Galvin and Associates

Problem: Board bounces back and forth between governing and managing



This is a common problem for governing boards. It is difficult for many individuals to stick with overseeing the organization and stay out of management.

Board members who are passionate about the organization want to help, and they often give advice regarding operational matters. Some board members are gifted at management, and they want to use their strengths on the board. When they hear about a problem in the organization, they want to drill down, get to root causes, and offer a fix. Other board members feel a need to “check in” with staff before a board meeting and investigate any complaints the staff may have. It often takes peer pressure from other board members to keep these people out of management issues.

Developing written policies and actively using them can help a governing board stick to governing. The board should also be able to clearly articulate what is board work and what is staff work. There is a fine line between monitoring and meddling. The general principle is for board members to “keep their nose in and their hands out.” Still, it is easy for many board members to jump into operational matters. Any board member should feel free to call a time out and ask if they are currently doing board work or staff work. The black box metaphor is useful for helping board members stick to a governing posture as well.

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