Expectations of Board Members – Be Clear When Recruiting

At some point in every board recruitment conversation the prospective board member will look to you to outline the expectations of board members. Rather than waffle or downplay the commitment (“it really doesn’t take much time”), be prepared to walk through those expectations with him or her, demonstrating as you do so that your board is clear on their shared expectations for board service.

Ideally, you should be able to present your prospective board member with a list of expectations, or at least describe them from your notes. While it is possible that someone at some point may have developed a “board member job description” for your organization, rather than review expectations from the past, consider engaging your current board in articulating what you expect of new board members and each other today.

Here’s a simple exercise you can do with your board at your next meeting:

  • With a flip-chart in front of the room, pose the scenario: “If I were to leave this meeting and have a recruitment conversation with a really great board candidate, how would you want me to respond if she asked, ‘What will you expect of me as a board member?’”
  • Lead them through a discussion about meeting attendance, committee service, giving, length of terms, and so on. Don’t stop until you’ve covered all the bases. You are likely to be surprised by the diversity of responses you get and the differing perceptions that board members may have about the expectations of board service, so make sure you have agreement before you move on to the next item.
  • After the meeting, write-up the notes, edit as needed, and then use a portion of the next board meeting to discuss and review the list (adding to it as needed) until you have a document you are ready to share with board prospects.

This is a healthy activity to do with your board on an annual basis. The “excuse” for having this discussion is recruitment, but one of the real benefits is that board members have an opportunity to articulate what they expect of each other.

Savvy board recruits—those kinds of people who are sought after to serve on boards—will expect you to have your act together and be able to answer not the only the “Why me?” question, but also the “What will you expect of me?” question. Do your homework beforehand and your chances of successful recruitment will increase dramatically.

Our Starboard website contains lots of additional advice about board recruitment and governance topics: www.starboardleadership.com. If you would like to talk to one of our consultants about your board governance issues or questions, use the contact form to get in touch. We stand ready to help you.