Monday, September 4, 2017

Board Selection Quiz

Another association has invited me to speak at their Annual Leadership Conference on the subject of high-functioning association Boards.

A handful of these opportunities have come my way since I started blogging, and I frankly relish them. They are much more than a chance for me to showcase my expertise, they do a great deal to help me frame and process my thinking on the subjects I blog about. Pumping out a weekly 300-word blog post in one thing. Getting up and speaking in front of an audience is something else. It forces me like nothing else to get my ducks in a row.

I'm going to hit four subjects during my presentation: Board selection, Board discussions, Board decisions, and Board succession. Each one is going to begin with a one-question quiz, with which I hope to take the temperature of the participants in the room.

Here's the question I've drafted for Board selection.

Which statement most closely describes the process by which candidates are selected for your Board?
(a) Our Board candidates are selected based on their possession of competencies that are deemed valuable to effective Board service.
(b) Our Board candidates are selected based on the stakeholder groups within our organization that they represent.
(c) Our Board candidates are selected based both on their valuable competencies and the stakeholder groups they represent.
(d) Our Board candidates select themselves.

The "right" answer, of course, depends on the specifics of your own situation, but I plan to make the case that, for high-functioning Boards, the correct answer is either (a) or (c). Boards interested in increasing their effectiveness should be defining the competencies that are needed for their organization, and then building ways to screen for those competencies in their Board candidate selection process.

For my own association, the answer is (c). We select candidates based both on their valuable competencies and the stakeholder groups they represent. We, in fact, have a Governance Policy, which is reviewed and approved each year, and which includes, among other things, the competencies that we believe are valuable to effective Board service. Those competencies are listed on the interest form we ask all potential Board candidates to complete, and they are asked to check the ones that they possess and which they believe they can effectively leverage for the organization.

Our Nominating Committee then uses the competencies that are leaving the Board in each cycle as the screen for helping to identify the candidates that will be nominated. In doing so, we understand that not every Board member need possess every competency, but that, as a whole, the Board should always possess that mix of competencies that it has determined are essential for its effective functioning.

Following the presentation of this material, I plan to ask the participants to discuss some of these concepts at their tables. Which competencies are important for their own Boards to possess? How might their organizations begin the process for selecting Board candidates based on those competencies?

Knowing that every association faces a different situation, I fully expect the most practical learning to come out of these table discussions, and the brief report-outs that I will facilitate at their conclusion. I can set the stage and provide some examples, but if their experience is anything like mine, finding their own specific way forward is something only they can do.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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