It’s time for us to do one of the most exciting things I can think of – recruit the founding board for Creating the Future!
Yes, exciting. It’s exciting because a board means this organization is real (not that we don’t already have programs that are extremely real, and all the other stuff that says, “we’re real,” but a board is a big “real” step!). It’s exciting because we will be surrounding ourselves with brilliant minds, passionate about the work of creating a healthy, vibrant future for our world.
And ok, I admit it is exciting because I am a huge governance geek.
The fact that I love this stuff is no secret. The bazillions of articles and posts I’ve written over the years, the books, the workshops – when I think of boards, their boundless untapped potential gives me goosebumps. (Yes, I know, it’s a sickness. I’m ok with that…)
So here’s the really fun part – we’ll be using the process outlined in the best-selling Board Recruitment manual at Amazon as the guide for this work. Yup – mine.
In our experience, board recruitment often starts with brainstorming a list of names. Sometimes before brainstorming that list, someone whips out a canned “matrix” that says every board should have X number of people from X walks of life (as if every board’s needs were the same, or as if recruiting board members as pro bono help was even a good idea...)
And it is precisely that experience that leads boards to recruit “warm blood and a pulse” or worse – board members that are a bad fit.
The process we are about to undertake will instead consider three critical sets of qualities:
• The Must-Have Qualities: Those qualities we want to be sure every single board member has.
• The “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” Qualities: Those qualities it would be nice if some had, but they don’t all need to have (money, connections, expertise in specific areas of the mission, etc.)
• The “Never in a Million Years” Qualities: Those qualities that, without being explicit about them, we are often willing to overlook as we seek folks in the “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” category. (i.e. “He’s loud-mouthed and has ego issues, but heck – he’s got money…”)
Before diving in, it’s probably important to share a bit of background. About a year ago, as we prepared to build this organization, we realized that we have a unique opportunity to be our own demonstration project, modeling what it would look like to transparently engage all our constituents in all our major decisions. We realized that process alone could be a beacon, a role model, and an invitation to share learning.
What that means is we will be asking for your wisdom, your ideas and your experiences as each major decision arises along this path. We will document the results of that process to the best of our ability to do so. And we will see what happens from there!
(To see our first example of transparently engaged decision-making, check out the series of blog posts that led to our name, Creating the Future, up to and including the decision to purchase the domain names!)
Let’s Get Started
As we dive in to build our board, then, we are hoping you will help us brainstorm the qualities that will help this organization move forward. Initially I thought I would ask for one category at a time, but knowing human nature, I knew we would wind up with ideas all over the place – the boon and bane of good brainstorming!
So all I ask is that you tell me which category the qualities you are thinking about fit under.
Must Have: What qualities must every board member have for this creative new venture?
Wouldn’t It Be Nice: What qualities would be nice if some had, but not everyone needs them?
Never Ever Ever: What qualities should we steer clear of, that might tank our ability to reach for this organization’s potential?
Because we have been thinking about this, I thought I might get the ball rolling with a few ideas we’ve been playing with. Please let me know if you don’t think these are valid. None of this is set in stone, it’s all just ideas.
• Must “get” the essence of our work and be passionate about its potential.
• Must have time to commit to being a board member (while we don’t know yet how much time that is, this will be a founding board, and we’ll probably chat a lot via listserv in addition to formal board meetings, so…)
• Must have integrity as in “wholeness of being” / must be “wise” and not just smart.
• Must embrace open-source / transparently engaged decision-making
• Must embrace the values noted here
• Must be comfortable with ambiguity, as we are seriously building this plane while we’re flying it.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
• Connections with people throughout all levels of the sector – academics and researchers, funders and philanthropists, social entrepreneurs and grass roots organizers, and etc.
• While everyone needs to have a comfort level with ambiguity, it would be nice to have some folks who are cautious in their approach to that ambiguity. On the flip side, it would be nice to have folks who are courageous explorers, who love venturing into the unknown with confidence that things will all work out. We’ll need some of both.
• Board members from various countries around the world would help ensure the work is infused with cross-cultural sensibilities.
Never in a Million Years
• Folks who are fearful, who are set in their ways, who are focused on why things can’t work vs. how they can.
