What if you were asked to join an advisory council? What would you want from that experience? What would make it a meaningful experience for you? What would be required in order for you to feel like it was a good use of your time?
Take a moment to ask and answer those questions yourself. Odds are that your expectations for service on an advisory council are not too different from those of your current or potential members:
Give us meaningful work – Volunteers don’t volunteer to fill time…they volunteer because they want to make a difference. You must give them work to do that has meaning.
Ask for our opinion and then listen – Don’t go through the motions. People know instantly when they aren’t being listened to and quickly figure out when their suggestions go nowhere. If one of the roles of the advisory council is to provide advice to the board of directors, make sure there is a feedback loop so the advisory council knows the board is listening.
Make sure the expectations are clear – Let us know what you want from us AND what you don’t want from us. We all work better when we are clear about the parameters.
Ensure that the meetings are well run – No one (and we mean no one) wants to be part of a group that can’t run meetings effectively. “Effectively” means that meaningful work gets done in the time allotted.
Good staff support is essential – As volunteers, we count on the staff to ensure we are well supported, the details get covered, and we have the assistance needed to succeed.
Place a priority on communication – We need to “be in the loop” when it comes to communication. Treat us as insiders and communicate with us that way too.
We want to know we are making a difference – Keep in mind the first item on this list. For work to be meaningful, we need to know we are having an impact. Continually let the volunteers know how they are making a difference (give them examples, not just praise).
As you create an advisory council (or nurture one that is already in place), what are you going to do in order to meet the expectations described above? Are you prepared to do what is necessary? Do you have the staff and other resources to meet the expectations of the members of your group? If not, rethink whether or not you are ready to establish an advisory council. The expectations will be high, and you need to be ready to meet them.
In the blog section of our Starboard website: www.starboardleadership.com, you will find more advice (from our own experience) and tips for meeting the expectations of your advisory council members. If, however, you would like to talk with a member of our consulting team, please contact us now.