As I continue to research group dynamics, I found myself needing a brief reality check. That led to the quick poll posted last week. What emerged in that (very unscientific*) snapshot? Today, I share your contributions and invite your reaction.
My poll included one question (well, it was quick...): What are the biggest interpersonal/group processes challenges that impact the work of nonprofit boards? I then offered a series of potential group issues one might encounter in a boardroom and asked you to rate each (on a four-point scale) for its potential to disrupt board work.
Two charts illustrate slightly different views of the data. The first graphic offers a quick comparison, by average score, of each potential group challenge.
The second shares just a bit more detail about where those responses fell on the scale, from "little or no impact" to "overwhelming/debilitating challenge."
When board members also have (or potentially have) professional relationships with each other that can hinder their actions.
Insufficient number of people with prior board experiences to serve as models for neophyte boards members.
Unclear roles; no strategic direction despite many changes in the industry; history of being a do-nothing board; untapped expertise of the board members; inadequate representation of younger generations with more experience with evolving technology
Insufficient understanding of the role of the board, and confusion between management and governance.
Fear of making difficult decisions, so the can gets kicked down the road. Also, ambiguous protocols for who makes final decisions and how, resulting in ambiguous or non-decision making. Also, the two boards I am thinking of are actually collaboratives of multiple organizations, so the context may be a little different. Still, one of the problems is that some people are at the table representing a specific entity or constituency, and they pull power plays and effectively hold decisions hostage by threatening to walk away if their interests and demands are not catered to.
Boards that are entwined through personal and professional relationships are a common problem in smaller communities. People often serve on multiple boards, are in service clubs together and use each others business services. It can make it very difficult to disagree or rock the boat too much.
Often, it seems like many board members either don't care or don't want to ruffle feathers. It's hard to tell but I think many don't want to ruffle feathers in terms of speaking to certain issues or disagreeing with the ED, president, or fellow members for that matter
Board members have current or potential business or professional relationships with each other. Makes them reluctant to challenge the other. I rate this a serious challenge, especially if that is a high composition of the board, which often happens in smaller geo areas.
Not enough volunteering to do work for the board outside of attending meetings is a significant challenge!
1. Loss of board institutional knowledge of board culture and processes (what positive changes have worked and are not carried forward) due to board member succession. 2. A Board Chair without the skill set to seek out, appreciate and respect opinions/perspectives different from his own. 3. Default to "group think" and not doing the more challenging generative work of boards.
Agenda not focused on key strategic issues. And/or: Lack of good prep and materials for our mtg
How does this fit your own board experiences? Where do these results differ? What challenges have you witnessed that we haven't covered, either in the original poll or the "other" responses? What questions should I be exploring, about the way boards interact, as the year progresses?
* Responses shared represent a small sample of blog readers gathered over a brief time frame. They are presented here in the spirit of inviting conversation only and should not be used to generalize about all boards.