Ok, that’s my list so far. As I said, a work in progress, so please both add to it and question what is already there. I can’t wait to see what we come up with – and then start to to find!!!
I am so looking forward to your thoughts!
31 thoughts on “Recruiting OUR Board!”
Hi Hildy! You are embarking on a very exciting journey, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts in response to your request. As someone who works with boards, I see attributes and behaviors that fall into all three categories. Hope this helps. Let me know if there is anything I can do to assist you.
+A deep personal commitment to stewardship grounded in purpose
+A sense of responsibility to eventual successors, i.e., being a good ancestor
+A clear understanding of how the Web/social technologies continue to change society (this may seem self-evident, but many of the boards with which I work lack any members who really understand what’s going on online, to the detriment of their organizations)
+A willingness to ask hard questions, to challenge conventional wisdom and express dissent comfortably.
+A commitment to building a 21st century board culture through design thinking.
+A focus on building a “thrivable” organization through innovation.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
+Deep knowledge of strategy-making and business model design
+The ability to bring the board together to achieve its full potential as a governing group.
+Previous board service, especially in start-up settings
Never in a Million Years
+People who look at everything through the lens of their own self-interest.
+People who are nostalgic for the halcyon days of yesteryear.
+People who live their lives in a constant state of denial.
How very cool! I’m not sure if you’re “accepting” volunteers for your board, but if you’re taking names for interviews, I’m definitely interested.
I thought I’d read all of the “Hildy” books, so I was surprised to find the one you referenced….and it’s been ordered from Amazon….so I’ll have reading material for tomorrow night. Yipee!
I agree with all of your comments, as well as Jeff’s regarding musts/nices/nevers in board members. I really like Jeff’s comment concerning being a “good ancestor”. I find that most boards do not pay very much attention to succession planning, let alone actually carry it out.
Must have: The believe system that “Hope for the future gives power to the present” (I first heard this quote at a conference years ago, but do not know the name of the speaker). And the belief that “A candle looses nothing by lighting another candle.”
Nice to have: Multiple experiences in a wide variety of community benefit organizations – in other words X number of years of experience, not one year’s worth of experience, repeated X times.
Not at all, no matter what: Lack of total commitment to the cause.
Just my thoughts – looking forward to seeing more!
I would also add that the potential candidate be willing to share their personal story related to the nonprofit’s cause. I’m not an expert at board selection, but imagine that hearing their stories – and how they tell them – would be incredibly informative.
Thanks for being transparent about your board building and good luck in your efforts!
I think transparency is incredibly important when building a board, especially a founding board. As a YNPN Phoenix founding board member three years ago, and now recently taking over as board president, I think it is important to be clear with your potential board members about what they are committing to, what is their shared vision with your direction and what are they willing and able to contribute in the way of resources – dollars, relationships, organizing, finance, infrastructure, etc.
I would love to talk to you about including a young nonprofit professional as a board member. At YNPN Phoenix we are working to support the nonprofit practice so professionals in the sector can make the most effective impact possible. Giving emerging leaders an opportunity for board service is an asset to your organization and helps build community capacity.
Aaron Stiner, MNpS, Board President, YNPN Phoenix, Sr Program Manager, Project Hope, Catholic Charities Community Services
Fabulous comments above!
I had excellent fortune yesterday with a group having its first ever discussion on board composition, size and recruitment when we tied the discussion to the newly developed Vision, Values and Mission Statements. I’m not sure where to find ours (I’m saying ours not yours because I’ve felt part of this organization from the start). This might be the best to consider organizing the thoughts above, and making sure nothing critical is missed.
Overall, I believe in recruiting a board with passion for the cause, governing skills and an eagerness to fill any gaps in those skills, and enough knowledge about the community and sector to be perceived as having moral legitimacy by the community and other partners and stakeholders.
Jane, you make a great point when you write, “governing skills, and an eagerness to fill any gaps in those skills…” A deep learning mindset is a must have for a successful board member, and that learning mindset must include building individual and collective capacity for effective governing in a 21st century context. When I advise association CEOs about building stronger boards, I encourage them to make continuous capacity building the top priority of the board chair or president.
