As I assumed the role of the president of a non-profit group, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be that be in front of the board of directors that was to be created. Our chapter was in existence officially for 16 months and informally for the last 24. We had 11 members. Half of them were on our board. Our events had very low attendance. There was no enthusiasm, and it was evident. The previous year we’d only held one or two board meetings. As Vice-President at the time and certainly not in line to become the Presidency], I was not sure which direction the organization was going. I aimed the group’s attention with some of the steps below:
1. Establish a structure.
Everyone is more productive when they are aware of not only what they can anticipate but also what’s required of them. I spent a few days drafting the steps to get us where we were needed to be. The old saying “How do you feed the elephant?” definitely suited us. There were legal documents, by-laws, and policies and procedures; however, they were in dire need of revision. They were not able to be amended until they were scrutinized by the board of directors. The current board didn’t have these documents. I demanded the Board to assume the responsibility to update their section of the manual in line with the actual activities they were carrying out. We began sending board reports to each other prior to the meeting. At the board meeting, a quick overview of the reports sufficed. This enabled us to focus more time on business ideas and the future, which was in our control.
2. Link your vision to your goals.
The team as a whole will help make it a reality … Everyone should know not only the height of the hill but also what’s in store for them at the summit. It was not the right time to present my vision before the start of the year; it was more ambitious than what was previously suggested. It was during the summer picnic where I spoke about my vision for the company before the board. They could imagine it, feel it and understand it as the “greatness” of it.
3. Give the board more power.
The board members hold the post for a reason. Give them the ability to act in the way they think will be well for them, their group as well as the chapter. Our board meetings were devoted to brainstorming what we as a chapter could offer and getting the word out to prospective members. Members took the initiative to join all of our members and prospects on a website-based email system. All emails came from the chapter’s email address, not from the individual’s email address. They also continued to talk with prospective members, asking what they were looking for and convincing the prospect to join. PR made sure we were featured in local papers and publications and made sure that we were included in the announcements for meetings. The secretary/treasurer kept track of every innovative idea that was put to the test at the table. She ensured that we were informed of actions we had agreed to take on and made sure we had the funds to meet our objectives. The webmaster was empowered to modify the site as she deemed appropriate and in the best interest of our chapter and to inform other board members to be aware of what she was doing. Our programs were essential to our chapter’s success, but we made sure they were exclusively industry-related. Any request that I received from speakers wanting to speak in front of us was followed by the question, “What is your program going to have to have to do with your industry?” We combined tours with industry-related speakers using a classic fashion. We went to industry events throughout the region, proudly sporting our Chapter Polo shirts, because it was the first time we had an organization that we could be proud of.
4. Serve as a servant leader’
‘… ask what you can do to help them, provide them with ideas and praise them, inspire them, recognize when they’re overwhelmed, and ask them what you can do to help and do what you can to help them. There are times when they feel uncertain about what they’re doing, and giving them the encouragement and confidence they require, can do miracles. I collaborated with every board member to establish our foundation by taking one step at a building one layer at one time. With the energy that was unleashed, I advised members to stay in the present, as it was easy to wander out in various directions, thus not accomplishing anything.
5. Remember that Board members are a group.
Expect disagreements but be respectful and respect one another. Together, you can make magic happen! Together we were able to achieve great results!
At our happy hour party in July, we officially signed the 34th chapter member! We, the treasurer and myself, purchased a champagne bottle, and members after members toasted this amazing chapter. I was able to see tears in my eyes and was filled with joy at what the members of the board of this chapter had accomplished in just seven short months.
Shari Frisinger, director and president of CornerStone Strategies, L.L.C. She earned her master’s diploma in Aeronautical Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. She has years of experience in the field of training and facilitation classes and workshops on Leadership, Communication, Conflict Resolution, and Team Empowerment for corporations, organizations, and educational institutions. Shari is a popular Keynote Speaker who holds a certification as a trainer in Emotional Intelligence. She is also certified by Zig Ziglar and is a Dale Carnegie Instructor. She is an active participant in the National Speaker’s Association both at the National level as well as the Houston Chapter. She sits on the boards of numerous professional organizations.