“There are some things that a board must be crystal clear on,” he says. “Why do we exist? How do we serve the community? What is our strategy? How are we going to execute?”
Recommending that board members should not necessarily be family and friends, board members should be passionate about the mission.
Directors should come from diverse backgrounds and have complimentary skills and good communication and listening skills. Engaging conversation and debate is valuable. It is important to have critical thinkers and not a room of people who only agree. There is a benefit to
Important skills to look for are:
- Social media savvy
- Branding and positioning
- when people hear the name - what do they think?
- PR and Messaging
- Someone who has a heart for business - maybe an entrepreneur
- know how to get things done
- know that you have to go out to get the dollars
- know you have to make tough decisions
- Get a specialist involved
- someone who knows how to speak directly to get the questions
- financial specialist
- change agent
- historical knowledge
- original board members for example - who directs but doesn’t discourage
- someone who had been following
AUDIENCE QUESTION & COMMENTS:
Q: What is the difference? business person, such as middle manager, versus entrepreneur?
A: The person who is the final catcher is going to have a different perspective than a middle manager.
Q: How do you recommend managing personalities and personality differences?
A: Like a job interview, come up with a series of behavioral questions. Have the board and /or staff attend interpersonal retreats and personal growth workshops. One President (I) knew opened every meeting with a series of tough, personal questions.
Q: What do you recommend as a good vetting process?
A: Creating ad hoc committees or getting people involved as volunteers first to see how people work together. Or try a provisionary directorship with a time limit.
Q: I’m confused about the relationship between the board and staff.
A: sometimes if there is a very small board, the board certainly can act as staff, but ultimately the board is in charge of the staff.
Q: What if the board doesn’t go along with the policy? The staff doesn’t go along with the policy? What do you do?
A: This is the job of the governance committee, re write policies, keep them updated, send them out for vote, keep them current.
Q: When is a good time to start a board and where does the founder go on the board?
A: A founder can go on or not on the board. Just be clear, be sure to keep the board moving forward. Maybe the founder just wants to do it as a hobby, but it’s clear that the mission and vision is taking a life of it’s own. The founder can remain as an advisor to the board.
Q: As a board is getting bigger, how does the board work together and grow cohesively?
A: Avoid micromanaging, work out the details of how you want the board to operate.
Q:You see there is a time you need to have a board of directors, maybe you find some people, but as you get them on board you see they are not living up to expectations - it can be very hard because some people join your board as friends. What do you do?
A: Assuming you’ve clearly set expectations, set them aside, just like w an employee and ask them how they think they are doing and how things are going and point out a few things that are going really well and a few things that could you use some improving. Be very careful about engaging neighbors or relatives, friends. Choose people that are interested in your mission, not because of their relationship with you. You target people who you’ve observed, see they’re serious and that they care about the mission. Use an adverse selection method.
Q: As you said, about setting expectations. How do you do this kindly?
A: A good way to say that is, “This is just something we do for everyone. Getting and giving feedback.” Like an annual review. You can also create provisionary directors.
C: Board membership can also be mutually beneficial, board members can have a tremendous impact for the mission, but also some businesses want their executives names to show up and they want the public to know their executives have gone through a vetting process and have been selected.
Q: What about Racial and Gender diversity?
A: Expands the feedback, expands the perspective - otherwise it’s like having one board and 14 photocopies of the same person and everyone always agrees, but it doesn’t grow. Also, sometimes it can mean “having the voice of the client” on the board which is very valuable to the mission fulfillment.