I also wholeheartedly agree with your thinking on legitimacy, and I would argue that it extends beyond the moral sphere. Dysfunctional and intransigent boards damage the legitimacy of their overall stewardship, reduce their influence and diminish the organization’s bridging social capital. Few boards engage in explicit and serious discussions of their legitimacy, and I wish those conversations were more common and frequent.
This is a great conversation! Looking forward to more comments.
Very exciting! Off the top of my head (will send further thoughts if/when they bubble up)….
Must have: consider service on the CTF board as a high priority with regard to other philanthropic involvements (i.e., not be serving on multiple other boards at the same time)
Never ever ever: someone who won’t contribute dollars to CTF and believes that in-kind/board service is enough; someone who cannot keep confidentiality
— Commitment to the mission and the work of Creating the Future
00 (Board as a whole) A range of work styles, life views, etc.
— Commitment to community benefit/development work
— Belief in the potential of communities (however defined) to envision and create a healthy and sustainable future for their members
— Discernment and open-minded approach to life and work
— Intellectual curiosity – the spirit/practice of a lifelong learner
WOULDN’T IT BE NICE:
— Participation in a CDI/CTF consultant immersion course
— Expertise in a range of public relations/communication strategies
— Expertise re: keeping the financial house in order – develop/lead plan for business sustainability
— Connections with/between national/international sector organizations and leaders, to help with bridge building
— Broad expertise on organizational/group development
Heading out the door to a day in Phoenix, working with the wonderful attorney, Ellis Carter, who is helping us put the tax exemption together. The ideas you all are sharing is so helpful I cannot begin to say. PLEASE keep it coming. We are absorbing every thought and truly never would have thought of half this stuff. Thank you guys so much!
Reading your original list and the others I’ve just been nodding and saying “of course!” There is so much “wisdom in this [far-flung] room” that I have no doubt that this will be an amazing Board. I just have two thoughts to add in the ‘must have’ category. One is the idea that Aaron raises about having a youth voice. There are few organizations who have really integrated young people effectively in decision-making, but as they are so essential to the future we are creating, bringing them to the table is an important step. CIVICUS is one organization that has made a significant commitment to this over the past few years. (Somewhat a tangent, but I thought some of your readers might be interested in a short video of some of the amazing youth leaders CIVICUS is helping to nurture: http://bit.ly/9VCOMC ) A second ‘must have’ that I would underscore (somewhat implicit in the variety of comments you have received in many places where this discussion is taking place, but I would make explicit): this board should be a very diverse board in a very broadly (non-conventional) definition of the term. This in itself could be a very interesting conversation….
Hi all. Though I have not soaked up all the wisdom offered by reading all the materials, the ones I have seen got my wheels turning and some thoughts came to me in my middle-of-the-night thinking
* Build the board for the organization to grow into – though there will be changes through time in participants, we also will seek longevity, so think forward to CTF in 3 – 5 years
* Incorporate all those branches in your community visual (not remembering right now what you called it) – all the constituents – folks from MSOs, direct service orgs, academics – along with the consultants who have been able to participate in intensives
* An earlier post referred to different points of view, avoiding group think – interesting to ponder how to bring in the skeptic’s voice and perspective, when anyone on the board needs to be passionately behind the mission – of course the board doesn’t serve all purposes, and sleuthing and engagement will also bring in those perspectives
Many thanks for all the great sharing
Many good ideas already shared. What comes to mind for me:
Belief in the power and potential of community benefit organizations
I like Gail’s comment about making it a true priority, not one of many things
Ability to be a critical, indpendent thinker – able to go toe to toe with Hildy/Dimitri for the good of the organization (I think this will be the biggest challenge) and be able to do it in a way that is collaborative, not confrontational
People with links/bridges to a range of target audiences: consultants, capacity-building organizations, academics, foundations
Ability to listen, ask questions
I think there are number of things that would be nice to have “some” of but, that could be problematic if they were universal: so a mix along the continnum of tech savvy, demographic diversity, involvement in immersion workshops, practical vs. creative/visionary,
Any personal benefit/conflict from affiliation with CTF, Hildy, Resolve
Anyone who is not willing to try to walk the talk of the values of the organization (i.e. consistently says one thing but does something else in direct conflict).
