Critical examination of the day-to-day activities of staff is critical to proper oversight; however, it is not the board’s role to micro-manage staff. Keep your eyes on higher-level, future-oriented tasks.
1. Focus on Governance – Focus
In our previous article, Defining the Roles, we discussed how the focus of boards should be on governance (mission, financial oversight). Critical examination of the day-to-day activities of staff is critical to proper oversight; however, it is not the board’s role to micro-manage staff. Keep your eyes on higher-level, future-oriented tasks. If you are not already familiar with the “Eisenhower Matrix” (popularized more recently by the late Stephen Covey in his bestselling business book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), get to know—and start to use—this powerful focus tool.
2. Build Capacity – Plan
While we will be delving into many details of board planning in future articles, the most important thing to do from your first day on the board is to think about leaving the organization in a better situation than when you joined. This includes, ultimately, helping recruit your own replacement on the board. Both during your tenure and on your way out, you need to ensure that you recruit “highly qualified and enthusiastic people to serve on your board” (BoardSource). Your daily work will be more effective if you plan and operationalize those plans with a big picture/long-term view of what kind of legacy you wish to leave your organization.
3. Build a strong Board/School Leadership Relationship – Establish Roles
Know your roles. Don’t overstep your bounds. Establish—and nurture—strategic and tactical relationships. Communicate effectively. What sounds simple in theory often fails in practice. We have several articles that will assist you with establishing roles, including What are a Charter School Board’s Legal Responsibilities? and Charter Board Governance / Leadership Protocol Development. But always stop to think: Am I communicating efficiently and effectively? Before hitting Send on that email. And never send an email when important situations could be better handled by a phone call or face-to-face communication.
4. Lead Innovative Change and Growth – Lead
Board leadership, as already mentioned, is not defined as micro-managing staff. In our Five Characteristics of a Good Board Member, we discuss how it is the role of the board to empower staff to experiment, innovate, and to fail forward. There is no innovation without trial-and-error. And without innovation (adaptation) over the long run, organizations die. Board members should praise—not penalize or criticize—staff for failures of thoughtful, board-guided, trial-and-error experiments in innovation.
5. Advocate and Partner with the Community and Support Organizations – Build Support and Advocacy
People often mistakenly believe that a rugged, individualistic, survival-of-the-fittest/kill-or-be-killed law operates in nature and in business. They are wrong. There is far more cooperation than competition in nature. As in nature, so in human society and especially in the nonprofit sector. To quote the old wisdom, build bridges, not barriers. Learn who your advocates are and make connections throughout the community to bring additional value to your organization as well as to potential partner entities and the clientele that you serve. Partner early and often.
This article is published by Yvonne Adkins of Adkins & Company, a Kentucky-based consulting group whose mission is to position charter schools for success by providing boards, operators and authorizers with access to high quality services and expertise.