By Thyonne Gordon, Ph.D.
CEO, Beyond Story
AABLI alumna, Class #3
Face it. Most of us join boards either to support a cause or to get paid! But many of you may not know which boards actually offer remuneration for board service. “Usually,” you may be thinking, “board service comes with an expectation for a contribution, doesn’t it?”
Well, slow your roll. When I say “get paid,” I’m not just speaking of money, though that’s not a bad reason to join and to be fully committed. Joining a board delivers a payment that can’t be monetized. We find it in entities such as the NBA, the NFL, sororities, fraternities, the Girl Scouts, the Boy Scouts and other clubs and organizations. The pay-off is being part of a team.
What’s so special about being on a team?
A team consists of a group of players forming on one side in a competitive game or sport. It’s also a verb in which people come together to achieve a common goal. Whichever way you define team, lots of synonyms sum up its significance. Think party, troupe, band and crew.
Now who doesn’t want to be part of a crew? It offers not only the “cool” factor, but the leverage that comes when more than one person is helping you achieve a goal.
Being on a board is like being on a team. In order to reach the team’s goal, there usually is heavy duty work to be done as one unit. When everyone works together toward this goal, the burden is a lot lighter-yet the reward is still huge. That’s what teamwork can do. But what does it take to be an effective part of a board team? Consider these three easy team-sustaining steps:
- Know Your Game and Stay in Your Lane: I’m not really a big basketball person but I do know a little about the game. For example, I know that if NBA champion point guard Steph Curry suddenly took up the shooting guard position, he would be stepping on Andre Iguodala’s toes-literally. Why? Because that’s Andre’s position and he knows his shooting guard game as well as Steph knows his point guard game. Sure, they could possibly trade off, but how would their team members know who should get the ball and when? And importantly, the two wouldn’t be mastering and succeeding at what they do best. There would be no consistency in play and the rest of the team would quickly lose its momentum.On a board as in life, everyone has strengths. Know what yours are and put them to use for your board. When asked to step into areas that really are not “in your lane,” opt to move into an area in which you can excel. Let your team know if you’re in over your head. This doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself to fulfill a new role; just understand what it takes to do what must be done in any role. As each board member plays his or her assigned role, your board will head toward winning solutions.
- Play Nice on the Field: The most effective teams work well together by playing nice. This means understanding each person’s role and that one role is as important as the next. The secretary’s position is just as important as the board chair. If you don’t think so, see what happens when notes aren’t properly recorded at your meetings. Be active on your board as a team player and remember to be respectful of all the players so that you “play well” together. You will find this makes for a very productive team.
- Acknowledge and Compliment Team Members: Your board team will become like family. That means it may be easy to take your board colleagues for granted over the course of a project. You may even feel that you are being taken for granted. That’s why it’s important for you to acknowledge and compliment your team members every chance you get. As you practice this simple “please” and “thank you” process, it will rub off on other team members, who will begin to practice it as well.
Who doesn’t want to feel appreciated at the end of the day? Most people want to be acknowledged for the work they do. Board teams are no exception. Use this skill to help your team bond.
Working on your board as a team player, or even introducing the idea of team play to the board, will help propel you and your colleagues to greater heights and much larger successes. Encourage team activities that include spending some fellowship time together, perhaps by encouraging “meet and greet” events. Work with your board to establish clear roles for each member, in addition to officer roles. Consider a board team mantra to which everyone can commit.
When you contribute as part of a team, the whole board moves in sync. Create the best team possible so that your board is the winner at the end of the game.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.