Someone who is not willing to be a public representative of the organization (some people want to be the work horses behind, but not the play the visible public role in front).
This is such an excellent discussion – proof of the value of focussing this group on a real and meaningful topic.
Bill, how are you defining personal benefit/conflict given that many of us have taken the Consultants course and use its ideas in our work? That could put us in conflict, even unknowingly, with Resolve in a proposal process, for example.
And it’s particularly hard to avoid for those of us who were already using similar processes to Hildy, in part, before we ever heard of each other. So what part of what I do now is from her, and what part predates, and what part might I have reached independently or via the Alliance and such? I sure don’t know any more. I proudly affiliate myself now with Creating the Future.
Reading and absorbing all of this, and hoping to take time this weekend to absorb and reflect on it all.
Just to help clarify the discussion between Bill and Jane, ReSolve is the corporation that houses Dimitri and my business – these days mostly speaking, coaching and publishing. The minimal consulting work we do through ReSolve these days is limited to narrow niches – large scale projects, working with larger change initiatives. We also do deeply discounted and/or pro bono work at home in Arizona, because – well – it’s home!
And so “conflict” as it relates specifically to consulting won’t be much of an issue, as these days we refer almost all consulting gigs to our Consultant Graduates, and I can’t imagine that changing as my schedule is more and more packed with speaking and teaching.
So there’s that point of clarification.
In addition, we will indeed be addressing “conflict of interest” as a policy issue in another post, as we begin developing bylaws. So I also wanted to share that. (After a great meeting yesterday with the brilliant and creative attorney, Ellis Carter, that is going to be an exciting project all its own!)
Lastly, I think it is critical in any organization to reflect on Elizabeth’s words – to build systems not for now, but for 5 years from now as well. What I believe that means is that we consider that conflict of interest as it relates to Dimitri and me is a temporary issue that has more to do with our own (his and mine) potential conflicts as founders than other board members relationships with us (although clearly the conflict door swings both ways…)
The hope is that we are building something that outgrows us, and that this not be (as I have often mentioned) the “Hildy and Dimitri Show.” So we will indeed be addressing conflict of interest per the bylaws, and very specifically and comprehensively addressing conflict of interest directly as it affects us as the founders. All that discussion will happen here at the blog as well.
Just wanted to clarify these points so that speculation about them doesn’t affect this really thoughtful conversation. Can’t wait to read all this thoroughly this weekend – please keep it all coming, gang!!!
Wonderful invitation and contributions here.
Here are a few suggestions for “must haves”, inspired by F. David Peat’s concept of Gentle Action (http://gentleaction.org, http://www.slideshare.net/ChristineEgger/social-actions-gentle-action-webinar-may23-2009):
* value the importance of “creative suspension” (periods of rest, contemplation, mindfulness, and other practices that from the outside might look like “doing nothing”)
* seek appropriate levels of control for the process you want to create around their participation
* operate from within a system (a part of, vs apart from, the communities you serve)
* honor the complexity of whatever it is they’re working with (thrive in that environment, vs needing to reduce and simplify before feeling comfortable with it)
* are responsive and flexible
* trust, and are trustworthy
One thought, as CTF brainstorms on the must-nice-not of individual board members, is to simultaneously focus on the whole-as-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-members.
Lots of that focus reflected in the comments above – the importance of being open to learning, bringing a wide range of age & kinds of experience to the board, etc. It might be fun, too, to bring in a consideration of personality types, team-chemistry, etc.
What a wonderful discussion and one I that would be a great model to share with the boards I work with. So many thoughtful and wise insights shared already!
My must have list:
*Shared vision that change is possible on a grand scale (though the views of how to get there will differ significantly)
*Openness to look at new perspectives whether one agrees with them or not
*Trust in the process and committed to building trust in the wisdom of the board as a whole
*Value the power of collaboration and be able to work through dissent to reach it
*Ability to use or willingness to learn to use technology to facilitate communication
*Diversity of membership (has already been discussed by a number of people)
Wouldn’t it be nice:
*Connections both within the sector and across sectors (more arms to the starfish)
*Ability to provide resources or connect with resources (money, partnerships, pilot programs etc.)
