Monday, July 16, 2012

Helping Boards through Significant Periods of Change

I have started a series of posts for Christian Coaches Network, CCN, titled, “Coaching a Board Through Major Transition”. This is not unfamiliar territory to me. Although you may be brought in as a coach at a challenging time in the history of the organization and although your assignment can meet with some challenging personal encounters with the stakeholders … it can be done and done successfully.

The CCN posts are a 7-part series discussing how to coach your board through major transition even if you are not a professional coach. They will be posted on succeeding Wednesdays. The first of the series is here,

While engaged with a board I alternate between working with the whole board, both offering facilitation and coaching and working with the individuals on the board. I believe it is important to focus on the individual between group calls, draw out latent strengths that they may have and bring their vision for the organization and its desired outcomes to the fore.

In many smaller organizations, the leader may traditionally have taken charge and a situation of over-dependence on their word and direction may exist. There may be assumptions that the leader is on top of the situation the organization is currently facing. This may or may not be true. It is vital to see each member of the board as a leader in their own right, with meaningful contribution to make to the planning and decision making process. If they have nothing to contribute, they should not be there.

Critical to this coaching assignment is keeping things moving forward. It’s not hard for time to drag on. A week can quickly expand to two or three and little has been achieved. Most often board members think the leader is doing all that needs to be done. They need to be engaged fully in navigating through this period of significant change as well.  

I find that respecting one another’s style of operating during this time is crucial. People are just different. That’s not good or bad, right or wrong, just different. It’s important that as I have people dialog with one another they can begin to respect how their fellow board member views and approaches things and how their differing perspectives and approaches can actually supplement each other and work for the ultimate good in achieving the aims of the organization.

Additionally, I find that I need to help the board in avoiding tunnel vision. It’s easy for a board, regardless of size to become fixated on a particular course of action or approach or way of thinking that throttles down their ability to deal adequately with what is really going on. They need to widen their vision, explore other possibilities and in general be much more cognizant of those things that could accelerate them toward positive solutions and outcomes.

Lastly, I have found that it is important to keep the ball in their court. It’s too tempting to bring in a third party and conveniently abdicate responsibility. It provides for a ready scapegoat but it doesn’t help the organization at all. Change, even during stressful times, remains the responsibility of the client, in this case the board. I can’t make them do anything and I won’t take responsibility for what they are unwilling to do and any consequences that may follow. Keep the ball in their court.

If you’d like to read more about coaching a board through major transition, head on over to the CCN blog and follow the posts that come out each Wednesday for the next several weeks. You can read the introductory post here,

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