Building Breakthrough Boards - Step 4: Engage

Step 4: Engage
How can boards become more engaged in the success of an organization? How can we boost morale and excitement during meeting times and in-between meetings? How can individual board members bring their passions to the forefront and drive ideas?

These are several of the main questions that many organizations are asking. When a board of directors is producing results and moving in a forward direction morale will be high. Producing results is the basis of morale. When boards design a plan to support the strategic direction, then they have the roadmap to generate forward momentum and progress, leading to higher morale.

Effective board engagement is realized when board members are allowed to unleash their abilities and passions in the following three ways:

  1. Leveraging unique ideas and the individual desire to drive them to completion. Board members that care about the mission of their organization and the people it serves tend to generate all types of ideas for improvement. These ideas are critical for the CEO and Board Chair to cultivate because they are the #1 way to build engaged and excited board members to action. When board members feel they have ownership in the success of an organization through contributing their own ideas, then they will be committed to driving their ideas into action.
  2. Joining a committee that can leverage their expertise to support the growth, organization, and/or capacity building. Second to individual ideas, is the capability of the board member to fulfill a functional need for the organization. During the enrollment process in step 2, it should be made clear to the board candidate why they are being asked to join the board. If the board does not communicate effectively to the future candidate, it can lead to issues around expectations. Leveraging talents and skills in committees or task forces is an important way to boost participation. Board members should be asked to join committees where they can add value and utilize their unique capabilities.
  3. Representing the organization to the external world through being a strong steward and story teller. To build strong advocates and story tellers, board members need to experience the service and mission of the organization. Put board members into the shoes of the people being served to build a stronger understanding of the mission and program side of the organization. For example: if your organization serves the homeless, make sure your board members get to meet the individuals and families that are living in the shelters. Let the board members learn about the personal stories and journeys of the individuals being served, and build a reality to the obstacles and challenges they face finding housing, jobs, daycare, transportation, etc. These types of activities are what makes the mission real for most board members and inspires them to become powerful voices to the external world. 

Getting board members engaged requires the ability to connect the two different worlds of the boardroom and people being served. It is a process that requires attention to detail, relationship building, and planning. Keep board members engaged and managing their experience is not an easy task and can take a fair amount of time. Follow these three approaches and you can unlock the potential of board members and get them more inspired and engaged.