*Life long learners
*Rigid or controlling personalities
The board I see in my head is questioning, diverse, committed, passionate and able to paint on a huge canvas what the future could be. It won’t be boring – that’s for sure!
There a couple of other suggestions I want to add to these terrific responses you’ve gotten so far, Hildy. These are things in recruiting a board I’ve found to be the most critical, albeit difficult to pin down. These are the trust-your-gut qualifiers, the ones that are hard to quantify, but seem so often to turn out to be the most important considerations in building a board.
Must have: people who think governance is so much fun. It’s a great qualification – if they love this stuff, they probably know a lot about it and will want to learn more. When everyone is having fun, when you have an enthusiastic group, when everyone is eager to get together, discussions are at their most productive, and that’s when a lot gets done.
Must have: people who work well in a group. Boards are, after all, group experiences. Not everyone likes teams and making joint decisions. Save the board slots for people who play well with others, and turn to the lone wolves and the thorny personalities for advice and maybe committee work. Put together a board that gets along well. In the end, it isn’t about individuals, it’s about how the group comes together in an emotionally intelligent way.
And one last thing:
I’d also like to suggest that the issue of whether the board is expected to directly provide resources be addressed head on. This would be a wonderful venue for transparently tackling this complicated issue. Is it this board’s job or role to provide funding? Is that a necessary qualification here? How will the board’s financial obligations are (if any) be determined?
This is exciting!
After reading through all of the responses again, I want to highlight the important reminders that Christine and Alexandra have given us that board service is a group activity.
There is no question that we need to be clear about the desired attributes of individual board members. At the same time, the long-term focus needs to be on building a well-functioning group. In my own work with boards, I have been consistently disappointed by how many different groups of talented, motivated and well meaning people end up operating in ways that are dysfunctional and destructive toward the very purpose they made a commitment to advance. I attribute such developments to flaws in the design of boards as systems, not problems with the people who work within those systems.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how board dysfunction can damage an organization’s bridging social capital, which is a necessary resource for maintaining access to a flow of new ideas for innovation. To prevent this problem, I encourage boards to adopt shared principles to facilitate effective decision-making. By using principles derived from organizational purpose and strategic intent as a platform for making good decisions, boards make an explicit agreement to look beyond their own ideas and interests. Using shared principles to think through complex issues in ways that are both productive and generative also builda a board’s legitimacy in the eyes of organizational stakeholders, an issue that Jane raised in an earlier post.
I continue to be excited by the richness of this discussion. I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds from here!
Hi, Hildy and Dimitri
What is it that you want your Board to do for CTF?
Advice? You have the world of CDI grads to do that, and note how willing we are. But maybe you want a different kind of advice – who can provide that?
Advocacy? At what levels? National and International? Corporate and Government? Within systems?
Awareness? What kind of profile do you want to build? for whom? How will the board help do this?
Fund raising? At what levels? George Soros and George Clooney? Major foundations? Corporate? General appeal and grassroots support building? Who will shepherd the processes of strategy and stewardship?
Planning the long range future? Pollyanna carried to one of her stopping points, allows as how the Board owns the corporation and preserves it for the good of the community. Who and what kind of person do you want engaged in this – Bill Clinton? Some of the TED speakers? Just plain folks? Some spiritual leaders? How about a really sharp business person like Ivanka Trump? Or the head of the Aspen Seminars?
Actual work? Do you have projects you need help accomplishing? If so, can these be done better by someone in advisory capacity, or should they become board projects.
Due Diligence – by law they have to do this, even in Arizona, so how can you provide them with the information they need in a simple fashion? Who will manage this?
Recruiting – How do you plan to do this? Smash and grab? Sidle up and ask? Cultivate over time? Engage in a project? Target and go get? What will their orientation look like?
And as you are contemplating all this, can you keep in mind that about 80% of Menachem’s advice seems to be pretty close to exactly how it works best for some people.
