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.
Growing up as a kid, I was not naturally athletic and my parents did not model nor encourage my sister and me to be involved in sports. As a result, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with exercise my entire life:
- In elementary school, gym class was tough for me, often getting picked on by the phys ed teacher and being the last kid to be picked for a team
- I was never strong enough to complete the annual fitness tests – doing a pull up, climbing the rope, and doing pushups were cruel and unusual punishment for me.
- I did enjoy playing soccer for a period of time in elementary school (though that probably had more to do with my crush at the time on the student teacher)
- I joined the track and field team as I found I was relatively good at sprinting and hurdling, but hated long distance
- My track and field career was short lived as I ended up with knee injuries after a couple of years due to practicing on cement and not having supportive running shoes
- I was great at and loved ping pong (still do to this day) and became the 2nd best in my province for my age group
- In high school, there continued to be no love lost between me and my gym teachers
- I joined the volleyball and basketball teams by acting as the manager for my friends’ teams (I couldn’t play either of those sports to save my life)
- I took tennis, swimming and ice skating lessons for many years as a kid but only have a beginner’s ability in the first two and zero ability in the last one to this day
- I loved playing badminton with my mom in our backyard every summer
- Solo sports like cycling, kayaking and hiking have always been much more speed
- Gym memberships have mostly gone to waste as I’d much rather work out in the comfort of my own home
As an adult, I know the difference it can make when I am regularly working out. I sleep better, have more energy, maintain a good weight, handle stress better and just generally feel better. Nowadays, my workouts focus on specific goals – increasing my stamina/endurance, strength training, and improving my flexibility.
We all know that being more physically fit is complementary to and necessary for being more effective as a leader. After all, our physical and mental states can affect our longevity in that role. We also know that burnout is a serious condition and can be avoided with a better sense of balance in our lives.
In addition, understanding that our leadership skills are like athletic skills and treating them as such can greatly help our careers is important as well. Some leadership skills may come more naturally to us, while others don’t. And like athletic skills, we need to focus on ways to enhance or develop them. To find out where your leadership skills lie, I invite you to take the Athletic Leadership Quiz.
So what was your score? What areas do you need to focus on?
Working on these skills will require some effort, like going to the gym. And like any true athlete, there will be times when it will take concentration, practice, training with peers, working with experienced coaches, feedback, and of course the necessary motivation to ultimately increase your power as a leader. Take the time to routinely invest in your leadership skills and I guarantee you’ll see results not only at work but in many areas of your life!
Contact me if you’d like to discuss your results and how you can work on these skills.