Let’s consider a board that is capable of a wide array of thought leadership, exhibits a strong strategic inclination and can make effective and proactive decisions. This board would also have a sound understanding of the economy, the industry, the competition and the requirements of all its stakeholders. I propose that this board would be inspiring to all stakeholders and board members would be respected as positive Brand Ambassadors for the organization.

If this is not how you would describe your board today, there are steps you can take to move your board into a stronger position.

Step One – Orientation

Let’s start by providing new directors with a comprehensive orientation program. Many board members in the co-operative and non-profit sectors are inexperienced in board governance. Yet for many organizations, we provide them with a copy of the board handbook (if we have one), copies of recent meeting minutes, the annual report, etc. and then expect our new directors to watch and learn. Not an efficient way to get an important Brand Ambassador oriented. It usually takes a new director up to a year to feel they can contribute. And sometimes, even then, they are not clear on their roles and responsibilities.

I encourage my clients to start with an orientation check-list for their board that best suites their organization. The check-list may include:

1.     A meeting with the CEO and board chair and/or the chair of the governance committee to review how the board operates, how the organization is structured, what is the state of the current finances, what strategic initiatives are in progress, what are the trends, what issues could be coming to the board for consideration.

2.     Tour the operation. New directors need to learn quickly how the organization is structured and how it functions. A guided tour of the operations not only provides new directors with a visual understanding of the operations, it also provides an opportunity to meet key staff members.

3.      Assign a mentor. Rather than using the “sink or swim” method, provide the new director with a designated mentor to support their first-year orientation. A seasoned director who is dedicated to ensuring the successful orientation of a new director will serve a valuable function not only to the director but also to the board and the organization itself.

4.     Enroll the new director in a “Governance 101” program if they have not had any governance experience. Many trade associations and local colleges have director development programs that can provide courses on the basics of good governance.

5.     Enroll the new director in an industry conference or event. This “external” exposure will enable them to become more familiar with the industry in which the organization operates.

As a consultant who supports the work of boards and directors, I can help you set up your orientation checklist. Contact me at Cheryl Byrne Consulting to find out other ways in which I can help your board become your best brand ambassadors!