February 2, 2013

A colleague told me about a board meeting he observed. Here’s the scary story, in his words: 

“The board chair mandated order. And when I say ‘mandated,’ I mean it. It was tempting to allow my jaw to stay on the floor because as soon as I picked it up, it would fall once again.

“The board chair, with some input from the Executive Committee, ran a fairly dictatorial board. Those were not part of the inner circle – i.e. didn’t serve on the Executive Committee – felt excluded and angry.

“The meeting was heated and the lack of transparency and tension due to exclusion was immense. The board chair got more heavy-handed and more secretive as the excluded board members asked more and more questions.”

What an awful story – but more usual than one might suspect.

What went wrong? A rogue board chair who thinks he controls everything. An executive committee that thinks it controls everything that the board chair doesn’t control.

My advice: Disband the executive committee immediately. Join my worldwide mission to destroy all executive committees. By the way, it’s the board’s decision whether to have an executive committee.

Give feedback to the board chair about his performance. Remember, no board member – including the chair – has more authority than anyone else. At board meetings, speak out. Ask for what you want as board members. Express concern about dictatorial and exclusionary behavior.

If necessary, ask the board chair to resign. Recruit a new board chair who is a good facilitator.

Do you need some resources to help you understand this work – and then do this work? Visit the Free Download Library on my website. Click on Board Development. Then read the many free PDFs located there. Things like: Basic Principles of Governance. Destroy All Executive Committee. Firing Lousy Board Members. Sample Policy for Board Operations. Performance Expectations of the Individual Board Member. My due diligence outline. Questions for building the best board. And more.

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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