If you’re a board member wanting to make the most of your board service this year, today’s post is for you. Here are three quick tips for achieving that goal.
1. Embrace Your Role
- A board member is a fiduciary—a person who takes care of valuable assets on another person’s behalf. A fiduciary has a legal duty to act with care, obedience, and loyalty.
A new year is a good time to consider how you can lean in to your fiduciary role more fully, which usually means finding ways to be more prepared, more informed, and more engaged—all with an eye toward furthering the organization’s interests and strategic plan, not your own.
- Board members are strategic advisors to the organization’s CEO and/or executive director—the individual(s) who manage(s) the operations of the organization and execute(s) the strategic plan.
If the strategic vs. operational line is blurry for you or your board, a new year is a good time to ask hard questions about why that’s the case and consider concrete ways to move toward realignment.
2. Make the Most of Meeting Time
An efficient and meaningful board meeting is one of the best ways to keep members engaged and passionate about their board service and the organization’s mission. Here’s how the members and the Chair can work together to make that happen:
- Draft an agenda that makes sense.
- Understand how a board takes action.
- Manage discussion.
- Avoid time-wasting votes.
3. Remember What Matters Most
Furthering an organization’s mission is what should matter most to each board member, and doing that means developing the following qualities:
- A Commitment to Preparation. A prepared board member reviews meeting materials in advance and asks staff questions as needed so that she’s ready to provide helpful input and make thoughtful decisions.
- An Intuition about When to Speak and When to Listen. The most effective board members are effective speakers: (1) They speak often enough but not so often that they’re tuned out, and (2) they provide input that is clear, accurate, relevant, and to-the-point.
- A Willingness to Compromise. The best board members avoid a “my way or the highway” approach and instead find ways to bring members together toward a solution that will move the organization forward.
- The Backbone to Make Hard Decisions. Organizational success always requires decisions that are uncomfortable because they involve some sort of risk. But organizations need board members who will rise to that challenge by being willing to have difficult conversations and make hard choices.