Ever feel like working with your board is a little bit like pulling teeth? If so, you’re certainly not alone! Many organizations struggle with working productively with their board. 

So what’s the solution? Well, there may not be a “quick fix,” but there are a few tactics that, over time, could have a major impact on not only how, but how well you work with your board. Take a look!

1. Create a board guide to set expectations

To set both you and your board members up for success (and minimize tension and frustrations between the two), start by creating a guide that clearly outlines the role of the board as an entity, as well as individual expectations. You’ll want to include why the board exists, what board members’ individual responsibilities are, details regarding governance, key staff roles and expectations, etc.

Not only does this help board members know what they’re getting into, but it gives you and your staff members something to reference should a board member start to overstep their boundaries.

2. Think of board members as resources, as a true part of the team

Too often, association and chamber professionals view the board as some obstacle they have to overcome. But rather than adopting and maintaining that mindset, think of your board members as additional resources. Get to know them! What’s their background? What experience do they have that could help you and/or your organization? Have they ever worked for an association or chamber before?

Everyone brings something to the table. Figure out what that is for each of your board members and leverage those strengths!

3. Prepare for board meetings (Remember, YOU are the expert)

While some people like surprises, board members in meetings typically do not. To make your meetings go as smoothly as possible, create a short agenda with key discussion points and distribute that agenda to all involved parties (both staff and board members) prior to the actual meeting. Request that all questions and/or objections be brought to the table before the meeting so that discussions during the meeting can be more productive. And one more tip: If possible, limit your strategic topics to three or less, per board meeting. This will help keep people focused and ensure more decisions are actually made (rather than just discussed).

4. Start with your “why” in meetings

Board meetings (and members) are notorious for getting caught up in the nitty-gritty; the details that, really, should be left up to staff. To set the tone for your meeting (and minimize unnecessary back and forth), start each meeting with your organization’s “why.” Your why is your mission; it’s why you do what you do, and often, it’s fueled by passion.

For example, at MemberClicks, our why is to empower member-based organizations to thrive through refreshing technology and a heart for service. That’s why we really come to work every day.

If you can identify your organization’s why and remind people of that at the beginning of each board meeting, you’re much more likely to start off (and stay) on the same page and better see eye-to-eye.

Managing a difficult board is just that: difficult! There are a number of things that lead to disagreement. That said, if technology is one of those painful discussion points, allow us to help! Check out our free guide below for getting your board on board with a new technology system (mainly, a membership management system)!

Note: This post was originally published on 10/31/18, but updated on 6/22/20 for added value.