Sunday, June 16, 2013

Toxic Boards & Association Executives

I was reading a News-Press story the other day about changes in the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Lee County ... it was deja vu all over again!

From the outside, NAMI-Lee has the makings of a “toxic board.”
  • Lost two executives in a year; one staying only four months.
  • An “operational board” (code for micro-managers).
Why the changes at the helm? “The strength and weakness of an operational board is that they struggle to stick with any long range plans,” Gregg Gardner (the previous CEO) said in response to an email from The News-Press. “(It) makes them tough to work for or with.”

Deja vu?

I once started a presentation to a potential organization client by saying “We’re trying to determine if you are a toxic organization and whether we want to manage you.”

I gave as examples the constant turnover, the resignations of several key board members (including the search committee chair) and a couple of other items I can’t recall.

As you might imagine, that led to a robust discussion. A week later, the president called to thank me for surfacing the issues (several board members said it was the best discussion they had had in years) but, alas, they selected a different management company.

If you are an association executive looking at a job (CEO or other) in a different association, you need to determine whether or not that association’s board is toxic. Same if you are an AMC seeking a new client. And, really, the same if your current board of directors starts becoming toxic.

Boards – especially those of volunteer-driven organizations – face great difficulty in knowing and following their role as a governing board.

Here are three core challenge areas:
  • leadership vs supervision
  • governance vs management
  • policy vs implementation
Where do you look to determine if a board is toxic?
  • board minutes
  • staff turnover
  • interviews with board members and staff
  • Google news search
What tools have you used to determine the culture and character of an organization you are considering? Please post in comments on my SCDdaily blog or just email me. If I get enough comments, I’ll post them later.
If you are looking at changing positions, this due diligence is vital ... unless you are looking for one of those four-month jobs!

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