Teachers frequently say that the psychology, level of understanding, and commitment of classes of students go through cycles. One year you may have an amazing group that just gets it; the next you struggle for the entire year while engaging in the exact way as with the class before. Your board of directors can do that as well. To avoid the waves and cycles of random selection, develop a proactive strategy to the way you build your board. While leadership is vital, systems are the mainstay of any organization, and a system for board selection and succession is an absolute must for any effective organization.
- Identify Key Positions. This should include all areas that are defined by the board — board members, officers, committee/division chairs, etc.
- Review Requirements for Each Position. Take a look at existing job descriptions. If they don’t exist, write them. Put together an organization chart showing the chain of command. As you review existing protocol, revise and restructure as necessary.
- Analyze Gaps. Take a look at your existing board make-up. How does it look when sorting by investment, by type of industry, by geographic location? Are you a county chamber representing several municipalities and unincorporated areas, but don’t have adequate representation for each? Is your board made up entirely of bankers? Is there a significant group of hispanic owned businesses in your community, but you have no representation from that segment? Make sure that your board is a cross section of your membership.
- Develop a Plan. This plan should include up to date committee/leadership responsibilities, a continuously updated pipeline of potential members, and clear term limits that are adhered to. Your plan should also have policy and procedure for succession that includes recommendations, interviews, a clear method for selection, dealing with conflict and training. It must also address the procedure for officer/executive committee succession.
- Implement Succession Strategies. Design a matrix that will provide an “at-a-glance” view of your existing board and help you direct your recruitment strategy. The matrix should have columns for term end, non-profit board experience, industry, geographic location, business size, age, gender, race, and any other designation you feel applies to your community.
- Monitor and Manage Plan. Lay out a timeline for the annual implementation of your recruitment plan and the ongoing review of succession. Make sure that emergencies are addressed. What if you are in the middle of a year and your Chair is relocated for business? Does the Chair Elect understand when assuming his/her position, that they would automatically be moved into the Chair seat should it suddenly become vacant? Expectations must be clearly communicated and protocol established.
I love this quote from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, “The old adage ‘People are your most important asset’ is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The RIGHT people are. Good to great depends on having the right people on the right bus at the right time.” Being prepared and not reactionary is critical to your success. Random, unqualified leadership selection will not position your organization to keep moving on the most productive path. Systems take time, but tools and resources exist to help you. So identify them and take advantage of them. You can do this; your growth depends on it!