The motivations behind why individuals choose to become a board member vary, but all the board members are there for a common purpose: to ensure that the company reaches its goals, executes its plans and that company is responsibly managed. Board relations, then, is all about making sure that your board members feel motivated to stick around and make those goals happen.
Keeping your board members happy can go a long way to support your company with appropriate guidance and the external support to help your company thrive. Here are 7 tips for how you can keep your board members “on board”.
Create a Clear Way Forward
Harvard Business Review published an article almost a decade ago that remains relevant today. While you may have created a mission statement for your business, creating a mission statement for your board of directors is just as important. Is your board focused on day-to-day oversight, to provide strategic momentum for your organization or somewhere in between?
Making the goals clear to the board members at the outset will help determine their level of contentment. If you find that your goals change as your business grows, let the board members know. Work with them to carve out their role as a group.
Provide Appropriate Recognition
Much of the work that board members do is rarely seen by the company at large or the public. The types of assistance board members provide can range from oversight and guidance to managing financial resources. While some board members may be paid, most are not. They are providing the services “free of charge” and, in return, some board members may ask or expect that they will be recognized for their volunteer work. If this is the case, be sure to mention them at public events, internal company all hands meetings or in publications when their invaluable assistance was required and appreciated. By providing this public display of appreciation you are signaling to the community at large that your board is highly talented and well versed in the problems that your business, and businesses like yours, might face.
Keep Open Lines of Communication
Not keeping your board members in the loop or providing them with all the information they need to make sound decisions is a major board relations error, and could spell disaster for you and your company. As new members join, be sure to provide an orientation for them, so they have a full picture of your successes and failures. Allow them the opportunity to talk to department heads or key personnel. Provide regular email updates, maintain standing board meetings with a preset agenda email ahead of time along with the opportunity for board members to ask questions.
With this in mind, respond promptly to any questions board members have and be transparent with any information that they request.
Allow Opportunities to Shine
Many board members are asked to be part of a board because they have a special talent, access to fundraising opportunities or provide the name recognition your company needs. Letting board members sit by idly is a wasted opportunity for both parties. Each board member should have an area of expertise and apply those talents appropriately.
If the board member is an expert fundraiser, provide support for them in making plans for events that can provide you with much-needed capital. If the board member’s area of expertise is technical, provide the opportunity for them to speak at an event either inside or outside the company on your behalf. Remember that these types of public events give a nod to their professional expertise.
Highlight Their Impact
Board relations means letting members know that the work they are doing makes a difference. Take the time each quarter, twice a year or yearly, to provide feedback regarding the state of new programs implemented, the success of programs as well as the impact these programs have made to the overall mission. In doing so, point out where the board member’s opinion, guidance or suggestions were an invaluable asset to the organization.
Additionally, be sure that the members you recruit have distinctly different talents to draw upon. If a member feels that they are stepping on another members toes or there aren’t the opportunities to contribute, they may feel superfluous to the cause.
Evaluate the Size & Autonomy of the Board
Research has shown that the larger the company, the larger the board should be to be successful. With this is mind, the more complex the company, the greater need for advice. A larger board has the ability to draw from a range of individuals and their experiences to help provide that sound advice. Additionally, the autonomy of the board from the CEO also directly relates to the success of the board. Does a successful board equate to a happy board? Again. knowing that your voice is being heard and opinion is valued is an important piece of an individual’s happiness.
Manage Board Member Turnover
This is usually a touchy subject for many companies. What is the right rate of turnover? Too much turnover and your board could be paralyzed and feel ineffective, not enough turnover and the company could be missing out on new and innovative ideas. Don’t be concerned if the board loses a few board members per year.
In a study conducted by SpencerStuart of more than 400 S&P companies with boards of 4-14 people, the most successful boards were found to have a turnover rate of up to four members over a three-year period. Recognizing that members leaving may have nothing to do with their level of satisfaction but a recognition that their skill set may not be required, or other competing commitments, may force them to give up their seat is a key component for companies. Planning, preparing and finding the right people to move the company ahead is key to the happiness of the new and remaining board members.
Good board relations can direct impact a member’s level of commitment and engagement. As you move forward with your board member selection, think of how you can engage these tips to keep your members “on board.” For more information about how to keep your board members engaged, contact us.