- The board chair starts crying because no one appreciates him. This is from a board chair who was either completely absent or extremely late for EVERY BOARD MEETING last year.
- When a board member shares her “give and get” plan for the year, and it begins with “I will send letters to the following people and ask them for money: Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Rosie O’Donnell…”
- When your board meetings are ALWAYS the first Monday of every month and someone “forgets” there was a meeting!
Time for a Good Laugh or Cry. Fill In: You know your board is dysfunctional when …..( short, funny and poignant remarks about some real life board experiences)*
* at the end, someone added that after posting this thread, a board member’s resignation appeared on her desk the next morning!
How does this happen?
Most people start off with the best of intentions when joining a board of a nonprofit; they care about the cause, it may have affected them directly. But wanting to help is very different than actually making those changes happen. People come onto boards for a variety of reasons with a variety of skills and understandings; how those are applied in a board circumstance can manifest very differently.
Clarity about expectations, obligations, terms, and other commitments is critical to starting off on the right foot together.
The next part is how each of these members works and behaves as a member of a larger board. It can be very illuminating to ask them how they see their relationship to their colleagues.
Ask your members to describe what they do on your board,then listen carefully to the answers. How do they describe what they do and how they do it?
Which verbs do they use to describe how they work: do they engage, recruit, and support; or do they attend, review or observe?
What does their conversation tell you about how they see their role and activity for your nonprofit? Is it working for them individually, for the board as a whole, for the organization?
On the other hand:
Incredible praise for the board member we would all love to have:
- They pay attention, show up and read the stuff you send them.
- They speak up and directly at meetings, on topic and on point.
- They act independently and with initiative, and don’t depend on you to get things done.
- They don’t come to the table with no resources, whether time, treasure or talent.
- They don’t micromanage your work, and deliver on their own promises.
The Road to Hell
I have known so many board members who began with the best of intentions, but were either unclear or unable to really provide for the organization. When this happens, it can be more of a problem than a solution. While they may mean well, managing problematic board members can distract from your purpose.
Then ask that question: do they sit or serve in their role as a board member?
Dealing with members who aren’t really offering the things your organization needs can be tricky; care must be taken in handling them fairly. But, as always, everything needs to be viewed through the frame of your mission.
If yes, then no problem and congratulations. But if not, let us help you find the best place for them in your organization. The baby doesn’t have to go our with the bathwater and sometimes the best way to help isn’t necessarily a board position.
If we can help you see board activity more clearly, do call to discover a more effective way to work with your board.