I recently volunteered at the 2012 BoardSource Leadership Forum where more than 800 nonprofit leaders from across the United States had the opportunity to network, exchange ideas and participate in thought-provoking sessions. The name of the event was Designing Change: Commit. Connect. Collaborate.
My biggest takeaway was that in order to develop true innovation in governance, leaders need to move away from their comfort zones and dare to do something they’ve never done before. From personal experience, I know I’ve made the shift when my heart beats ten times faster, palms sweat and I simply couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. It’s a combined feeling of anxiety and triumph knowing in your gut that something great is about to happen. You just have to stay the course.
We also must not lose sight of the other important part of the equation–having the right partners in your journey. We’ve heard it before and it was repeated many times during the two-day forum: Collaboration is key. Work with individuals and groups who share your mission and can easily align with your efforts. No one organization should go it alone.
During the closing plenary, Linda C. Crompton, President & CEO of BoardSource, highlighted a three-part vision that started with the question “WHAT IF?” Following is an excerpt of Crompton’s remarks.
WHAT IF: We looked at our board recruitment in a whole new way?
Getting the right people, and the right mix of people, is both an art and a science. It means going outside your comfort zone and thinking about new ways to find board members.
- Analyze your board’s skill sets and expertise and identify gaps.
- Be open to board candidates outside of your existing network.
- Prevent the composition of your board from becoming static by using term limits.
WHAT IF: Every board lived a culture of inclusion?
Living a culture of inclusion means bringing together a diverse group of people, then ensuring that every member’s voice is heard and valued.
- Have an honest conversation about whether or not your board is inclusive.
- Commit to a written plan of action on how your board might need to change.
- Seek support if training or other resources are needed.
WHAT IF: Collaborative leadership took hold in the boardroom?
In the best boards, members share leadership. Boards that share leadership and responsibility discover new sources of strength and intellect they never knew existed.
- Assess and discuss how well your board is sharing leadership.
- Provide meaningful leadership opportunities for all board members and rotate officer positions.
- Ensure that your executive committee is not marginalizing the rest of your board.
Crompton’s What IF’s can be summarized in what I believe to be an essential step to advance your cause with real impact: In order for change to happen, you first must change your story.