Houston We Have a Problem

The composition of your board is critical in terms of their effectiveness. By almost any measure you can identify, their collective skills, influence, and wisdom combines to be a powerful force and accounts for a school’s success and its long-term viability.

A careless or undisciplined approach to board member recruitment can cost your school more than just in the “skills department.” The committee on trustees and the head of school must partner to fully understand and implement best practices when recruiting and selecting new board members. If not, this will result in the “problem or unengaged board member.”

This type of board member may not be aggressive, openly challenging or defiant, or even cause a scene. Although this might be an obvious characteristic. Perhaps it’s more subtle. They aren’t seen as being fully supportive of the head of school’s leadership, meddle in everyday faculty and staff situations, miss clear opportunities to support fundraising efforts, they choose for their children not attend the school, and more.

Resolving these issues can be very costly in terms of precious time, a school’s reputation in the community, success in fundraising, retaining your best employees and hiring the best candidates, and much more. But resolved they must be!

Here is a brief summary of the strategies you can implement with the full support of your Board Chair. You can learn more in Chapter Nineteen of my book Healthy Boards-Successful Schools available at www.williamrmottphd.com or connect with me at bill@williamrmottphd.com. 

Strategy One – The first step to resolving a problem is recognizing there is one. The Board Chair accepts responsibility for addressing the situation. 

Strategy Two – Board Chair meets one-on-one with the trustee, thus avoiding any embarrassment. 

Strategy Three – Utilize a board retreat to bring awareness to a range of best practices issues including difficult board members. The board retreat will bring focus to the issue rather than to an individual. 

Strategy Four – If other strategies don’t seem to be effective, perhaps your bylaws can speak to issues such as term limits, thus limiting the time of service the difficult board member will have. 

Strategy Five – An effective orientation program may well eliminate issues before they even begin.