Monday, January 17, 2011

How Does Your Board Member Orientation Rate?

If you want to test a board’s commitment to leadership development, start with its plans for the orientation program of new members. If past experience of consulting with boards of Christian ministries is any indication, orientation of new members is one of the dullest tools in our development kit. Few boards have formal programs for the orientation of new members. For the others, orientation is either hit-and-miss or non-existent. Let me give an extreme example from recent experience.

A friend received an invitation to join the board of directors of a Christ-centered ministry. She had been recruited by the executive director, introduced to the board chair, but knew only one of the other members. Before accepting, she asked my advice. Because of her outstanding credentials as a mature Christian leader who had won her credentials by excelling in the corporate world, I enthusiastically said, “Yes. What an opportunity for you and the board.”

After her first meeting, I asked if she would give me a confidential appraisal of the experience. As I expected, she was discrete and very gracious. But then I asked her the question, “Did you have an orientation session before your first meeting?” The answer came back, “No.” My mind went on alert. “Were you introduced to the board with biographical information or a formal introduction?” Again, the answer was, “No.” An edge of anger could probably be heard in my voice when I pressed on, “Were you invited to give witness to your faith and your calling to be a member of the board? By now, you know the answer. After the roll call, the chair simply said, “Welcome to the new members of our board” and then plunged into the agenda.

I asked one more question. “Were you introduced to the staff and the constituency by any public announcement?” Of course, the answer was still “No.”

Yes, I confess that I was angry, not just because the new member was neglected, but the board revealed its lack of commitment to the development of its members. A timely orientation session, a formal introduction, a personal testimony, and a public announcement are the starting points for a long-term plan of development for our board members. Without this start, I sincerely doubt that there will be any follow-up.

No comments:

Post a Comment