massey2I have attended a lot of meetings of boards and committees.  I know I have averaged more than one a week for the past 15 years – so I have to be approaching a thousand.  I have come to know and become friends with many board members and they tell me things in the parking lot after meetings.

First, some brutal facts:

  • Boards haven’t changed much in the last 3 decades.
  • Most boards have 3 groups: fully engaged, sometimes engaged, and barely connected.  The percentages of each group can vary.
  • Board members may love the organization; but they still don’t think much about it between meetings.
  • Many board members ask themselves if they should attend a meeting about 30 minutes before the meeting.

Some observations:

  • Governance has trumped leadership.
  • Staff and board expectations differ.
  • Roles are not clear.
  • Board meetings are too much…too many agenda items, too many people, too many reports, and too much of a choke point for effective leadership.

But everything listed above can be changed if leaders are willing to shake things up a bit.

  • Separate governance activity from leadership of the organization.  Governance is only whatever the organization or government requires. Everything else is designed to lead the organization.
  • Staff need to change their expectations of board members. Volunteers are involved to make their community better through the organization. While they want the organization to be better – it is primarily so it can produce more significant results in the community.
  • The old model of boards declaring “what” to do and staff figuring out “how” to do it is changing.  It is much more of a hybrid and joint effort.  For each issue, separate “providing input” and “making decisions” for role clarity.
  • Make board meetings less about information exchange and more about strategic discussions.  Use an online system to share information and spend valuable meeting time in facilitated discussion.

And finally, some “what ifs:”

  • What if we lead more from an association and larger community perspective than from an aggregate of neighborhoods and programs?
  • What if we provided more research than anecdotes?
  • What if we had a Vision Council in addition to a board?
  • What if we had the courage to say “no” to some good things so we could say “yes” to some transformational things that would produce significant, measurable results?

Are you disturbed by all these observations?  I hope so.  Let me know what you think by adding your comments below.

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