When board members start micro-managing the organization, getting involved with operations, picking fights at board meetings, bullying staff and other board members, putting their own agenda ahead of that of the organization’s, running roughshod over the Executive Director, and controlling board meetings, you know you’ve got a problem. And nothing good can come from it. Instead, if left unchecked, you could very well end up with alienated staff and board members, the eventual loss of good people, a derailed mission and plans, and at the very least, a dysfunctional and toxic work environment.
So if you find yourself in this situation what can you do?
First of all, it is going to take a strong leader to manage and mitigate the damage caused by a rogue board member. It is exactly this kind of situation when you get to see what your board chair is made of and if they have the mettle to deal with it. But start by bringing the behavior to her attention if she is not already aware of it.
Secondly, it is going to require clear vision to recognize and acknowledge the situation - whether it be first hand or listening to others and then checking the validity of the data.
Thirdly, it is going to require swift action to resolve the situation with the least amount of damage as possible with the best interests of the organization in mind. You don’t want to always be in the situation where you are having to walk on eggshells with a potentially explosive personality. But having a private meeting between the board member in question and the board chair may be enough to draw their attention to what has been happening and to get them refocused on the mission at hand. As a board chair, deal with this situation as you would with anyone you manage. Make the decision whether rehabilitation is worth the effort and whether there is a reasonable expectation that it will be successful. It may end up better to cut your losses quickly by asking the rogue board member to leave than to try and not ruffle anyone’s feathers. Understand the possible repercussions of either decision and resulting actions and be prepared to deal with those as well. The board chair should also keep the other board members in the loop as to what is going on so that they feel supported and can give appropriately and professionally support the decision.
You may also consider getting outside legal help to make sure that you are dealing with the situation according to your by-laws.
Here are some ways to prevent board members from going rogue in the first place:
Have good recruiting and screening processes for new board members in place so that you attract the right kind of board members
When onboarding a new board member, provide them with clear expectations and roles, verbally and in writing, in a standardized and required orientation process
Continue to provide board members with ongoing training opportunities on board governance
Elect a strong board chair who has strong people management and communication skills, a strong vision for the organization and is mission-driven
Ensure the organization is working from an updated strategic plan that drives board and staff members alike with clear delineation of responsibility for achieving the plan
Get your copy of The Only 3 Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members to help guide your board.