boards, people are taking stock of their lives and how they use their time. Every minute counts. Every second away from something that is “core” gets scrutinized. With the working day already extending to 10-12 hours, fitting time in to sit on a Board that does not add intrinsic value results in plummeting participation, particularly if there is no financial gain.
So, is your Board doomed? No, but you should be sure your Board is value-driven, for both your organization and for the members you are trying to attract.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
When was the last Board evaluation conducted?
Your Board should have an evaluation process at least once per year. Regular evaluation should be done for a number of reasons:
To ensure that the vision and purpose of the Board is being met
To continuously improve the organization’s work
To ensure programs and services meet the expectations and objectives set for them, and to make changes if needed
To be accountable to the community and the people served by the organization
To meet the requirements of the constituents they serve
To provide feedback to the staff and volunteers doing the work of the organizations
Does your Board have a clear vision and strategy for its purpose?
Have you spent time designing and defining what your purpose is and can everyone clearly articulate that? Do all members understand what their role is and what commitment level is expected? Have you created this vision with your Board or with a subset and enrolled the rest? Engagement comes from ownership and something built around common belief and values. Create your purpose and strategy with your Board.
When was the last time you asked your members how you could engage them more?
How often do you meet with Board members individually or in small groups and ask them what the Board could be doing that would bring value and re-ignite their passion? A one-way relationship where Board members are asked to keep “doing” and get nothing back is on a path to divorce. Having this conversation alone will spark interest and commitment.
What value does your Board bring to your community, company and members?
Have you ever had a discussion with your Board about the value the group brings to each of these constituencies? Make a list of all the value your group creates. Let each member see the difference they are making in the lives of others. On the other hand, if you are not doing that, you may want to re-look at your purpose.
Start with doing a Board evaluation. Don’t just make it a typical evaluation centered on how much committee work got accomplished or how many by-laws were enacted. Make the evaluation centered on two specific areas:
1. Is the Board achieving its purpose?
2. Are the members of the Board satisfied?
One last thought:
Try making your meetings or yearly off-sites more interesting. Have a learning piece, an adventure piece, a speaker, author or magician. Do something more than sitting in a meeting room and then having dinner. For god’s sake, no wonder they’re bored.
People want to spend time on things they value. Once you establish value, you will see renewed energy and a Board that is no longer bored.
Grace Andrews • Executive Coach/Corporate Healer • President, Training By Design • Boston, MA • firstname.lastname@example.org • www.training-by-design.com