Four Frustrations With Boards

I recently had the opportunity to speak with some local leaders and their board members here in Norman. As I was sharing some ideas around board development and how to increase participation on their board, I noticed four frustrations being shared most often. 

1. My board is not effective

That’s a pretty  broad statement. There are a lot of ways to define “effective”. There are a lot of different types and uses for boards. It’s really interesting how the representatives felt the board wasn’t as effective as it could or should be. 

2. The board is in conflict

This one was subtle, to be certain. No one wants to be the one who calls out disarray in a board situation. It doesn’t have to be an all-out war, but there can be some challenging situations or issues that the board can’t get together on. It can cause the organization to slow down or make things more difficult than they have to be. You can feel the undertone in the room that not everyone was on the same page.

3. The members are not pleased with the board makeup

I appreciate the interest in our boards. It’s awesome that diversification is an important focus on our boards and that the different aspects of our community are well represented in the makeup of our boards. However, this can cause issues. How do we recruit different types of people to be on our board, not just the normal status-quo individuals who are already involved?

4. The capabilities and commitments of the board are not clear.

This is a really interesting dynamic. How much time is the board using in meetings? How many meetings are members expected to come to? What exactly is expected of a board member? Is there a commitment to be there, or are members just putting things on a resume saying they were involved in the community?

Here are people in the community who are coming to me (and there are board chairs in the room as well) and there is a little bit of consternation and frustration around the effectiveness of a board that is supposed to support, challenge, and advocate the cause, mission, and vision of an organization. There is a little dissatisfaction there.

To be clear, the boards weren’t performing poorly. They just weren’t functioning at the level that everyone knew they could and should.

So, what challenge does your board have? When you look at the board you sit on, chair, or report to as an executive director, which of these is a challenge to you? Would you say your board is effective? How does your board navigate conflict? Are all the voices are representative of the community you are serving and the expertise you need? Are you concerned with the capabilities and commitment of your board?

If any of these things resonate, the natural following question is this: What now? How do I address these problems? The following articles in this series will break down these issues and give you clear guidelines to get your board running effectively and on mission.