You never know whom you are going to sit next to at a bar mitzvah. I had the great fortune of sitting with an older woman who, for decades, has seen board service as a part of her life’s mission.
Clearly, I liked Gloria immediately.
Then, when she told me she never misses my blog posts, I liked her even more.
After we finished kvelling about the bar mitzvah boy, we discussed her current nonprofit.
“I serve on a very challenging board”, Gloria said. She began to describe her board challenges. She was right. Challenging.
When she told me about what she was doing to improve her board, I was impressed. Gloria was smart and clearly understood the big problems facing the organization.
- An E.D. who saw the board as meddlesome
- A board that was in fact meddlesome (well, not really in a bad way… just over-involved in minutiae)
- Board members accustomed to playing the role of staff on small, grassroots boards that were now on the board of a larger organization with a staff of 30 and did not adjust their roles accordingly
- A board chair that was not leading
But then Gloria told me a story about something that happened at a recent board meeting, and it hit me. There’s a key problem that Gloria failed to mention.
The problem… is Gloria.
GLORIA, THE ENABLING BOARD MEMBER
When I heard Gloria’s story I knew.
The new Executive Director put her foot down with the board (flag on the field, by the way – and a post for another day) and told them: “My staff will not take minutes; that’s the job of the Secretary.”
The Secretary said, “I’m a procrastinator. The minutes will never get out in a timely fashion.” Flag #2.
So guess who volunteered to take the minutes? My bar mitzvah buddy.
Gloria was enabling bad behavior.
I asked Gloria why she volunteered to take the minutes. Two key reasons:
- I wanted to show the secretary how to do it, that the task wasn’t onerous.
- Somebody had to do it and it would take me no time at all.
Do you think the secretary interpreted the offer as a training session?
No way. That secretary breathed a sigh of relief.
Gloria’s intentions were great. She wants to be a good board member… nay, a GREAT board member. She has all the raw materials. But unless she changes her approach, this board will never get its act together.