6 Key Indicators of a Dysfunctional Board

What are the Six Leading Indicators of a Dysfunctional Board?

They are actually easy to spot because nothing of any consequence happens to increase the health of the organization.  In other words, aside from talk, little action takes place.

Often, these dysfunctional and ineffective boards will tell you about:

  • the amount of time they’ve devoted to the organization
  • how they fired the executive director
  • how they plowed through governance models

and numerous other excuses for ineffectiveness and inefficiency.

In the end, when their term is over, the organization is likely worse off than when their terms began.

The Six Indicators

1.  Long, long, long unproductive meetings.

Somehow there is a belief that, if a board spends many hours in board meetings, these meetings actually do some good.  They don’t.  They take up a lot of staff time in creating lengthy minutes which no one reads.  Long meetings discourage board members  who want to accomplish something in helping those served by the organization and new members leave quite soon after being elected to the Board.

2.  General Disrespect

This disrespect comes in many forms:  bullying, yelling, screaming, belittling ideas and opinions, and not allowing respectful interchanges, and the favorite, silence.  They don’t respect the skills and knowledge of their executive director, each other, other volunteers or staff.

3,  Blaming Everyone Else but Themselves

When nothing gets done, everyone else is blamed.  There is a joke in the non-profit world which not much of a joke when referring to the executive director, “If anything goes wrong, whether it was our decision or not, you get the blame and you get fired!”  These Boards don’t take responsibility for anything and it shows in the lack of REAL results.  They tend to have a series of executive directors or an executive director who is also ineffective.

4.  Fiscal Irresponsibility

When asked to explain the figures in the budget and the financial statements, they can’t.  Yet, they approved them.  Why such neglect?  Because they believe that the board insurance will cover them no matter what happens.

5.  Fundraising Ineffectiveness

The Board abdicates all responsibility for fundraising.  Yet, the financial health of the organization is critical.  They themselves don’t donate to the organization and fundraising is the last thing on their minds.  They would rather talk than act or delegate to the executive director the sole responsibility of fundraising – an impossible task!  A person in charge of the organization’s operations does not have the time to fundraise too unless, of course, the operations are neglected.

6.  Benefits Depletion

Benefits to all concerned are depleted.  Benefits which should accrue to the organization they are supposedly serving, to themselves personally, to their own companies, to the community evaporate.  The Board is seen and known to be a dysfunctional board even if they can’t see it themselves.  As their poor reputation grows, recruiting new members is always impossible unless the new recruits know nothing about the reputation of the organization’s board.

How Many of these Types of Board Exist?

Many, many, many.  Often the organization dies under the weight of these dysfunctional boards or it keeps limping along not accomplishing a whole lot.  The organization cannot grow and prosper.

Why won’t they get help?

They feel that, with their own successes in their jobs or businesses, they know what they are doing.  It’s not the same.  Non-profits is an entirely different business model

Being on the  job 5 days a week for which there has been training provided and experience gained presents a good foundation for making decisions with intimate knowledge of the enterprise.

Now compare that with coming to plausible decision as a board member who generally doesn’t spend more than three or four hours a month!  Difference?  You bet.  How can any Board, meeting once or twice a month and given no training on what it means to be a board member possibly produce the same results as on the job?

What information is required?  What decisions should the Board be making and which ones are left to the executive director?  as well as intimate knowledge of the enterprise.

The consequences are much different too.  As a board member, what are the consequences of doing a poor job?  Tarnish to your reputation and that of your company’s  but most board members move on to the next board and the next, perpetuating poor performance and doing tremendous harm in the process.

How is your Board doing?  Does your Board care enough to make the necessary changes?

Lorraine Arams

On Contract Only.com




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