Ensure that your recruitment process is truly strategic

If you are determined to build a stronger board, it is time to get strategic about it. You probably can’t afford to take a chance that the recruitment process you are about to launch will only result in “more of the same.” You want board members who can bring the skills, abilities and experience that will be needed around your board table in the future. You want board members who can help the organization meet its strategic goals and its vision for the future.

In addition to shaping the “charge” for your nominating committee, as board chair you set the stage for a truly strategic recruitment process. Start by pulling out the strategic plan and reminding everyone involved what your strategic priorities are. If you don’t have a relevant and up-to-date plan in place, then take the time to engage the board and staff in a discussion about where the organization is heading and what kinds of issues you anticipate that you’ll be facing in the next 3-5 years. This is a great discussion to have with your board anyway, but it is essential before you start the recruitment process.

I always suggest that boards spend time answering this question as the first step: “Knowing what kinds of issues we are going to be facing in the coming years, what kinds of experience, skills and abilities are we going to need around the board table?” Capture the responses on a flip-chart, and be sure to keep the focus on experience, skills and abilities and not on naming specific individuals. Then, when the list is completed, ask the group to help identify the top 3 priorities for the year. A good discussion is sure to follow.

Believe it or not, by narrowing down the profile(s) of your potential board members and getting specific about the attributes you seek, you can actually make the recruitment process easier. The example I often use involves my mother-in-law and her good intentions. If my mother-in-law goes out to buy me a birthday gift, I am likely to get something nice, but it probably won’t be something that I would have selected for myself (a tie with cartoon characters on it, for example). I increase the odds of success dramatically if I say, “I would love a new dress shirt, and here is my size.” Of course, what she purchases will be less of a surprise, but shopping has become easier for her, and I’m more likely to get something that I’ll enjoy. The same is true when looking for board members (though avoid comparing them to shirts and ties!). Be specific about the skill-set you are seeking, and you’ll be much more likely to get it.

I have seen boards truly transformed by starting each year’s recruitment process with this approach. You’ll begin to see the benefit in year-one, but by year two and three you’ll see your board rising to a level that you may not have ever thought possible. As board chair, it is within your power to make this happen.

For additional information, please contact Jeff Wahlstrom at (207) 992-4407 or send him an e-mail message at [email protected].