00:00 What Do I have to Do to Create Board Member Accountability?
00:17 So, What is Accountability Anyway?
00:29 What Do Board Members Have to Do to Be Accountable and How Can You Help?
01:43 Checking Out Commitments
02:33 How Can You Support Your Board Rising Above Circumstances?
03:32 Is Board Accountability Really Worth It?
04:13 Will You Commit to Creating an Accountable Board
“Board members aren’t babies, Karen, and I refuse to treat them like babies?”
To get accountable board members, do you treat them like children?
Roger Connors and Tom Smith, in their book, “How Did That Happen?” define accountability like this: a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.
Connors and Smith give us a good insight into what board members have to do to be accountable between meetings. First of all, they have to make a personal choice, and secondly, they have to rise above their circumstances.
For one, embrace this reality. Your board members may not be choosing to do the task no matter what they say in the meeting. They may have not made the choice. They may feel under peer pressure, and also, they may not realize that because of the cultural challenges around nonprofits, the work may be more hard, take more time, and be more complex than they anticipate. Understanding this allows you not to treat your board members as babies or children or teenagers but as peers adults who are on a learning experience in a new place.
It’s a bit like when you arrive in an airport in a new country. You know how airports work, you just left one to get to the new country, but you’re not sure how it works here. Your board members know how a meeting works. They know how teams work, but they may not know that, in this case, they need to decide to take ownership and to rise above their circumstances, and there are ways that you can help them do that.
First off, in meetings, when they’re making commitments to lead, slow down instead of doing the natural tendency. “Oh, great. Joe will take this task on. Instead, you want to do the opposite. You want to put the brakes on and say, “Okay, let’s just check this out. Joe, is this really okay with you? You just kind of got to sign this. Is this something you will take on? Thank you so very much and then. What is it that you need to do this task? So letting Joe not only see himself doing it, he’ll begin to think about the circumstances he has to overcome.
Warning! The bigger the task, the more you need to ask the individual or individuals involved if they’ve truly committed to the task privately afterward. Peer pressure, even though it’s strongest in high school, is still active in your board meetings.
Here are a couple of tactics to use to support your boards rising above their circumstances. Number 1, schedule time after the meeting for any follow-up that’s necessary. 2. Work to define someone, ideally on the board members, staff or family, or someone who will be the organizer of this task. And maybe that the committee chair needs to assign a committee member to be the organizer, set the meeting dates, and get the invites out, all those kinds of things. But figure out who’s going to do that organization.
Remember, they’re volunteering. You want them to succeed, and finally, a quick tactic. Make sure you do a check-in. Put it on your calendar. Set up your email on the follow-up, “Thanks for your help at the board meeting last night. I look forward to your work on this task, and I’ll be checking with you in a couple of weeks.” Go ahead and let them know you’ll be doing it so that they know that there’s an accountability partnership between the two of you and that if they have a question that, you’ll be able to work with it them too.
Your board members are not babies. They are adult learners, and you want your culture to reflect this by taking on tasks, committing to things, and doing it and getting them done. That’s what you’re building long-term. So why again is this board accountability between meetings worthwhile? Why build up your board? Why make this commitment to make your board accountable? Because your board is your best means of connecting to new people to bring new supporters and new resources to your organization.
Go ahead. Help your board members make true commitments and help them rise above their circumstances. And by the way, you can be committed to making your board accountable between meetings by committing to it and rising among the circumstances that you find your board throwing at you. You can do this.
If this video has been helpful for you, consider sharing it with your board chair to talk about commitment and tactics to overcome the real world, as well as sharing it with a friend.
For more about board engagement, check out these board resources.
Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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