You need board education when....

In a nutshell: you need to do planned board education when the board doesn't know what it should be doing or how to get that done. Doesn't apply to your board, you say? Let's check.

1. Are you sure that every single board member can articulate what the board contributes to the organization? Do they know what the board is solely responsible for?

2. Are all board members clear on what their personal responsibilities are to the board and to the organization?

3. Can each board member outline how board work is organized and executed? Do they know how board agendas are identified, chosen, prepared and presented?

4. Do you use a board structure that includes an Executive committee, or any other super-committee that has a routine role considering issues and making recommendations to the whole board?

5. Can they describe how board committees are organized and how they function separately and together?

6. How much personal responsibility do each of your board members take in the budget process? How much is delegated to a finance committee?

7. How much involvement does each board member have in strategic direction development, monitoring and adjustment?

8. Do they know how board members are replaced? How new board members are suggested, chosen, vetted, oriented and included in on-going board work.

9. How does each board member describe the relationship between the board and the chief staff officer? With the rest of the senior staff? With outside funders? With organizational members?

10. Do you have routine built in metrics to track these understandings as they evolve over time and across organizational challenges?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘I don't know', some intervention is needed. Both the board and the senior staff will benefit from establishing clarity and workable expectations in each of these areas. It is easier to do a good job if you are sure what that job is and what the indicators are for doing the job well.

If your response to query 4 is ‘yes, we do have a super-committee', I'll bet that you have less involved board members (query 6 and 7) and a great deal of confusion about query 9. You can improve these limiting conditions and you do not need to have a super committee to get board work done efficiently. Well-chosen, well oriented and well supported board members take their roles very seriously and will contribute over expectations if given the direction and the opportunity.

Wouldn't you rather have all the horses cooperating and all pulling in one coordinated direction? Or are you the type of leader that prefers to set up factions and pit them against each other. Or does it just look that way because of poor structure and inept management?

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