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

Little Red Bus icon

The Search for a New Leader

Jean has been the driver of the Little Red Bus for the past 12 years. Over that period of time, she has worked very closely with the passengers in determining where the bus was to travel and she has had an outstanding record of operating the bus in a safe and efficient manner. She has done an outstanding job.

Last Tuesday, at a specially-called meeting with the passengers, Jean announced that it was time for her to move on. She was ready to retire and planned to do so in six months.

After the initial shock of losing Jean began to wear off, the passengers faced a big question: who will replace her?

Satisfying the need for addressing the anxiety felt by the passengers, a decision was quickly made that Zack, the man who kept the bus in tip-top shape, would become the next driver.

Problem solved — or was it? After Zack assumed his new duties, the passengers came to realize that the skills necessary to be a good bus mechanic were not the same as the skills necessary to be a good bus driver.

Although Zack was a great mechanic, he lacked the skills necessary to work with his passengers and drive the bus in a safe and efficient manner. Zack's tenure as the bus driver lasted but a short period of time.

Organizations in need of new leadership too often automatically turn to a current staff member to fill the leadership role. Forgotten is the fact that the skill set required for one position may not be the skill set required of the organization leader. Furthermore, hasty promotions from within can send a message to all that convenience has trumped thoughtfulness, not a good way for a new leader to take the reins.

Decisions regarding new leadership must take into consideration the primary challenges that the organization is facing. The goal is to find the best next leader within a time frame which allows for a thoughtful process.

Questions for consideration:

  • What are the highest priorities of the organization which the new leader must address?
  • What leadership characteristics are of prime importance to the organization in addressing current and emerging priorities?
  • What are the necessary elements of a fair and open search process — what is the plan?
  • Is interim leadership a good choice allowing the organization to deal with current issues and/or supporting a well-planned and well-executed search process?

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.