Good organizations are governed by good boards. In nonprofits, business, and the church, I have worked for a number of boards. Additionally, I have served on dozens of boards as a board member, officer, or chairperson. (Check out some of them on my LinkedIn profile.) Along the way I’ve observed some mistakes boards make in trying to achieve to healthy governance.
I love the work of my friends at the ECFA and other organizations that help us better understand and do board governance well. My intent here is not to share legal or even professional best practices. This article is one of personal opinion and, likewise, it’s simply from personal experience. I have seen mistakes boards make that get in the way of healthy governance more than provide good governance.
10 Mistakes Boards Make:
1. Masked agreement.
Among mistakes boards make this includes being too kind and not managing conflict. False unity is not unity at all. While no board member should strive to stir conflict or dissention, pretending to agree just to “get along” isn’t helpful to the organization.
2. Majoring in minutia.
Boards need to remain focused on the vision. They are like broad guardrails for the organization. I have never seen a healthy board/organization relationship where board members got too much in the weeds of daily operations.
3. Decision paralysis.
Boards can study things forever, but at some point a decision needs to be made by the board. It frustrates staff that are waiting for direction when the board refuses to move forward in a timely manner.
4. Postponing tough decisions.
Among mistakes boards make I have seen this one many times in the church, but also in nonprofits where I have served as a board member. For example, I once served on a board with one paid staff member.