Hope everyone is having a great day!

Woke up this morning after last night attending a fantastically led Town Hall meeting for the membership of the school where my children attend, and I woke up this morning thinking about the role of a board member and things potential board members should consider before seeking to be on a board.

Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

  • Know why that particular board exists. The reason for a boards existence is critical and understanding its mission (its reason for existence) and values (how they behave) is important for you to know.
  • Get curious and direct questions to the board if you need clarity on how the board is health wise and what strengths they feel are missing around the table that might assist in furthering the effectiveness of the board and its mission.
  • Consider your motives for why you want to be on the board. Let’s say for example that you want an organization to be better managed, if that is true and you’re seeking a position on a governing board, you’re in the wrong area. You’d be better off seeking a position within the organization. Jim Brown in his book The Imperfect Board Member rightly says, “The secret to effectiveness is understanding the different roles within an organization and how those roles relate.”1 
  • It’s important for you to know yourself and be able to article what strengths you could bring to the table of leadership.
  • It’s important to also know who and for what purposes your seeking to serve. Brown also provides great insight by stating this: “Problems arise when board members talk as customers and expect to be heard as owners.”2 
  • Unless you have previously served on the particular board you’re hoping to become a part of, please be aware that it is going to take you some time to understand the guiding documents of the board. By guiding documents I mean its bylaws, MOAs, and everything contained in its Board Policy Manual, to start.
  • Get clear up front on the level of commitment that will be required of you. Included in that would be asking how long a board term is and what monthly commitments could look like. Do not commit if you’re unable to fulfill that obligation because it directly affects the ability of the whole board to do its work.
  • Ask how the board is seeking to develop itself. Board development should always be a critically important element of any governing board. As directors develop and grow together, it increases their fruitfulness.
  • Because a board is required to know the financial landscape of the organization, it is entirely okay to be asking the board what the financial statements look like.

Those are just a few of my morning thoughts. I hope you find them helpful. Please comment below if you have other things you think would be important to consider.

Have an amazing day!


p.s. I highly recommend reading Jim Brown’s book The Imperfect Board Member.

  1. Jim Brown, The Imperfect Board Member: Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence (San Fransico: Josse-Bass), 32.)
  2. Jim Brown, The Imperfect Board Member: Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence (San Fransico: Josse-Bass), 3.)
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