Is Your Association Board Nimble?

Image Credit: Alex Jones
Image Credit: Alex Jones

By Jalene Bowersmith, Executive Director

The board for the Widgets of the World Association (WoWA) is having their monthly meeting. During the meeting the president announces that the National Thingamajig Association (NATA), a rival organization, has just released an online certification program. The program will provide NATA with additional revenue for years to come and may pull members from WoWA.

Let’s face it, in today’s fast paced world boards need to make well informed decisions quickly. The above example is fictitious, but the concerns are real. Deliberations that linger on meeting after meeting can be draining and leave your association rehashing the past, focusing on barriers to progress (like WoWA) while more nimble associations (like NATA) are focusing on the future, creating the next big thing. How do you get all your board members on the same page and help them make well informed decisions quickly and concisely?

Effective board members aren’t born, they are developed. Most volunteers don’t join a board knowing the skills needed to be effective, efficient board members. (In fact, a recent Stanford study showed that most nonprofit boards are largely ineffective.) Providing board members with effective tools, an understanding of expectations, and a common vocabulary is crucial to the success of any board. In addition, having difficult conversations about the barriers to success, before they arise, provides board members with a basic understanding and underlying foundation to become effective board members.

In 2014, I attended a session facilitated by the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) Center for Leadership Development, at ASAE’s Conference in Nashville. The session presented by Bill Shepherd and Elaine La Chappelle outlined training materials developed by OREA to combat the problems stated above.

At just over two hours in length, the tutorials OREA developed – Nimble Decision Making – provide a basis for board training, a common vocabulary to work more effectively together, tools to communicate and help board members think more strategically, as well as a candid discussion of barriers that can derail a board. The video recorded sessions are divided into three tutorials, which provide flexibility of delivery, and include workbooks with activates, discussion topics, and template tools which keep members engaged.

  • Tutorial 1 – Emerging Trends and making timely decisions
  • Tutorial 2 – Barriers to nimble decision making and Inspiring behaviors
  • Tutorial 3 – Planning, communicating and monitoring decisions to evaluate results

The tutorials come with a facilitator’s guide, so the Executive Director and/or President can lead the sessions without bringing in an outside facilitator.

Through a donation to OREA, our organization received the materials and we implemented Nimble Decision Making last fall. I have found it to be well received and very successful. Since implantation our board meetings have become much more effective. Our board members understand what is expected of them and can now take ownership in meeting since they understand their roles. We have improved communication at meetings by instituting several of the tools provided in the tutorials, such as briefing notes, discussion guides and dashboard. Board members are more engaged and excited about their role in shaping the future of the organization and when the board needs to make a difficult decisions, such as whether to raise membership dues, we can have a candid conversation about the barriers that are holding us back, so we can move forward together as a united board.

We are now incorporating Nimble Decision Making into our new board member training and all board members will review the tutorials at a face-to-face meeting once a year to general discussion and keep their focus on the future of the organization.

For more information on Nimble Decision Making contact Elaine La Chappelle with the Ontario Real Estate Association Center for Leadership Development. Email: Phone: (416) 445-9910

Want to know more about association management? Contact us to find out more about what IMI Association Executives can do for your organization.

One Reply to “Is Your Association Board Nimble?”

  1. Elaine and I presented Nimble decision Making in Nashville.

    It is very encouraging and gratifying to know that the materials we created is being put to good use and is making a difference.

    Your blog post is excellent and for someone like myself, having worked with associations for 35 years, it was dead on!

    I hope there may be an opportunity for us to collaborate in the future. When you are becoming a leader it is all about developing yourself. When you become a leader, it’s all about developing others. Your association exemplifies that quote.

    Bill Shepherd

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