Trust the organization to do its job

This is the fourth entry in my six-part series of posts about the realities and assorted challenges facing the CCA board in replacing its leader.

Reality 4: Members of the board are not full-time employees of the association and must not behave as if they are. The agenda for the group coming to town three or four times a year for a couple of days must be driven at the policy level, not the production level. Board sets policy; staff carries out the policy.

It is not unusual for the board or members of the board to attempt to micromanage the operations of the organization. This is rarely productive. Frankly, micromanaging someone with topnotch skills and experience who has been hired to “run” the association would be foolish and counter productive.

The operating rules should be:

1. Hire the best;
2. Establish policy;
3. Approve programs and activities;
4. Delegate responsibility;
5. Get out of the way;
6. Evaluate (and reward) regularly;
7. Require input; and
8. Demand the best.

It’s generally fun being a member of the association’s board in most organizations. Elected members feel that they are making a contribution. They feel useful and productive. It usually presents exciting challenges quite different from the decisions board members make on a daily basis in their full-time positions.

Most board members have the distinction of being in charge in their full-time jobs with staffs to supervise and direct. An adjustment is required in order to operate effectively in their elected positions to accommodate the environment of an association’s board. As a member of a board, each member must recognize that he/she is a part of the solution, not the sole voice, as is often the case in his/her home job. This requires compromise and consideration. All members of the board are equal in voice and vote. Once the vote is taken, the die is cast. The organization then must speak with one voice and move in one direction.

Some board members are elected on the basis of a pre-announced objective that gains the membership’s support. Sometimes such objectives are not previously announced. In either case, unless supported by an affirmative act by the board, such individually held objectives are out of place and inappropriate. To be effective, the board must act as a whole after due deliberation and consideration. To challenge the status quo or question an activity is not inappropriate; however, when an individual board member or a small group of board members takes on an activity without the approval of the board, dissension is bound to result.

The temptation to do more than design and approve policy is strong for many. After all, elected board members are usually “go to” people, full of energy and used to taking charge – or else they probably wouldn’t have run for office in first place. It is not unusual for a board to come to town, muck around in the association’s business, and leave town expecting the staff to deal with or clean up the mess. That may sound harsh, but I’ve experienced it. In all fairness, I must report that many times the proper system can and does works well with the board dealing with policy, considering recommendations from the staff, voting, and expecting the staff to successfully enunciate the association’s positions and carry out the approved plans.

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