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LEADERSHIP and THE BOARD: A Story for Board Members and Company Owners
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Minnesota Community Living May/June 2010

LEADERSHIP and THE BOARD: A Story for Board Members and Company Owners

By Steve Hoogenakker, Concierge Landscape Environments

There comes a point in time in every leader’s time when he or she is tired of spearheading every initiative and dragging and cajoling the other members to help.

At that point, they look to take their board or company to another level, either to create more energy, creativity or create more balance in their life, or possibly all of the above. When they find themselves in this situation, they must become a leader working "on” the business of managing a board instead of "in” it. The first rule of a great board leader is that the team can never be completely dependent upon any one individual.

One of the more common mistakes made is that the president of the board fails to let go of certain activities and therefore stunts the growth of the team as a whole.

The next important point to remember is that as a leader, part of their job is to build a team of decisionmakers. This can only be done by observing, directing and training them to be inter-dependent with each other. There are 3 stages of dependency;

  1. Dependent: Unable to make decisions or to sustain a high level of accomplishments without prodding or constant oversight. It takes at least one additional competent individual to monitor this person. Using fuzzy math this equation would look like (1+1)= 1.
  2. Independent: Able to successfully perform complete projects required by the board in their entirety without oversight. Independents will often take over the entire task even if it was handed out to a subcommittee of 4 people. Independents like to think of themselves as the highest order of individual as I used to believe. Independents don’t require someone to watch over them, but they don’t add people to the process either. Fuzzy math might be 1=1, or a really good independent might be able to perform the work of 3 people or 1=3.
  3. Inter-dependent: This individual can complete the project on their own but seek out ideas and input from others. They have good communication skills and are somewhat empathetic (not sympathetic).

When a project is given to an interdependent person, they PULL people into the project, creating synergy and energy. Because their very nature is to look at each issue as it affects all members, the fuzzy math might look like 1+4=30, with 1 being the interdependent person, 4 being the input and ideas brought in by other people, and 30 being the number of residents who are on board because the group nailed the mission and tapped into the energy of the association.

In the Garth Brooks song, "Standing Outside the Fire,” people want to be "cool” and "strong” and face the problems alone, but the real answer is to be strong, but just "weak” enough to let others in and help create the future.

We call them cool 
Those hearts that have no scars to show 
The ones that never do let go 
And risk it the tables being turned

We call them strong 
Those who can face this world alone 
Who seem to get by on their own 
Those who will never take the fall

We call them weak 
Who are unable to resist 
The slightest chance (that) might exist 
And for that forsake it all

They’re so hell bent on giving, walking a wire 
Convinced it’s not living if you stand outside the fire.

So what’s the plan? 
As a leader you are responsible for the focus of your board and the needs of all residents. The clearer the vision of the leader, the more people will follow. When building your team, as the chief, you must lead by example.

Each board must have a Visionary and a Manager. A single person should not hold these positions. In many cases, one person tries to fill both roles. This is the classic case of a workaholic. This is the type of person who puts in 60 or 70 hours a week and has no balance in their life. You must let go of this attitude if you wish to achieve success in building a strong team and surround yourself with supporters. Surround yourself with people whom you can trust and whom you know will get the job done. You must engage yourself with people who will follow your lead.

You are the quarterback of your team, and as such, you must have people around you (like Michael Oher in "The Blind Side”) who will protect you and block for you. Make sure that your association’s environment is enjoyable and satisfying. If this is not a satisfying, gratifying and enjoyable place, how can you expect your board to flourish?

With this in mind, make sure you avoid the temptation of micromanaging. While delegating is a critical part of your role as the Manager or Visionary, keeping too close an eye on your board makes them feel untrusted and hesitant. Let them know you expect them to make some mistakes, but that you trust them to excel at their work without you hounding them or watching their every move. You’ll be grateful for a board member who isn’t afraid to use his or her own initiative, and get some balance back in life while accomplishing more than ever before

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