Great topic, discussion, and demonstration project, Hildy! Just off the top of my head (and admittedly with some repetition of earlier contributions), here are my additions to the lists:
* a team player who is likely to fit well with this team
* a person who is interested in, and committed to, planning and oversight (programmatic, administrative, resource acquisition, and financial)
* a person who will speak up when he or she identifies an opportunity or threat (a key to social change is the ability to exploit an unexpected opportunity; a key to failure is the inability to manage an unexpected threat)
* a person who will leverage his or her resources (not just financial) to further the organization’s mission
* a person who will insist upon collaborations and movement-building
* a person who wants the board to discuss and establish the organization’s diversity-related goals
* a visionary (a luxury for most board, but a necessity for this one)
Wouldn’t It be Nice
* a compelling, well-spoken ambassador of the organization
* someone with a wealthy array of resources to contribute, but who doesn’t act like that makes him or her more important than other directors
* someone with expertise in an area of great importance to CtF
Never in a Million Years
* a person not committed to showing up and participating at a majority of board and committee meetings
* an ego-driven, power-hungry person who seeks to dominate discussions and impose his or her views without actively listening to others
* a person who values his or her place on the board above the organization’s mission
* a person who believes in a consensus decision-making process (radical changes tend not to come from consensus models)
* a person who favors a voting membership structure for CtF (i.e., members who elect the directors and have a set of other statutory rights), although I might be convinced otherwise under special circumstances
@Gene Takagi – I love your list of attributes and qualities. I feel as though spirit is speaking to me directly at the moment by having a sudden inkling to be on this page, reading such insightful words, written by yourself, Hildy and the others who have commented. I am curious if you would expand, however, on a few of your points?
In your “Never in a Million Years” section – you list that you would avoid people who believe in consensus decision-making, as well as a voting-based structure. What would you suggest for an organization which is building it’s team as a method for making decisions which:
A) Allows for radical change, and
B) Avoids dictatorial or unilateral decisions
It seems like a balancing act to me, and I’m looking for insight. If our team seeks consensus – sometimes being in the majority simply means that everyone is wrong together. But if one person (or minority group) is empowered to push through a controversial change – how do you ensure they won’t do so in a situation where the dissenting opinions are valid warnings of disaster?
Troy and Gene:
I guess I’m not seeing only those choices – “consensus” or “voting members” or “majority rule.” For starters, if you ask 3 people what “consensus decision-making” looks like, you’re likely to get 6 answers. So the important thing for us will go beyond labels, as labels tend to obscure.
Instead, we will likely be determining methods for decision-making by asking as series of questions, all built upon the core values of the organization, because decision-making is ALWAYS a function of values. http://www.communitydriven.org/About/AboutUs-Values.htm
From there, we will likely ask the following series of questions:
• What would great decision-making look like for this organization? What would great decision-making accomplish? For whom?
• What conditions would need to be in place for that high-potential decision-making to be the norm in our organization?
• What decision-making process will accomplish all that – meet those conditions, aim at that potential, all within the parameters of our core values?
Is this helpful, Troy? As an additional piece, I might suggest reflecting on the decision-making values you want to see in others – other organizations, elected leaders, individuals overall – and then ask how your own decision-making processes can walk that talk.
(And just as an aside, based on our own almost 20 years of governance experience, we determined we will not have voting members. These sorts of organizations have a tendency to become very insular, and we want this organization to be just the opposite….)
I am LOVING this thread – learning much, absorbing it all. Dimitri and I will be printing it all out to bring with us as we hit the road for a 3,500 mile “Creating the Future” Tour of the Midwest November 1!
It’s a pleasure to read all of these comments. I have a big question and a small addition.
Big Question: Are the governance models we have used in the past the governance model we will need for creating the future?
Small Addition: I’d add the ability to laugh, at oneself and with others, to my list of must-have qualities. Laughter and humor help us hold serious things lightly.
Thank you all for your wonderful posts.
Love the “laughing” part of your comment – yes!
