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Board Development Masquerading as Board Orientation

Recently I’ve worked with a couple of clients seeking to “elevate the game” of their Board of Directors. In each case there’s a small contingent who see the value of developing Board skills in working more as a Strategic Board rather than as a Micromanaging or Absentee Board. How leaders deal with this kind of dilemma is quite a challenge. It comes under the old saw, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” So as the consultant-in-waiting, what can I do to help facilitate progress?

What I’ve started doing is recruiting the nonprofit CEO and Board Chair to help find a team of current Board members who will help organize an orientation. From my experience thus far, it works to engage experienced, seasoned members to help outline and then deliver an orientation session for new-to-newer Board members. And part of the preparation for this session is for experienced Board members to do a bit of research and prepare a piece of the presentation and then facilitate the discussion that will follow.

Many members of our nonprofit Boards feel as though they know all there is to know about governance and don’t want to waste their time. This attitude of “you can’t teach me anything new” can undermine a Board’s advancement. I believe nonprofit leaders and consultants interested in working with Boards who may be a bit stubborn about their need to learn, can engage these volunteers and seek their help in getting an important job done.

So each year when there’s orientation for new Board members, tweak the process to engage more seasoned members of the Board. Get them involved. This can help get the group on the same page and working better toward common mission purpose.

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