Preparing for Life on a Board

December 11, 2018
Written by David Grad, Learning and Organizational Development Specialist at CPHR
Meetings are an interesting workplace phenomenon. An employee-favourite target for criticism in business books, pop culture, and water cooler talk – meetings are a necessary mechanism for decision making and forum for discussion. If meetings that drag on and have no identifiable purpose are universally disliked…why do we constantly find ourselves with front row seats to a show we wish would hurry up and end?

Day 4 of Leadership Winnipeg focused on governance, good meetings, and group dynamics. Valuable content to help us understand how good leadership can impact a meeting and prepare us for our potential board opportunities through Volunteer Manitoba’s Board Connect Program. Believe it or not, I am looking forward to the chance to find an opportunity to support an organization through a board role.

Our opening speaker, Her Honourable Janice Filmon, was open and honest about her dislike for meetings that fail to make good use of participant’s time and skills. Her Honour laid out her idea of what makes for a solid meeting: Start on time, be inclusive, respect time, have an agenda, and get to know people around you. That last point might sound out of place at first glance, get to know people. Her emphasis on relationships may sound unnecessary, however Janice highlights the importance of strong relationships to managing conflict in meetings. Janice makes a great point – In the Promise of Mediation, Bush and Folger describe conflict as crisis in human interaction. One of the best ways to proactively prevent unproductive conflict and support people through disagreement is establishing positive relationships. Getting to know the people you work with or serve on a board with can also help build empathy, reduce cognitive biases, and foster a sense of psychological safety. I appreciated Her Honour’s perspective and emphasis on the importance of building relationships and getting to know people– I believe this is central to good leadership.

The second half of our morning focused on governance training, facilitated by Jackie Hunt from Volunteer Manitoba. From the outset, it doesn’t sound like the sexiest training topic, though if you give governance training a chance I think you’ll find it an interesting dive into the responsibilities of boards and board members. One part of the training that stood out for me was when Jackie asked us what the biggest risks for bad board leadership is for a non-profit. Everyone in the room (including myself) focused on finances and goals. We all overlooked people: the employees and benefactors of services provided by a non-profit. If a non-profit board does not provide good leadership, they put all those people at risk. Additionally, a non-profit’s goodwill was highlighted. I think the mindset of goodwill is underemphasized in the workplace and is something we as leaders can take away from non-profit organizations. What we discussed good will means to non-profits, is the enthusiasm and energy directed towards helping others without the expectation of receiving direct benefit. Simply put – your willingness to help someone without any expectations. Help because it improves the lives of others and not the reward, that is a core tenant of leadership for me.

My short summary of day 4: How do we ensure good meetings? Structure, purpose, get to know people, build good relationships, be helpful – and know your role and responsibilities.

David Grad
Learning and Organizational Development Specialist

Leadership Winnipeg
Shaping tomorrow’s leaders today

For over a decade, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and Volunteer Manitoba have partnered together to offer Leadership Winnipeg, a 10-session leadership program (plus class project), which runs from September through June. The program provides experiences that inspire and help individuals to develop an understanding of themselves, their community and their role within it. ​