Tuesday, Sept. 30
Microscopic thinking and micromanagement leave some boards and organizations stuck.
Others strike out into
unknown territory, trusting their instincts.
Identify the characteristics of a visionary board; learn to attract members with vision, and cultivate a culture of telescopic thinking.
Presenter: George Myers, gmars Consulting, LLC
Click here for details and to register.
By Guest Blogger Robert Meiksins, Forward Steps Consulting
Having just completed teaching a series of five workshops on governance at the Nonprofit Center, I discovered almost by accident an emerging theme that captures what I believe to be a major difference between boards that are effective and those that are asleep at the wheel (and yes, there are many gradations between those extremes).
The theme is "intentional governance."
A board that is practicing intentional governance is a group of directors that are thinking. A board of directors that is not governing intentionally behaves a certain way simply because "that's the way we do things," or because they think that's how a board is supposed to behave.
Being intentional means you are not doing something by rote. To govern effectively means acting with a reason in mind, a purpose that will help provide the appropriate levels of oversight, leadership, and support that a board should give the organization in its care.
This intentional governance can play out in any number of ways, but it always involves having eyes open. In recruitment, for example, it means moving beyond having the board directors ask each other, "Do you know anyone who might do this?" That may do nothing but simply fill an empty board seat with people who, more than likely, will attend meetings on an irregular basis, won’t make a contribution, and certainly won’t help write a strategic plan.
Back when I was in theater, we used to call it the “warm body school of casting.”
As long as they could move and talk, they had the role. A board that is acting intentionally will go to whatever strategic, annual, or business plan is in place and identify the skills, attributes, personality traits, and connections that are needed to accomplish the adopted goals. These, then, become the rubric to help identify the candidates to look for when recruiting to the board, directors that will have a real impact and help the organization move forward.
When developing and adopting a budget, the intentional board will work with staff to analyze how things have worked over the past few years. If we have invested X dollars in our programs, have we met our goals? If so, great - if not, why not? In either case, if we invest more, will we do better? The intentional Board will also work with staff to analyze if the budget is being allocated appropriately to fulfill the organization's mission: are there elements of what we want to do that need more attention? An intentional board will also ask the staff if there are any emerging trends that the organization should devote some financial resources to in the coming years.
My final example is about how board and committee meetings are managed. An intentional board will never, ever, ever have an agenda that looks exactly like the last one or the one before it. The chair and the executive director should talk before hand and decide what needs to be decided at this meeting, and structure the agenda accordingly.
At the workshops I taught at the Nonprofit Center, we talked about acting intentionally around fund development, board development, oversight issues, and much more. Every time we shared a story about some dysfunction we had seen, it could be traced to a board that was sleepwalking or acting like they had walked off the set of Invasion of the Body Snatchers with blank, mindless stares. OK, I may be exaggerating there, but you get the point. A good board governs intentionally, with eyes open, and with the organization's clients, mission, and goals clearly in mind.
Let me hear from you. Do you have a story that illustrates this idea of intentional governance?