What Should Serving on a Board of Directors Be Really About?

together you can

What is the number one reason to serve on a board of directors?

Feeling good.

That’s all it should be about.

but  . . .

humans make even the simplest tasks and duties complicated by serving their own personal wants and needs and losing focus on their roles.

The bully wants to “rule”.  On a board, “don’t cross me or I’ll make life miserable for you.”  Even if “don’t cross me” means to the bully not disagreeing with him/her on anything in any way.  Of course, that shuts down the rest of the board.  Unless the “bully” really makes things hum for the organization, the damage done to the organization can be quite dramatic.  In one case, the organization dissolved.

“Looking good” people cannot move in the best interests of the organization because “looking good” is everything.  The irony of this attitude is that they end up looking bad because they spin themselves into a frozen board unable to make the smallest decisions without massive undertakings – an array of reports, consultants, studies, etc.  Of course, this approach makes them all look incompetent.  One board is so “frozen” in inaction, they are taking a highly respected organization down the road of losing the very thing they came to get –  prestige.

Mistrusting individuals or know it alls want all the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. They challenge everything.  They pretend that they are after all, “responsible” yet their actions are irresponsible focusing on the minuscule and forgetting why a board really exists – to advance the cause.

“Tail riders” get on boards without the intention of doing much of anything.  They just want to add another notch to their resume and their egos.  These people don’t make waves, do the minimal and claim credit for all that is achieved by the organization whether or not they had anything to do with it or not.  For instance, one person I met serves on ten different boards.  There is no way that anyone on that many boards is giving anything of value to any of the boards on which she sits.  One of the boards on which she sat raised over a million dollars in six months.  When I asked her what her part was in achieving that milestone, she couldn’t answer.  I knew.  I knew she had “sat”.  These people destroy morale and enthusiasm much as they do on the job – taking credit for other people’s work.

And there are many other variations and attitudes which really cause board members to miss the point of being on the board – feeling good – about themselves, their organization and the achievements of the organization in getting the help for those who depend on their efforts. 

If only they understood quite clearly how “doing the right work” would produce benefits far beyond their contributions, I’m sure peer pressure would certainly produce much better results as they focused on the job of the board – raise money to support the work of the organization and promote the organization in order to make raising money a fun task – how good would they feel if the number of those helped rose continuously and perhaps the need even eliminated the need?  How good would that be?

Lorraine Arams

On Contract Only

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter