FEBRUARY 14th: The day when cupid strikes via the cheesy Valentine’s cards and 99 cent-priced bags of chocolate kisses that you feel obligated to send your board members as a token of appreciation. BARF. We’re taking an anti-Valentine’s Day approach this year and giving you what we’ve always been good at: tough love. The type of love that’s just as red as romance, but only because our blood boils when we discover that YOU (yes, you nonprofits) have certain types of board members sitting on your boards, wasting time and space.
Don’t know which ones we’re referring to? Take off your rose-colored glasses and gain some perspective. Consider this our own love note to you. After this post, you won’t be fooled by the 5 bad board members that need to go. NOW.
There are many board members that bring many talents and hard work to their boards. But these guys aren’t it. These people are universally unwelcome on every board-for good reason.
Bad Board #1: The Cardboard Cutouts
OK we know that they’re actual humans and NOT cardboard cutouts, but they might as well be! These are the ones that have the ability to show up at meetings, maybe even while looking schnazzy and with zest like Austin Powers, but they fail to ever offer any input or help. You're left to wonder, "How come their grand entrance never translates into spectacular productivity during the meeting?" They show up, eat the food, vote on minutes, but if it weren’t for that, you couldn’t be sure if they actually ever blinked during the meeting.
TIP: What you really need is a board member whose presence at a meeting isn’t their only gift to you. Ask this type of board member for their input in private, it's possible that you'll solicit better responses during a one-on-one conversation.
Bad Board #2: The Committee Ladies
These are your favorite ladies who lunch. SURE they care about your mission, but only half as much as your upcoming gala’s tablecloth colors. And the type of paper you'll be using to print your invitations on. What's worse: they don't attend your events solo. They come in a pair. Or as triplets or more. They'll bring guests that love to lunch as much as they do, but they are never willing to pay full price.
TIP: It’s time to look for a person who will snatch that damask tablecloth during dinner, wear it as a superhero cape and stand as a champion for your cause. PS – we think pulling off a scene like this would actually garner more donations at your next fundraiser. Let us know if you try it out.
Bad Board #3: The Bored Ones
You see them sitting furthest away from the white board. In fact they usually sit far from the rest of the members in attendance. They’re always looking down on their iPhone or iPad during events and will only look up to vote aye or nay when they show up. They lack facial expression and enthusiasm making it hard to read or gauge their interests in anything having to do with life in general. This is when you really have to ask yourself: are they board members or BORED members? The sad truth is, they're both: bored board members who won't perk up. Not even for free donuts.
TIP: The next time you interact with a BORED member, ask why they decided to join and what would help them stay engaged.
Bad Board #4: THE YELLER
YOU KNOW THEY’RE HARD TO PLEASE WHEN THEY TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This board member is always arguing about every little detail: from why did the email go out at 9am instead of 8am on a Tuesday, to why water bottles aren’t served at meetings. They hit reply all and send messages to the rest of the board in ALL CAPS and are so notorious for their toxic tone that even staff members get a little uneasy and cringe at the thought of having to call this board member for a phone conversation, let alone just having to interact with them. The good news is, this highly engaged board member CAN be rehabilitated.
TIP: To assuage, try assigning a very high level project that they can take ownership of. This will help direct their focus and energy to a very specific task and alleviate their constant need to involve themselves in all the little things.
Bad Board #5: The Bag of Rocks
This is the board member that seems as wise as Yoda at first with their uncanny ability to foresee problems and present objections in parables…but then they fail miserably at offering solutions. These are the talented ones that always have a list of topics to add to your meeting's agenda, but won't have much to say other than to identify issues that the rest of the board needs, as this type would feel, to address. They are also the YELLER’S greatest frenemy: great at pointing out issues the YELLER is aware of, but also, unfortunately, great at provoking and instigating the YELLER’S personality.
TIP: The solution for this no-solution type: involve them in early stages of strategic planning and quarterly reviews. Their insight can be valuable in identifying your organization’s current landscape.