Friday, June 12, 2009

Coaching a Board, Knowing the Players

The experience of coaching a board comes in a lot of flavors. There are boards for every organization imaginable. They range from the simplest of community groups to the most sophisticated of corporate enterprise.

One can run into some real resistance while coaching boards. It is not because people are trying to be obstinate and unhelpful. It's because they have a way of thinking lodged in their psyche and it needs to undergo a shift.

My job as an executive coach is not to make the unwilling change their mind. My job is to assist the willing to see their potential blind spots, take ownership and initiate their own change.

Here are several reasons people show up on boards and the primary shift of mindset they are going to have to undergo in order to make an increasingly significant contribution.

For what reason are they on the board? What mindset may have to change?

  • Personal - This individual is on the board because they are a supporter of the leader or founder. They need to shift from individual to group.

  • Involved - This person is actually involved in the work the board oversees. They must shift from doing to directing.

  • Donor - This is a donor who has give substantially to the organization. They must shift from thinking only finances to thinking big picture.

  • Skill Set - This individual is on the board because they have particular knowledge or skill, like law or accounting. They need to shift from specific to general.

  • Obligation - Somebody felt obligated to this persona and moved that they be on the board. They will have to shift from observer to participant

  • Founder - It's obvious why they are there, but is it best? A shift from controller to team player needs to take place.

  • Respected - Someone respected this individual as a wise leader. They will need to shift from giving all the answers to be a consensus builder.

  • Balance - This person was brought on the board to "balance" age, gender or opinion. They will need to shift from contrarian to team thinking.

  • Yes Man - Or women .. these individuals are handpicked by the leader. They need to shift from being defenders to being contributors.

  • Experienced - This individual is seasoned in what the organization is doing. They may sit on other boards also. They need to shift from leader to visionary.

  • Quality - This individual is noted for a particular quality like articulating a vision or troubleshooting. They need to shift from intermittent manager to leader.

  • Bridge - This person was brought on the board to form a bridge with some person or group of people. They need to shift from one issue mentality to big picture thinker.

  • High Profile - This man or woman is on the board because they are successful, powerful and have influence.  They need to shift from ruler to servant.

  • Nice - This is a very nice man or woman who couldn't say 'no' and let their name stand for election. They need to shift from ambivalent to fast learner.

If you are one of these  people, the board needs you to acknowledge your blind spots, change and step up to be a whole different contributor. This really applies to any of us on boards. Who will say there isn't room for improvement when we see any of these mindsets creep into our own thinking.

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