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

Little Red Bus icon

Intelligent Doubting

Jerry was a very experienced bus driver who was held in high esteem by all of his passengers. One day, however, the passengers thought it strange when Jerry turned the Little Red Bus to the left when the road marker indicated that he should turn right. No one questioned Jerry's decision because of his experience and reputation—all were quiet. Jerry didn't make mistakes. Two hours and many miles later, now tired, hungry and thirsty— and lost—the passengers realized they should have drawn the mistaken turn to Jerry's attention.

How does this translate into the experiences of a governing board? It is the job of the governing board to be intelligent doubters. When board members have questions that are appropriate to their roles as board members, they need to raise those questions and seek clarification. Oftentimes, there is a feeling of hesitancy among board member to ask important questions because there is a fear that such questioning will show ignorance of a subject. Such questioning may also be incorrectly viewed as calling the competence of the executive director into question. No one person has all the answers and even the most experienced leaders can benefit from the intelligent doubting offered by board members.

Questions for consideration

  • When board members have questions relating to policy issues, do they feel comfortable raising those questions?
  • Is the executive leadership open to questions and does leadership view questioning as an appropriate board role?
  • Do board members know the difference between appropriate policy questions and inappropriate administrative questions?
  • Is executive leadership comfortable with not knowing the answers to all questions and open to finding the answers?

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

Little Red Bus icon

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.