By Dr. Thyonne Gordon
CEO, Beyond Story
AABLI alumna, Class #3
How do you determine when to step into a board leadership role?
Leadership begins when you accept a seat on the board. Period. Once you do, you should understand the responsibilities that come with the seat. As a board member, you should investigate every corner of your organization’s mission and structure. Familiarize yourself not only with the duties of a general board member, but with the duties of each officer or committee person.
The organization you joined should have a board job description and/or a list of immediate and long term objectives. If this description doesn’t exist, you’ve actually found one of the first areas where you can be of service: you can create one. Such a service would be invaluable to the organization.
Many board members, however, are ready to step into an even more advanced leadership role: an officer position.Whether the position is chair or sergeant-at-arms, a role of advanced leadership requires one to understand the duties of the position and how it serves the specific organization.
There is a way to guarantee that board members are properly equipped to take on the reins of higher leadership. It’s called succession planning.
In a succession-equipped board, members are groomed for leadership roles. This thoughtful process identifies and prepares the next generation of leaders through training, mentoring and ‘stretch’ assignments.
A good succession planning program will pull together the skills and goals of each person on the board, comparing them with the needs of current and future organizational roles. Because social profit boards are volunteer based, it’s important to be clear about the duties each role entails. To create an effective transition through succession planning, consider these 10 tips:
- Define & Design: Clearly lay out advanced leadership positions in a job description. Provide each board member with specific models for each job, including behavior, attitude, skills, knowledge and experience.
- Map the Gap: Assess each board leader’s skills and keep an eye out for those ready to take on advanced leadership positions. Determine the time frame of leadership roles and when members may be able to lead. Approach board members about taking positions that might lead to the chair’s seat.
- Decide and Direct: Be clear with board members about the position(s) you are considering for them. Get their buy-in. Direct them to information on what the positions require. Then take a breath, smile broadly and invite them to take on the exciting challenge of an important leadership role.
- Identify and Comply: Consider problems or challenges that might occur in the board cycle, including board turnover, how members relate with each other and the staff, time required for advanced board leadership roles and the capacity of the organization to facilitate the duties with the board. Once you’ve identified areas that need attention, get everyone in compliance and committed to the work.
- Confirm & Return: When assessments are complete and you’ve identified advanced leaders, the board should come together and discuss the positions and the process of succession. Is there a step by step way to move from one position to the next? Should there be a vote and then mentorship into position? Confirm each step of the process and return to it often to stay on track. Write down the succession plan. The resulting document will be key to your board’s long-term efficiency.
- Manage and Maintain: Once you have a succession planning document and process in place, you can identify your next generation of leaders and use talent development tools, mentoring and stretch goals to close any gaps in your current structure. Board members should be okay with setting their own development goals and tracking their progress as board leaders along the way.
Review your plan annually or whenever there is a major change in leadership or strategy, realizing that organizations with succession plans fare better in the social profit and for-profit worlds. The reason is simple. It is because they are planning to succeed.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.