This is the fifth in a series of posts on effective Board of Directors work (or Board of Trustees, Council, etc.) Some of these posts will be primarily for those new to board work while others will be for those who are trying to improve and professionalize their organization's board. If you’d like to receive them in your inbox as they are published, sign up at the end of this post.
Determining the diverse talents and perspectives you want on your Board or Council, combined with identifying and recruiting prospective members takes a great deal of thought, time and energy if done right. And, as you bring new members into your existing group there are risks. There are risks for the group itself because newcomers always change the group dynamics. There are risks for the newcomers because they may be a bit nervous as they meet new people and try to figure out how they fit into the board. They are also likely to be on a steep learning curve not only with understanding the governance, strategy, risks and budgets, but also with figuring out the nuances of the meeting protocols, power and culture that may not be apparent at first.
You want your new board members to bring their gifts to the table as soon as possible; that’s why you recruited them! In order to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible, I recommend developing a solid on-boarding plan. Here are some ideas to consider and adapt to your organization.
This overview meeting will feel a bit like the proverbial “drinking from the firehose” to most new board members. Be sure to encourage questions, take enough breaks, and throughout the day remind the newcomers that their mentors, the board chair and key staff will be available to answer questions on an on-going basis during and between meetings; they aren’t expected to retain everything from this onslaught of information. But, they should know where to find information and who to contact when they have questions. This orientation meeting is also an excellent time to model the culture of your board meetings. Are they formal or informal? Do you use Robert’s Rules of Order? Do you start and end meetings on time? Is there a social aspect to the board meetings such as coffee breaks, cocktails and/or dinner together?
Do some planning and careful implementation of your on-boarding process and it will pay dividends for years to come, both for your new board members and how quickly they are actively engaged and for the board as a whole. You are setting a tone of welcome and of professionalism.
Beth A. Lewis
© Getting2Transformation 2019
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