“A positive attitude is essential. If you don’t think so wait until you encounter someone with a really bad one and then try to work together to achieve certain goals,” says Super Boards author, William R. Mott.
Many of us spend countless hours working with the boards that oversee our nonprofits. These trustees hold our nonprofit futures in their hands. Then why don’t we spend more time focusing on who are the best people to sit at the board table? Bill Mott answers this question and many others with a fresh perspective on what makes a board exceptional in his latest book.
Great board recruitment is much like interviewing for paid leadership positions
One of the Super Boards chapters I appreciated in particular was Mott’s recommended interactions for recruitment—steps that many nonprofits seem to bypass in lieu of a single meeting with one board member. Recruiting a board member is much like interviewing someone for a paid leadership position in your organization. If selected, this board prospect will have a say in fulfilling your mission and influencing your strategic initiatives. It makes sense to give board recruitment the same attention paid positions receive. A thorough board interview process should entail getting to know the candidate in different contexts and through the eyes of key people on your staff.
1) Invite the person to attend an event.
2) Seek the candidate’s assistance or input on a committee.
3) Invite the candidate to meet other board members, the CEO, and the development and marketing staff.
4) Offer a tour of the facilities.
All these efforts sound simple but ask yourself how many of your new board recruits have completed these four interactions before sidling up to your board table. When completed, these steps should avoid bringing in a board member that has no connection to the organization or one the organization does not know at all, both dangerous options.
While compatibility is essential to enlist successful board members, Mott addresses the importance of one quality that trumps the others: attitude. There is a quotation that says, “Attitude is like a price tag: it shows how valuable you are.” What price are we paying for bad attitudes on our boards? Conversely, how much (immeasurable) value do we gain by possessing great attitudes on our boards? In our CausePlanet interview, I asked Bill to elaborate on attitude and recruitment:
Mott: Perhaps the most important committee of any nonprofit board is the committee on trustees. This group is charged with recruiting, training, educating and evaluating the board. My experience is that a positive attitude trumps so many other traits. Someone who has a positive outlook is usually someone who will enjoy whatever he or she does–including serving on a governing board. When the committee on trustees is recruiting new board members, one of the character traits it should encourage is a positive attitude. Not someone who is necessarily just agreeable, but someone who recognizes the importance of being supportive and encouraging. This is the kind of leadership that inspires others to do their best by being their best.
Eighty-nine percent fail because of bad attitudes
If we return to the analogy that compares recruiting board members to hiring paid leadership positions, it’s not hard to find endorsements of Bill Mott’s emphasis on attitude. In fact, Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude, is the founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, a top-rated provider of cutting-edge research and leadership training that has consulted more than 100,000 leaders from virtually every industry and half the Fortune 500.
According to a Forbes article, 89 percent of the time new hires fail because of attitudinal reasons and only 11 percent of the time due to skill. The Forbes article reports, “The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.” Using our analogy, we can logically apply these statistics to board “hires” and how attitude affects performance.
Where do we find great attitudes?
Additionally, when Murphy was asked by Forbes where companies are finding new hires with the right attitudes, he said, “Companies are not getting high performers from the usual sources. They’re hiring in, what we call, the ‘Underground Job Market.’ According to our latest research (outlined in Hiring for Attitude), companies are finding their best people through employee referrals and networking. They have started to realize that the high performers they already have fit the attitude they want and that these are the people they should be asking to help find more people just like them.”
Murphy’s description of the “underground job market” is a welcome signal to ask your current board members who already exhibit great compatibility and attitude who they might recommend as a winning board candidate. When you land these referrals from your pool of top-shelf board members, remember to apply Mott’s four recommended interactions so you can put the “organizational fit” to the test.
Watch for future installments about Super Boards by Bill Mott when we’ll discuss how to overcome some of the most damaging behaviors exhibited by board members.
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