Your Board is NOT the Enemy!

by Joan Garry

You hate your board, really? I get it. But I need to be honest, I’m kind of over folks complaining about their boards.

“I hate my board.”

I hear it all the time, from board sharers, Executive Directors. You hate your board, really? I get it. You’re a board chair. No one will even volunteer for a committee, and you feel like you’re doing it all on yourself. Or you’re an Executive Director and you just sent out this crazy, great, program success email, and you get crickets. I get it. But I need to be honest, I’m kind of over folks complaining about their boards.

Far too often it feels like sport. When I was an Executive Director I belonged to this ED Group, and I really recommend them. Sharing best practices, giving moral support, and yes there was always time for a little bit of board bashing. I’d like us to encourage a reality check. Your board didn’t come from another planet. You built it. So reality check number one, the board you have is the board you build.

Check two, endless complaining about your board, it’s kind of not that helpful. Not to you, not to them. Reality check three, I am convinced you have better things to complain about. You don’t really hate your board. The phrase is code, it’s code for, “oh I need more resources to do this good work. I feel like this conversation is about centerpieces.” It’s time for you to take responsibility for the board you built.

It’s time for you to do something to change the dynamic. Here are three ideas, recruit with intention and strategy, wait for the right person. Help me I need board members, is neither intentional nor strategic. Number two, be sure your board members are set up to succeed. Give them information, have them practice their story telling. Make sure they understand what success looks like for their board service. Number three, feed them, and not as my friend Vu Le jokes, with hummus. I’m talking about board meetings that are engaging, enriching and in which board members understand what incredible work your organization does.

You will always have board members who are not up to the task. But look at all of them as individuals, and I’m sure you’re going to see that some of them are gems. Committed and passionate folks. Okay, I bet there are at least 10 people you know who complain about their boards. Let’s share this video with them. Let’s give them this reality check. Because if you assume you’re going to get crickets, you know what you get? You get crickets.

But if you assume you have champions around your board table, guess what? They’ll deliver for you. Your board members will be happy, you will be happy and your organization will be on the express train to thriving. Try showing your board a little love. I bet it goes a long way.