How to Choose Board Members (Part 1)

How to Choose a Board Member
How to Choose a Board Member

Perhaps you can recall or imagine the common scenario that repeats itself year after year when a board seeks to recruit nominees for election to the Board of Directors of an organization.

The effort may be late in beginning, perhaps because there is no formal process for developing a list of nominees on an ongoing basis.  You might also imagine that it is difficult to find people who have the time and interest to serve in this way.

What we have noticed as being the most common characteristic of this effort is the lack of attention given to the competencies of the men and women who will hold the reins of power for several years.

What are competencies? And what competencies are required for board membership?  In this two-part article we will answer those two questions.

Competencies are the characteristics that one observes in a successful candidate for a given position, in this case a board member.  Competencies combine values, attitudes, knowledge and skills.  Here are the first ten of twenty competencies that considers important for a board member to be successful in governance.  They are arranged in alphabetical order.

1.     Accountability orientation – welcomes objective evaluation of working relationships and performance of self and others.
2.     Ambiguity tolerance – retains a positive outlook when the group is unable to resolve an issue or reach a conclusion and is willing to take a measured risk even when the outcomes are uncertain.
3.     Commitment to the organisation – the attachment a person has to the organisation when its values, vision and mission are aligned with his/her own.
4.     Communication – gives and receives information with clarity, attentiveness, understanding and perception.
5.     Conceptual thinking – makes connections between apparently separate issues, seeing patterns, trends or relationships and developing mental frameworks to explain and interpret information.
6.     Effective judgement – applies commonsense, measured reasoning, knowledge and experience to come to a conclusion.
7.     Empathy – shows awareness and appreciation of the feelings concerns and needs of others. 
8.     Independent thinking – maintains own convictions despite undue influence, opposition or threat.
9.     Initiative – grasps opportunities and proactively ensures that neither issues nor people are forgotten or overlooked.
10.   Integrity – trustworthy and conscientious and can be relied on to act and speak with consistency and honesty.

Next we will review the final ten competencies for board members. Inc. offers a performance review for board members that enables a board to evaluate each member according to these competencies.  We recommend that boards evaluate each member in mid-term.  If a board has a three-year term of office for its members, the entire board can be supported with this review in the span of three years.  The review is affirming, involving and empowering to any board member who receives the review.

Watch for part 2 of this blog post, and then I’ll share some thoughts on “How to Be a Board Member.”

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