Over the years, I have worked with many, many Boards of Directors: As a manager, as a consultant, and as a member of the Board. And as we all – managers and Board members alike – know, some Boards are just better than others at administrating their community and effectively achieving their agenda with grace, dignity, professionalism and humor. These Boards are a pleasure with which to work or on which to serve.

So, what differentiates a Great Board from just an okay Board? Great Boards develop, maintain and value their credibility and their integrity. And they continually display, individually and as a group, the following traits:

Great Boards focus on macro-issues. Boards should be spending their time continually reviewing and refining the Big Picture (Vision Statement) for the community. To do that effectively, the Board must have a Mission Statement and then set clear policy for all aspects of community administration – and stand back and observe if that policy is being carried out through management and on down to the vendors and the community at large.

Great Boards hold productive meetings and always read relevant materials. Great Boards come to meetings ready to make decisions based on solid information. These Board members are not wasting their time or that of other Board members or staff. They know being prepared develops the community’s trust in them as leaders, and gives them the ability to make decisions on the community’s behalf in a timely manner.

Great Boards don’t enable philosophers or pontificators who drag meetings out for hour after unproductive hour by suffering in a silent torpor while the ego-driven “Starship Steve” goes off to explore strange, new worlds holding everyone hostage. They stop him before he hits the Crab Nebula, by guiding him back to the agenda. And…

Great Boards stay on the agenda. They stay focused on the matters at hand, carefully considering the information and moving forward as they are trusted to do by the membership. Focus, enforced through adopted parliamentary procedures, brings clarity of thought and purpose and the result is credibility in the eyes of the membership. .

Great Boards understand risk management … By keep rogue Board members in check. Great Boards don’t allow a single Board member to put the community in jeopardy by making racial, ethnic or sexual comments at a meeting.

… And by using insured vendors and subcontractors. Great Boards know they have a duty and responsibility to the community to utilize only professionals.

… And they don’t deny the existence of liabilities. Great Boards have set a policy on dealing with potential and evident liabilities, and they deal with them quickly and surely. Great Boards don’t wander off in to the weeds when examining their liabilities, either. They obtain information and direction from insurance, legal and management experts to guide them on this path and never shy away from, risk management.

Great Boards know and understand they are fiduciaries for the community and must base their decisions on logic and reason, not emotion, giving them credibility and integrity for the long-term as they occupy that place of special trust and confidence.

Great Boards never allow themselves to be bullied in to making a decision. They must always be aware they are a deliberative body which makes decisions based on solid input. That solid input should include their own experience, facts, data, standard of care and standard of the industry, precedents set before them, and expert opinion. Great Boards (try) never to make decisions simply to quiet a “squeaky wheel.”

Great Boards acknowledge staff and volunteers publicly, privately, in the newsletter and on the website. This crucial aspect of leadership is often overlooked by Boards because they simply don’t realize that this positive form of communication to the membership about one of their own fosters a positive and successful image of the community administration. Why? Because… .

Great Boards know they can’t do it alone. They know they need more folks to volunteer, so they create an atmosphere that fosters volunteerism. One of the ways to create that atmosphere is to publicly and regularly sing the praises of those volunteers and staff. Even Great Boards don’t want to be Board members forever.

Great Boards speak with one voice. Think of Boards as disparate personalities thrown together by an act of God (or a freak of nature), trying to accomplish goals, maintain sanity and still speak to each other in a civil tone. What sets Great Boards apart is that they know there will be disagreements, they know they don’t each think alike – yet, once the votes are cast they move forward together – speaking with one voice to the membership. This is crucial for any Board, but particularly those who have seriously disgruntled folks in their midst. Any chink in the armor will be exploited by those with agendas that are not within the current Board’s policies, goals and objectives.  Great Boards stick together and show a united front to their members, creating credibility and integrity.

All Boards are potentially Great Boards

It is my experience that most Board members serve as part of their civic duty and all they really want is to know how to meet that end with intelligence and grace and maybe be appreciated for their work.   Most of them were initially coerced in to the job (‘It’ll only take about an hour per month!’) yet stay on at least for some time out of that sense of duty. The best Boards can be guided in to these Top Traits (and more next month!) and in to serving their communities with the integrity and credibility it takes to be great. Why that integrity and credibility? Because it’s all we really have. And it’s all we really need.

c. Adamen Inc. all rights reserved

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