The first two recommendations for board members to be effective are:
- “Yes” person – Resist being a bobble head.
- “No” person – The default position of most members. Do not be tempted.
The next two follow here:
3. Staff Work – Come to the meeting prepared to discuss and consider most aspects of the agenda. It’s why you receive an advance copy. Be sure to do your staff work before you get there. Make sure the numbers add up and the facts are defendable. Doing staff work, i.e. looking up facts on the internet, texting to others outside the meeting for more information, or simply doing computational work at the table is all to be discouraged. Be the Boy Scout that understands the motto, “Be Prepared.”
4. Role Defined Contribution – You’re at the table for a reason. Most often you possess or are experienced in a skill or perspective that should be valuable to the board. Make sure you consider every item in that context. If the Chair is constantly asking you for your perspective, chances are you’re missing the point. Likewise, a good Chairperson will appreciate your input based upon your overall life experience. More and more we see professionals who have multiple and diverse interests enough to contribute accordingly. Of course, when exercising this option, you’ll want to be considerate of the professional at the table who’s there for that reason.
Board membership should be a rewarding experience where you are valued for your contribution and where you can sense that good decisions are being made with your involvement. These recommendations are meant to maximize your commitment. I wish you well in this endeavor.