Your board is your guiding brain trust which at its top functionality steers innovative strategy to achieve its mission guided by the vision of the organization. The delicate balance of this beast, the board, is that it is fed by the health, knowledge, and passion of volunteers. Even the healthiest brain trust can use additional resources to improve functionality. Determine your current board dynamics when looking to develop and build a stronger board. Where are some areas that could use a closer eye?
Observe burnout as it occurs.
Without clarity to what is expected, a new board member can bite off more than they can chew and lay the pathway to burnout when they are at their most passionate and newly elected. “I love this organization and I’m going to put every extra moment into it.” Exciting to hear initially, but not reliable or fair to either party. Being clear and realistic about the time commitment and expectations will save everybody valuable time.
It is most prudent to watch for burnout warning signs; the regular and casual use of negative sentiments or making observations that are not constructive without offering possible solutions. Some can exhibit signs of lack of respect of their own time as well as others during meetings and while finishing tasks. When the load of what is expected becomes too heavy to bear by one or a few members, this can weaken the mission of the organization. Being aware this is happening will push for adaptation within the board.
Communication will rule the day.
Understand when transition is needed and work to move forward. Relaying quality information to the next member via board orientation materials in addition to one-on-one mentorship can allow them to take the baton and bolster the entire group. Transparency about how to address an under developed or under serving board member could be initially uncomfortable, but having the strength and honesty to change the situation will be the prologue to a new productive age of your organization.
Training and tools will bring you to closer to your vision.
Leaders are not born. They are made by the shape of their experience, training, and the tools they use. When effective training is put in place, board members feel more confident and cohesive. New techniques and technology in communication (Slack), team building (True Colors), and strategy (Basecamp) will continue to be developed and an organization that wants to stretch the imagination to what they will achieve will be supported by quality education of its members and board.
The true thrill of board development is that is it a continual process that can always be tweaked for the better, possibly unearthing new talents within your board. This approach will ensure your members can trust that you and your board strive to support and guide the mission with their best foot forward.
Megan Van Petten
CEO & President
Van Petten Group, Inc.