I have been coaching a client who serves on Board of Directors that is responsible for an organization with a large budget, a huge staff complement and services that impact thousands of clients and their families.
She was super frustrated with her work after only the two months into her 4-year term. She explained that two ‘camps’ had developed within the Board of Directors which effectively cancelled out any initiative that came from one side or the other. The organization’s senior staff were closing ranks because they didn’t know what the board wanted nor how to respond to competing requests. They had defaulted to bombarding the Board with tomes and tomes of information without filtering and providing useful analysis.
At best this was a complete waste of the intellect and hopes & dreams of the board members and the employees of the organization. At worst it was a disservice to the funders of the organization and an abdication of the responsibility to the people they serve.
As our first session drew to a close, I asked a simple question: ‘If you only served one term on this Board of Directors, what is the one thing you wanted to be remembered for?’
The table went so quiet I thought I had insulted her.
She didn’t have an answer.
This person is not a bad soul. She is well respected in the community, and I know she took this role on with nothing but the highest and most noble intentions. But the Board did not have clearly defined objectives that created value for the Board of Directors as a team nor to the organization as a whole.
They had rested their purpose on a lofty mission & vision, but did not have tangible, achievable or purposefully objectives to work towards. In the absence of that people were working on their version of what they thought the Board’s work should be.
Since then we have worked together to help my client define and articulate objectives that work for her. She has taken these to the larger group and has found surprising unanimity among her peers. The board is now coalescing around objectives, and they are beginning to focus on working towards a higher level of performance.