I ran into another CEO the other day, and asked her if her organization had term limits in effect. In 2010, after conducting a BoardSource board self-assessment and reviewing its recommendations, The Wooden Floor implemented its first term limits policy. And now we were about to experience our first group of board members to be termed out. In our conversation, the CEO mentioned that she had experienced one downfall to term limits that I had never thought of — the board that you will have in the future may not be the board that made key and historic decisions for your organization and, therefore, may not have the passion required to fully execute on those decisions.
After concluding that this scenario could have a cataclysmic impact on The Wooden Floor’s own 10-year strategic vision that was developed in 2009, I came up with four key ways to mitigate the situation:
- Tie board recruitment to strategic vision: Before you begin to recruit new board members, use your long-term vision as a key to develop a board member profile that includes an organizational overview, board member attributes, expectations for service, and the nomination process.
- Make the vision known: Ensure as a part of all board recruitment activities that your strategic vision and the organization’s priorities are at the forefront of all discussions. Focus on recruiting board members who will have the fortitude and capacity to carry forward that vision. Help the candidates understand the critical needs of those you serve and how they may make a difference.
- On-board effectively: Break the on-boarding process into at least two sessions. Some CEOs will give new board members a fire-hose of information, making it hard for those members to determine what information should be their priority. I believe the first session should be used to provide the new members with a full understanding of the strategic vision — its development, the strategic plan, high-level goals and objectives, as well as all major decisions and initiatives. It is a great time to reiterate what the board’s and CEO’s roles are in executing on this vision. The second session should be focused on board practices such as governance, finance, meetings and committees, mission and case for support, as well as fundraising opportunities.
- Help them move the vision forward: Create a team environment. Make the new board members feel welcome, and create opportunities for them to assimilate as soon as possible with fellow board members as well as you. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “The Hidden Benefits of Keeping Teams Intact,” says that most managers (I would say organizations) underestimate the power of familiarity to drive performance. Create check-ins between the board and the CEO to ensure that the members are thinking of ways that they can have personal impact on the decisions that were made by their predecessors.
Dawn S. Reese has leveraged 27 years of business and nonprofit management experience to be a life-changer for low-income youth and help propel The Wooden Floor forward. Her BLF session is titled “Assess to Ascend: Moving Your Board and Organization Forward through Board Assessment.”