CEO Personal Behaviors Can Kill a Board
Senior Vice President
CEOs and Executive Directors often express concern that their Boards are not fully engaged. Even the most active, professional Boards often have one or two members who may be fully supportive of the organization, but do not demonstrate that commitment. We are often asked: How can I keep my Board engaged? And even more common: How can I get the Board to fundraise?
Over the next few months we will explore various strategies for Board engagement, but let’s begin with the basics: personal behaviors of the executive leadership. This may seem trivial but it is the CEO/ED who sets the tone, style, pace, commitment and productivity of the entire organization, including the Board.
Common problems in personal behaviors of the CEO/ED:
- Talks too much. He/she should not lecture or pontificate. It insults the intelligence of the Board and it’s dull. A strong CEO will keep his/her comments to a minimum, allowing for maximum discussion and engagement. Facilitate, don’t pontificate.
- States the obvious. Briefing packets, written summary reports and allowing staff to speak will minimize the CEO’s need for time at the podium during the meeting.
- Insecurity. Some CEOs feel they must exert their power by dominating the meeting when actually, just the opposite is true. A confident CEO will plan well and delegate.
- Thinking out loud. Once a CEO is comfortable with a Board, he/she may bring issues that are not fully researched or conceived, relying on informal exchange as a way to draw a Board into a topic. The problem with this is it wastes Board members’ valuable time and leaves them concerned about the pace and professionalism of their executive staff.
How to overcome these common problems:
- Think/act like a reporter: Before entering the meeting, think through the main points you would like to convey on each agenda item. Focus on the core issues and be sure there is time for interaction among Board members on the most important topics. Ask yourself: What do we need to achieve and why? Who can help achieve it? When, where and how?
- Stay focused: A rambling CEO will never fully engage a professional or busy volunteer. For example, never explain an issue with “he said, she said,” when it is possible to get to the point more directly. To convey information in a he said-she said manner only relays information but the personal relaying of it is not adding value. This is especially poor form for a CEO who is hired to make decisions and execute strategic plans. It is incumbent upon the CEO to add value at every step.
By sticking with the five W’s of journalism (Who, What, When, Where and Why), and planning your talking points around them, you will stay focused and engage the Board.
This is the first in a series of articles about fully engaging the Board within the organization. The author welcomes your feedback and discussion at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider these tips for increasing productivity in a small office:
- Create an action plan list to manage daily, weekly and monthly goals. Setting unrealistic goals is a big impediment to productivity. Break large tasks into manageable chunks, eliminating the “I’ll never get that done!” syndrome. Plus, it’s satisfying to mark something off a list!
- Have regular “production” meetings. Employees and managers need to meet consistently, to keep everyone apprised of each other’s activities, to make sure that tasks are being accomplished, but that staff members are not duplicating the same activities.
- Go digital when possible. Digital is also more portable. When possible, eliminate paper-based information to reduce clutter and the need to touch the paper again…and again…and again. Convert paper to electronic files by scanning paper documents and creating files for easy access – whether in the office, on the road or sitting in the airport.
- Maintain a filing system. When keeping documentation is a must, do maintain a management system, and label properly. An appropriate filing system is still necessary at most offices. Use a file naming system as an office best practice. Rely upon standard file names, and spell out names. In two years, an organization will not likely inform new employees that PSMR stands for the Pueblo Service Media Report.
- Maintain control over shared documents. Don’t allow multiple versions of the same document to circulate. Clearly rename (electronically) the most recently-saved version of an edited document (by date and/or last employee to edit).
- Be prepared. This motto is not just for Boy Scouts. Prepare for meetings with a check list and utilize the tried and true project management approach to having an agenda. Preparation prior to any meeting–large or small–makes attendees more productive. Even with a shared agenda, each individual may have sub topics they want to make sure are covered during the meeting.
- Identify a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Tool. Avoid leaving revenues and productivity on the table. CRM tools needn’t cost money or bear large subscription fees. Some are free. CRM puts the customer/client first, and that’s good for productivity.
- Prioritize tasks and develop a system. Empower your office to work proactively, not just respond and react.
The Giving Institute is also committed to promoting philanthropy. In 1955, it first published Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy and later incorporated the Giving USA Foundation to carry out and expand its public service goals. Today, Giving USA is the most influential publication reporting on the sources and uses of longitudinal giving data for the past 60 years in the United States. Jeffrey has also been elected to serve on the Giving USA Foundation Board.
This term marks the 10th year that Jeffrey has served on The Giving Institute Board and his 6th year on the Executive Committee. Jeffrey Byrne + Associates has been a member of the Giving Institute for 10 years.
For more information about Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc., visit www.fundraisingJBA.com.
For more information about The Giving Institute, visit www.GivingInstitute.org.
For more information about Giving USA FoundationTM visit www.GivingUSA.org.