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Saturday, January 20, 2018

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Board Behavioral Difficulties
Robert C. Harris, CAE

February, 2007

During an orientation for new board members one director whispered to another leader, “Don’t worry, the nominating committee told me there’s really nothing to serving on the board.”

The other director replied, “And since the organization pays all our expenses these meetings will be like a vacation!”

Sound familiar?

Take a look at these classic examples of misdirected board behavior. You know you need improvement as a board member when:

1. The comments you make about the staff or volunteers are consistently negative and you offer no positive input.

2. Common meeting rules of order confuse you, you disrespect the meeting chair, and you use the agenda to make a paper airplane.

3. You make a derogatory remark about a subgroup of the association, or worse, about someone’s race, religion or gender.

4. You receive the board meeting agenda and packet and read it on the way to the meeting, or open it for the first time after the meeting is called to order.

5. You take no responsibility for the well-being of the organization as a whole. Your focus remains on your personal agenda, or on the district, chapter or subgroup that got you elected to the board.

6. You talk more than you listen.

7. A majority of the board has never supported a motion you made; they won’t even second your motions!

8. You have never left the meeting agreeing with the decisions --- rather you openly criticize decisions, directors, committees and staff.

9. You renew your membership last --- after the third billing notice and a call from staff reminding you that to serve on the board you must be a member in good standing.

10. You scheme about how you might start your own company to offer better member benefits rather than working to improve benefits and services for members.

Recognize these Board Traits?

Participants at a church seminar in New Brighton, MN identified characteristics of “difficult people” in the congregation, parish and synagogue.

• Highly critical but not constructive.
• Resistant to change for no clear reason.
• Eager to control and dominate every situation.
• Driven by personal agendas and going to any lengths to accomplish them.
• Adversarial; expressing conflicts as “us” vs. “them.”
• Seeing everyone except themselves as the cause of all problems.
• Taking ownership of too many aspects of the organization.
• Always needing attention.
• Clinging to past history. (“We’ve always done it that way.”)
• Coping poorly with change.
• Taking on too many responsibilities to the point of ineffectiveness.
• Gossiping or rumor mongering.
• Thriving on crisis.
• Not willing to discuss a complaint with the person involved but talking instead to everyone else about the problem.
• Possessing a poison pen: Writing scathing letters or e-mails or initiating spontaneous petition drives.

Robert C. Harris, CAE, conducts leadership orientation and strategic planning sessions. He uses current affairs, core knowledge, practical application and case studies for learning. or 850/570-6000. (


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