Little Red Bus — Your Vehicle for Building a Stronger Governing Board

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Board Tailgating

For some time, the passengers on the LRB had been taking turns driving the bus. As trips became more frequent and the demands of the road grew increasingly challenging, the passengers decided that it was time to hire a permanent professional driver. After a careful hiring process, they decided that Audrey was the best fit for the job. She met the required qualifications and her past driving record was outstanding. Because the board members had "owned" the driving responsibilities prior to Audrey's arrival, they found it hard to "shift" their mindset from that of driver to that of "directing" passengers. They spent so much time monitoring her driving skills that they forgot to pay attention to the bigger picture and thus missed some important directional signs. Their mental "tail gating" of Audrey's performance distracted them from their visionary role of guiding her along the correct route.

Board members have dual roles. They monitor organizational effectiveness — an internal role — and they are visionaries for the organization — an external role. The amount of time and attention directed to each of these roles will vary over time, depending on a variety of circumstances. However, spending too much time on either of these roles may weaken their effectiveness on the other. Board members need to be close enough to the organization to see what's going on; however, they need to be removed enough from daily operations so they can focus adequate attention on the big picture as well. Both roles are important.

Questions for consideration:

  • Is the Board attempting to micromanage the organization and utilizing too much time on this role?
  • Is the Board removed enough from the daily work of the organization so time is available to carry out its visionary role?
  • Are the board members too far removed from the internal operation of the organization that they lose their role as intelligent doubters?
  • Are the Board and Executive Leadership in agreement regarding the balance between these two roles?

Need help with board development?
Contact Jim Storm at jstormcod1@aol.com or 612-616-0256.

Little Red Bus — Your Vehicle for Building a Stronger Governing Board

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Al Capone, Jr

The 36 passengers on the Little Red Bus (LRB) found it increasingly cumbersome and very time consuming to make group decisions and monitor the business of operating the LRB. As a result, they incorporated and created a governing board of eight that would take on those responsibilities. Prospective board members were told that their job would be an easy one as the driver of the LRB was very competent and needed very minimal oversight.

Unfortunately, once selected, the new board members rarely monitored the business operation of the LRB and oftentimes failed to show up for meetings. All felt that the driver, Al Capone, Jr., although stuck with a very poor name, would handle things well. At meetings, they would listen to Al's operating and financial reports while occasionally nodding off. After all, Al was the expert.

It came as a great surprise when the president of the board received a phone call from the bank indicating that the LRB had no money in the bank and was, in fact, overdrawn.

Board members were further shocked to learn that good old Al had been using business funds for his personal use. To make matters even worse, the board members learned that they were personally responsible for the debt incurred.

A key function of a governing board is financial oversight. How is the money being generated and how is it being spent? A failure to attend board meetings and to carefully review the financial standing of the organization are ultimately failures of the Board with individual board members bearing personal responsibility. Pay up!

Questions for consideration:

  • Do all board members understand their legal responsibility of financial oversight?
  • Do all board members understand the importance of their showing up in some manner at board meetings and reviewing the financial information?
  • Do all board members understand that it is the executive director's responsibility to provide them with accurate up-to-date financial information?
  • Are all board members willing to see their names in public should a financial scandal arise in the organization?

Need help with board development?
Contact Jim Storm at jstormcod1@aol.com or 612-616-0256.