How Iggy Pop can Help Non-profit Boards and Staff Build Effective Partnerships.
Iggy may never have stepped foot inside a boardroom before he wrote track four of his 1979 album, New Values and his portrayal of the chairman who couldn’t get any satisfaction might be somewhat distorted by an excited imagination (not to mention mind-enhancing substances). Yet his tale of the ‘Bored Chairman-of-the-board’ is more than just a play on words.
Iggy Pop probably has no idea what it feels like to be the chairman of a board. Likewise, the chairman of the board probably has no understanding of what it’s like to be the office cleaner, or the charity volunteer or Iggy Pop.
“Since each person’s reality is constrained by the conditions that surround him, this means that the likelihood of each ever being able to see things from the other’s perspective is fairly low.” (Smith, 1980)
As individuals in not-for-profit organisations, we are seldom given, or we rarely make the opportunities to experience what it’s like on the opposite side of the table. In many cases, a board director is unable to comprehend the challenges that the non-profit’s staff and executive team contend with everyday. Likewise, the staff member is unlikely to know what if feels like to be a board director.
Within this complex dynamic, the board directors and executive team members have a responsibility to the organisation to form a strong partnership. How might the inevitable challenges be negotiated?
Consider the following suggestions to help directors and staff build effective partnerships across the board table:
1. Balance the meeting agenda.
- As stakeholders, both the CEO and board can influence the items that are included on the meeting agenda. Board meetings shouldn’t be limited to governance and operational oversight actions. Make sure each agenda has interesting content and time for discussion and debate. Perhaps invite a guest speaker to inspire passion and excitement about relevant topics.
- An engaging meeting ensures that you keep the interest and encourage participation of those attending, as well as reduce meeting apologies and retain members for longer tenures.
2. Plan strategy and creative thinking sessions away from the office.
- The board and executive team have responsibilities to develop, implement and adjust strategic plans. Taking time away from the office to immerse the board and team in collaborative planning will help stakeholders embrace their responsibilities and the process will nurture relationships across the imaginary divide.
3. Swap roles for a day. Literally.
- Plan a board meeting during office hours. Invite the CEO and executive team to spend several hours in the boardroom and to perform the functions of the board without the directors being present.
- Meanwhile, the board directors should tackle a list of things-to-do left by the executive team. Focus on tasks that will stretch the board and take them outside their comfort zones:
- Answer phone calls and speak to supporters
- Write a press release
- Open donations and record data in the CRM
- Write a thank you letter
- Manage major giver portfolios, do research & make follow-up calls
- Produce the monthly finance report for the board
- Write reports and results presentations
- Manage social media responses and make changes to the website
Whether you are on a board or part of an executive team, your organisation can profit immensely from a supportive and nurturing culture, engagement and relationship building activities, and each person’s dedication to their chosen cause, and humility to walk a few miles in someone else’s shoes.