I asked a simple question on Facebook last week – What questions should you ask when you are being interviewed for a board position? I received a ton of great responses in the comments, and clearly some people were suggesting questions they wished they had asked before they joined their board:
“How are board members trained/supported in meeting their obligation for fiscal oversight?”
How would you like me to contribute to your process and conversations? Why did you choose me?”
“What do you want to achieve in the next year, five years, and what do you want me (or think I can) contribute to your success?”
If you were recruiting a new board member, could you answer them all? And most importantly, would the rest of your board have the same answers?
The questions illustrate the joys and frustrations of serving with a group of volunteers and can should be used to develop your board orientation and training program.
I was just talking to a new board member who was sharing some struggles his new organization is facing. His board is filled with well-meaning people with good hearts and pure intentions. Many had been good friends prior to joining this board (red flag!) and now some aren’t even speaking to one another. All of the board members are frustrated and ready to quit!
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique.
Sometime we choose to speak to people in short hand – someone nods in agreement, indicating that from their perspective they know exactly the point you are trying to make and we quickly move on without a conversation to determine if we really agree or understand one another.
This situation is typical of organizations who don’t take time to have structural, foundational conversations that come to conclusion with clear decisions. Many boards work on the assumption that we are all on the same page – that we all agree what “an active board member” is, without ever defining the word “active.”
It doesn’t matter how long you have served on your board, these questions are never too late to ask.
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