Association Board personality – oversight or operations?
As Boards of Directors strive to improve their governance effectiveness, a key challenge many face is striking the right balance between oversight and operations.
Many Association Boards started with an operating focus. It was the Boards of new and emerging associations who brought the association together, organized the events, created the learning, certifications and content.
However, as organizations grow in size and complexity, risk also grows and there is a heightened, sometimes urgent requirement for effective oversight. Directors of governance Boards have little time/interest in sorting the operating details. Their expectation is that Association management will handle those. Instead, they want to know about the risks the Association is facing and what the strategies are for better serving their members.
This evolution can lead to conflict and confusion. Directors used to operating the Association can feel threatened by the oversight requirements of a governance Board and the trust that is put in others to handle the day to day details.
Board tool for assessing governance vs operating focus
In our work with associations, we have found it helpful for Boards to clarify what kind of Board they are – governance or operating – and for individual Directors to clarify expectations about their role on the Board. The attached tool provides a simple, helpful way of capturing this information. The output from the tool can used in Board discussions about the Board’s role, individual Director roles and governance direction.
How to use the Board Personality assessment tool
Using the tool is simple. Have each Director answer the five questions, then pull the answers together in a simple reporting format. The format should show the distribution of answers for each of the questions.
Use the output in two ways:
- As a basis for a Board of Directors discussion on the findings and the implications
- As a basis for individual Director discussions about their role and the best way that each Director can be of greatest value in ensuring the Association meets its mission to members.
Growing Associations will increasingly experience pressure for greater oversight capability from their Board of Directors. This tool is a simple way of establishing a current governance benchmark and the basis for some important Board discussions.