As for the Governance Models, thank you and yes. Mostly we will be using the framework of governance that is in the Pollyanna Principles – Governing for What Matters Most – which is described here: http://www.help4nonprofits.com/NP_Bd_Governing_for_What_Matters1-Art.htm
There has also been a bit of discussion at the sister to this post, where we talk about the building of bylaws that address critical issues, as well as the suggestion by Terrie Temkin re: using the Alliance for Nonprofit Management’s “Community Engagement Governance” framework. http://hildygottlieb.com/2010/10/19/having-fun-building-organizational-infrastructure-really/
For us, the bottom line will be that any governance framework be aimed at accountability first for results in our communities, and then accountability for means within those ends. More about that is in this video: http://www.youtube.com/communitydriveninst#p/u/7/6XF01KE6sXo
Which is a long way of saying YES, absolutely – the old governance models and frameworks that focus on means over ends will do us no good at Creating the Future. Truth be told, they don’t do anyone any good, in any organization, as we routinely see the failure of those governance systems blamed on the very boards who are doing their best to adhere to those failed systems… (sigh)
Thanks very much, Hildy. Your response is very helpful. As you can tell, I’m a newcomer to your work. But I find it inspiring. Having sworn off sitting on boards years ago for all of the reasons you discuss, it’s interesting to think about whether I’d change my mind for a board that really governs for what matters! btw, thank you too for your phrase Community Benefit Organization. I’ve adopted it and am spreading the word.
I agree with Hildy that terms such as “consensus decision-making” can have multiple interpretations so there may be exceptions to my lists. The general point I wanted to make is that boards that cannot take actions based on a 9:1 vote are unlikely to lead innovative organizations. Such boards essentially grant every director with veto power which they can use as leverage in other decisions.
Board actions requiring only a majority vote (and possibly supermajority vote on certain decisions) are common, and, if the particular board is sufficiently diverse, conscientious, and not too small, such system may be sufficiently protective against dictatorial or unilateral decisions.
Hi Hildy & Dimitry,
Though this conversation has seems to have ended in October, I’ve just come to it through your newsletter.
Reading through so many of the terrific Must Have’s I keep thinking about the importance of energy. Some can take the time, some have the passion and wisdom and commitment – but do they have the ENERGY to be creative thinkers, compassionate listeners and visionary thinkers AND able “doers”?
It may be worthwhile to ask the potential board member how they recharge, do they get to recharge very often? One person mentioned the number of boards they serve on as a possible red flag and I agree, but also consider their whole picture – maybe board service really charges them up. (of course the quality of their work is important to know . . . they may be charged up, but is their service providing energy to the organization?) 🙂
Thanks for floating this out there!
I am coming back to the wisdom in this thread, as the importance of having a board has become a huge priority for us in the past few weeks. Re-reading the wisdom and breadth of experience in all your posts is such a gift!
After the experience of our past week of fundraising (post is here re: our decision to shut down that campaign http://hildygottlieb.com/2010/12/30/analysis-and-learning-when-failure-is-success/) two things have become clear:
1) Because Dimitri and I are so often the mentors, that leaves us in the position of having few mentors of our own to turn to when we need the reinforcement that all of us, being only human, need from time to time. That is what a good board does for an exec – help keep the focus on what matters in the big picture.
2) That leads to the issue of recruitment criteria, which leads me to Bill’s comment above (http://hildygottlieb.com/2010/10/12/recruiting-our-board/#comment-40053 ) where he noted this must-have: “Ability to be a critical, indpendent thinker – able to go toe to toe with Hildy/Dimitri for the good of the organization (I think this will be the biggest challenge) and be able to do it in a way that is collaborative, not confrontational”
Dimitri and I are founders. We are entrepreneurs. We are articulate and passionate. We are incredibly strong personalities. Many hold us as gurus (which we really shy away from, but understand it comes with the territory), which puts us on an even higher pedestal.
It will be critical that we have a board of individuals who are completely comfortable being part of the “big we” that is all of us together, without cow-towing to the thought that just because Hildy and Dimitri say it, it must be so.
Bill, I am so very grateful for the way you expressed the thought – it was far clearer than I was doing in my head.
Man you guys all rock!
I am reading this very late, This has been the most refreshing conversation that I have read on board recruitment. I became a board member in total ignorance of the position,but became agressive in learning how to become a good member. Icontinue in that process.
I think that intrgity,passion for the vision,mission of your orgainization and the willingness to continue to educate your self re. board governance are very important.Finally if board members do not like to read, reflect, they may need to rethink becoming a board member.
Looking forward to hearing more BT
Thank you so much for this – it is a really good contribution. If there is one thing we know, it is that board members need to have the time to commit- and that’s not just showing up, but reading beforehand. Thank you!