10 Mistakes Boards Make

I have seen mistakes boards make that get in the way of healthy governance more than provide good governance.

mistakes boards make

Everyone on the board agreed the person was no longer the right fit, but it was difficult for them (us) to pull the trigger and do the right thing for the organization. (Obviously, this meant making a change in personnel, which is always hard to do.)

5. Mistakes Boards Make – Awkward organizational relationships.

I have known board members that have too close of a relationship to one person on the staff that clouds their outlook of the rest of the staff. This could be with the CEO or with someone in a less visible position. It creates tension within the organization when a staff member feels “untouchable” because of a board relationship.

6. Mistakes Boards Make – Shared complacency.

I have especially seen this one in the nonprofit world where the board members are unpaid. That makes member’s time limited, so often board members falsely assume someone else will do the work or they wait for another to raise their hand to volunteer. Being on a board is challenging work. If you’re going to sign up to the task you have to be willing to do the work.

7. Unhealthy personal interests.

Conflicts of interest are always a problem, and most boards have “rules” against them. Yet, I have seen them occur many times. As examples, this could be a board member wanting their nephew to get “the job”  or  wanting to see dollars go only to a pet project of the board member. Boards must approach issues – as much as possible – with neutral eyes to do what is best for the organization.

8. Board alliances are divisive.

I realize this sounds like a contradiction of terms, but it isn’t. Sometimes cliques develop on a board, and it begins to position people against each other. While I’m not always a proponent of reaching unanimous consent – (See number one) – I do like to see it whenever possible. Sometimes, however, divisions on the board are often formed based on relationships with other board members rather than doing the right thing for the organization.

9. Mistakes Boards Make – Board members rotate too quickly.

I once served on a board where most board members rotated every year – or every other year. By the time you learned what you were doing it was time to move off the board. Among mistakes boards make, in this one it was difficult to move projects or ideas forward.

10. Mistakes Boards Make – Board members stay too long.

The counter to this is also true. I know it happens many times with elder boards for churches, but I’ve just never been a fan of a lifetime appointment to a governing board. At some point I think all of us become stale and we can’t see the changes needed because we’ve been looking at the problems long enough they become comfortable to us.

Again, these are simply observations about mistakes boards make. Feel free to dialogue with me about them in the comments where you have a differing opinion or another one to add.


This article on mistakes boards make originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.