Kurt Foreman and I will be presenting a “webinar” for the International Economic Development Council on June 16: Building High-Impact Board-CEO Partnerships in Challenging Times.” Kurt is the president & CEO of the North Louisiana Economic Partnership, and we’ll be featuring the work of NLEP’s Governance Task Force. The task force spent four months, with my consulting assistance, coming up with a number of recommendations for strengthening the NLEP Board’s governing capacity, including adopting a “Board Governing Mission” that lays out the major governing responsibilities and functions of the Board and putting in place a structure of standing committees to help the Board do its detailed governing work.
As Kurt and I put the PowerPoint slide presentation together this week in preparation for the webinar, we talked about the factors that accounted for the Governance Task Force’s success as a change agent. Without question, it was a highly effective vehicle for change, since the new committee structure is up and running, among other things. So why did the Task Force prove to be such a powerful tool for getting significant change accomplished?
Kurt and I have talked about a number of reasons why the Task Force effort had turned out so well, such as really strong co-chairs, a diverse composition, and consulting assistance. But what topped the list with no close second was the highly visible ownership of Task Force members. By ownership, Kurt and I mean that all 10 members of the Task Force felt that the recommendations really belonged to them, and this was communicated clearly to their peers on the NLEP Planning Council, which unanimously adopted all of the recommendations. This is the polar opposite of the traditional approach of hiring a consultant to come up with a report and merely present it to the decision makers.
Where did these feeling of ownership come from? First, Kurt and I are convinced that involving the Governance Task Force from the very get-go in shaping the recommendations in its report ensured that Task Force members owned recommendations. Yes, there was consulting assistance, but the Task Force was always in the driver’s seat, directing the consultant and thoroughly reviewing his work. Second, Kurt and I agree that making sure members of the Task Force presented their recommendations to the Planning Council themselves – peers presenting to peers – not only cemented their ownership, but also strongly signaled it to Council members. We actually held a “dress rehearsal” so Task Force presenters would feel comfortable with the PowerPoint slides they were presenting, and we made sure that the consultant played a back-up role and wasn’t ever on center stage during the presentation.
Kurt and I would be very interested in hearing how other public and nonprofit organizations have fostered feelings of ownership among their volunteer leaders to get significant change accomplished.
You can register for the IEDC webinar, by the way, at: http://www.iedconline.org/calendar_event.php?calendar_event_id=1269.