saw a few raised eyebrows a couple of weeks ago when I said that “Psychologist-In-Chief”
is one of the most important “hats” that a nonprofit CEO wears when dealing
with the governing board. I was
conducting a workshop for nonprofit executives at Virginia Intermont College in
Bristol, Virginia, and we’d come to the place in the agenda titled “The
Board-Savvy CEO.” Experience has taught
me to expect quizzical looks when I start talking about the emotional and
psychological dimension of a CEO’s working relationship with the board, but
I’ve learned that it doesn’t take long to reach that Aha! moment when everyone
really gets it, and then discussion is sure to be lively.
what happened at the Intermont workshop.
Early in the discussion I asked the nonprofit CEOs sitting around the
room what they paid their board members:
$50,000/year? No? What about $40,000? No?
Well, what about a mere $20,000?
No? Well what? By then, everyone was laughing. I knew what the answer was, but the point I
wanted to make was that people who volunteer their precious and all-too-limited
time to governing a nonprofit must be compensated in some way if you don’t want
their commitment to wane. And if you’re
not going to pay them a salary, then how can you compensate them?
is the question that a really board-savvy CEO takes seriously. The short answer: EMOTIONAL SATISFACTION. At the Intermont College workshop, it didn’t
take us long to come up with a list of
concrete things the participating CEOs were either doing or might do to
provide their board members with the emotional satisfaction that would fuel
their commitment. For example, at the
more complex end of the spectrum, there’s ensuring that board members are
meaningfully engaged in making the really high-stakes strategic decisions –
such as our long-range target for revenue growth and diversification – via a
well-designed strategic decision making process. And there are lots of things you can do at
the simpler end of the spectrum, such as providing board members with
recognition in your organization’s publication and booking board members to
speak on behalf of your nonprofit in forums like the Rotary luncheon.
question for you: Are you devoting
enough attention to keeping your board members emotionally satisfied, wearing
your Psychologist-In-Chief hat? What
specific things are you doing on this front, and what new things might you
try? I’d like to hear from you