How do you deal with an ineffective board member?

Most individuals choose to serve on a board because they want to contribute their expertise, collaborate with peers, give back to the community and affect change in a meaningful way. However, there are instances in which a board member is not effectively engaged, or is ineffective in his or her role. There may be a reasonable explanation.

When addressing the “why,” consider the following barriers:

  1. The board member is not clear on what is expected of him or her.
  2. The board member is not comfortable with an assignment given.
  3. The board member has served for too long. He or she has lost commitment or is “burnt out.”
  4. The board member is not in the right role. He or she really wants to be a direct service volunteer.

Whatever the case, you’ll want the board chair to resolve the problem right away. He or she should meet with the member to discuss what is causing reduced participation and seek an appropriate resolution. Clarifying expectations and providing training, orientation or coaching may help the member meet expectations. If the case is that the member is “burnt out,” allowing him or her to gracefully resign may be the appropriate solution.

To help mitigate the chance of a member becoming ineffective, develop expectations in writing. Provide them to each potential board member before they accept the position. Once on board, orient individuals to ensure your organization’s mission, goals and objectives are clearly understood. Along the way, keep your board updated on your good work and get members involved where appropriate. Consider starting formal committees to put boundaries on responsibilities and tasks. And don’t forget to conduct annual board evaluations to determine what’s working and what isn’t.

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