A Black Belt in Board Development: Ideas to Enhance Productivity and Engagement

One of the reasons I love to meet with nonprofit boards is the fruitful exchange of ideas that always leads to something new and valuable.  In a recent discussion with board members at the Laurel House board retreat, one such idea emerged.

We were talking about the value of including a time in the board meeting for members to share concerns about their processes and interactions. This is critical, particularly as recruiting and retaining board members often hinges on the experience that they have when in attendance at board meetings.  If we improve the board experience, we are more likely to keep good board members, and they are more likely to want to invite good people to join the board.

The challenge is to find time for these important insights.  Placing this discussion on the agenda at the end of a long meeting is sure to discourage board members from speaking out for fear of annoying their peers who are ready to go home.

A brand new member of the Laurel House board shared a solution from her work life.  She worked as a “black belt” for G.E. As such, it was her job to gather data and use it to drive good decision making.  (An awesome skill set for a nonprofit to have in a board member!) She recommends that the board have a flip chart and distribute Post-it® notes to members. During and after each meeting, they write up “plusses and deltas” – positive experiences (plusses) and areas for potential improvement (deltas)—on the Post-it notes and stick them to the flip chart on their way out of the meeting. The board chair or executive committee reviews them and tweaks the board processes accordingly.

I hope you’ll share your ideas for enhancing the productivity and engagement of your board members. E-mail me at kathy@sparknpc.com.

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