My apologies for the brief posting hiatus last week - at least my excuse was board-related (off-site retreat with fellow members of a statewide board). I promise that this week's "overheard" offerings will be worth the wait.
The board vector: A toolkit to assess your board (Alice Korngold)
I could pretty much stop with this one and make the week of anyone interested in governance complete. This link takes you directly to a board assessment tool that Alice unveiled this week. I'm still absorbing its contents and imagining how I might incorporate it into my work with boards; but the more time I spend, the greater the potential that I see for this resource. Its great value lies in a couple of things. First, it encourages evaluation and reflection on capacity concerns beyond the usual dry list of board responsibilities, focusing on phenomena that ultimately matter to governance. Second, while covering a lot of ground, it doesn't ask "too much" of a person completing the assessment. It's easy to follow and complete. My one recommendation for Alice, that I think I'd like to discuss with her, is the possibility of exploring an online option sometime down the road. I'm envisioning situations (two on my short-term consulting calendar, one related to that statewide board) where confidentiality could be a concern and convenience might be a small challenge, and an online version might help smooth the path a bit. But I'm definitely looking forward to implementing this as early as two weeks from now, using this new tool.
4 questions to rev up your board's energy and enthusiasm (Gail Perry)
The title of this one pretty much explains why I feel compelled to share it. Gail's four questions are simple, but likely not often asked within our boards. I can see building an entire reflective event, or a section of one, around this list. I also can envision focusing on one of these to open a regular meeting, setting the tone for what lies ahead and reminding board members why they are there.
Building a better board (Carmen Nobel)
Written ultimately for a corporate board audience, the essential ideas within this post also can be adapted to a nonprofit setting. While every element makes sense, the one that stuck out for me in this article was "making it safe to be critical." Too often, boards get into trouble, or at least fall short of their full potential, because members don't feel comfortable stepping up and asking the hard questions. They may fear the answers given. They may balk at hurting someone's feelings. They may not want to make waves. But they also are falling short of their governance responsibilities. Creating an environment where it's safe to step into potentially tricky territory is absolutely essential.
Being on a board - what it's all about (Marion Conway)
One of the many things I appreciate about Marion is her ability to get right to the point of the topic she's addressing in her posts. In this case, Marion is sharing a board basics presentation that she has created that not only covers the aspects of governance that any member must understand but does so in an accessible way. I definitely will be sharing this with anyone wanting to understand boards better. It's a great additional resource on a topic that will always be in high demand.
Four ways to remove a board member (Jan Masaoka)
It's not a pleasant topic (which is why I saved it for last), but it's one that boards need to be able to address. We've all served on boards with members who were unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities to the organization. Most of us also have served on boards with disruptive members who destroy the group's capacity to govern effectively. Too few of us have actually done anything about it, often because we don't know how to address this challenging issue. Jan offers us four strategies that likely will fit most of the scenarios facing our boards.