Monday, October 19, 2015

A Board That Governs Itself

A few days ago we wrapped up one of our Board's three in-person meetings each year. It was a great event, with a lot of discussion about our industry's and our association's future, and a lot of decisions about how we should be directing our resources to bring about the vision we have described for both.

I know I have peers who dread going to their Board meetings and who inwardly grimace when confronted with the level of dysfunction and micromanagement that occurs there. Thankfully, my situation is not like theirs. My Board has been working for a number of years now on elevating their own performance--on taking more responsibility for governing the association and giving me more responsibility for managing it.

Board meetings, under these circumstances, are not episodes to be dreaded, but rather events to be anticipated. Events where progress will be made, where success will be recognized, and where areas of challenge will be proactively addressed.

That's been my experience, and I'm starting to get used to it. But even now, there are times when my own Board surprises me, when their understanding of their role as governors and my role as manager surpasses even mine.

At our most recent meeting there was an issue on the table--and issue that many, even high-performing Boards wrestle with--and issue that they had discussed previously and which had historically been viewed as a clear purview of the Board.

And as the issue was discussed, two particular Board members--one of our most tenured and one of our newest--began to express a different opinion. The issue, they argued, was not an issue of governance, but an issue of management, and therefore had no place at the Board table. We're holding our CEO responsible for performance, they argued, and this issue is a tool that he should have in his toolbox. He can choose to use it or not to use it, but we should not be tying his hands one way or the other.

And, in as little as thirty seconds, the rest of the Board had agreed, and we were on to the next issue.

It surprised even me, that my Board, who have been embracing governance as their watch word for several years, would be so scrupulous about it. They did, in essence, what all high-performing Boards need to do. They governed themselves. They held themselves to the standard that they had set for themselves.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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