In all the years I’ve consulted with and coached Executive Directors, there is one issue I see universally. Nearly every one of them is stepping over the most egregious behavior where the Board is concerned.
If you are an Executive Director, I can take one look at what you are accepting and tolerating on your Board – and armed with that information, I can predict with reasonable accuracy how much longer your shop will be open. Bold? Yes. True? You bet.
Here are 7 clear indicators that you have the roots of a significant problem with the Board…
Do you walk on eggshells around the Board Chair? If so, you have a severe misunderstanding of who they are – and who YOU are. The Board Chair represents the Board itself, as well as the community. Their job is to lead the Board to ultimately fulfill the Mission. Their job is NOT to check on you, micromanage you, dominate you, manipulate you, control you, or undermine you. The solution is a face-to-face meeting with the Board Chair to re-establish your individual and distinct roles within the organization.
When you bring operational issues and details into the Boardroom, you are inviting the Board to meddle and intervene on topics that have nothing to do with their role as Board members. Know up front that you created this, and you can stop it. The solution is to redirect Board members to put their eyes back on their Boardroom work and remove themselves from operational work.
No doubt there’s a policy that states what the rules are when it comes to Board members missing Board meetings. That said, the bigger issue in my mind is – what has you accepting this kind of behavior in your Boardroom? The solution is to confront these disruptors and put them to a decision. In or out. You’ve got work to do, and you can’t do it in a room full of disruption.
History has shown me there are at least two storytellers on every Board. Whenever an agenda item is introduced that has some kind of personal significance to these Board members, they launch into a story about their life experience. It takes the attention of the room down a path that has nothing to do with the Mission. And there you sit. Silent. The solution is a gentle but purposeful interruption to put the meeting back on track. This is your job as the leader.
It never fails. Nearly every Board has one of these. Whether it’s a past history, donor level, political ties, or extreme community influence – this Board member is the “lighthouse” in the room. Everyone defers to this person. Even worse, the Board Chair has given up their leadership and handed over the voice of power to this Board member. Once again, you sit there silent. The solution is to confront the Board Chair and engage in a conversation that ultimately tilts the power in the Boardroom back where it belongs.
They don’t support it financially. They don’t go to the events. They make excuses when they are late or absent. They treat the organization like it’s something they’ll do when it’s convenient for them. How did this happen? Somehow they were put on the Board with no checks and balances. The solution is to conduct a proper Board member orientation alongside the Board Chair to recreate the commitment they made when they joined.
If I polled 50 Executive Directors, 47 of them would tell me they haven’t had a performance review or a salary review in 2 years or more. Even effective Boards are unwilling to deal with this issue, and it’s why some very talented people have left the sector. What it leads to is disgruntled Executive Directors silently sabotaging the organizations they were hired to lead. What suffers is the Mission.
Tell me – is your personal mission and the Mission of your organization worth finally taking a stand for your work performance to be evaluated? What is your commitment worth? And why do you continually allow the Board to devalue it? This is the question you need to answer. Because the solution is a demand for your leadership to be acknowledged and rewarded.
Are you an Executive Director who is dealing with one or more of these issues? If so, I can help.
I offer individualized coaching and consulting specifically tailored to meet you where you are, with the people and resources you have available to you, and with your goals in mind.
Reply to this message directly to set up a conversation. Even if we don’t end up doing work together, I promise our conversation will highlight a direction and solutions you haven’t yet considered.
Let’s start there.