On 15 October 2022, our mentees were joined by Kitson Lee and Haniff Mustafa from the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership(CNPL), for an engaging and enlightening session about serving on a non-profit board. A special thanks to Värde for generously hosting the session at their office boardroom.
Some important considerations discussed included –
1. Understanding one’s purpose and values when serving on boards.
Purpose refers to what one does and value refers to how one can achieve this purpose. When it comes to contribution to the board, it does not always refer to one’s job role as serving on a board is not necessarily a job.
2. Developing trust among the board.
When there is distrust among the board, a lot of uncertainties crop up. This does not allow for the job to be performed. As such, one should not have the confidence of speaking up. It is alright to state concerns wherever applicable and potentially abstain. However, if everyone in the board tends to abstain, it leads to a dysfunctional board.
3. Soft skills that are required when it comes to understanding board dynamics.
While it is easy to find those that exhibit competencies(skills, knowledge and experience), personal qualities are as important. To better understand one’s interpersonal skills and persona, engage with them during committee meetings and events or see how they frame questions at board level. In most cases, behaviour in the boardroom and at Executive level should be almost the same.
4.Having the confidence to speak up during board meetings, developing trust among the board.
How one can build inclusivity depends on the individual’s passion and interest of the board. If one realises that the board does not serve their purpose, then they should consider if they wish to carry on in that board or serve on another board that serves for them. For those who wish to carry on in the same board, they should look for allies and see who is on their camp(i.e having a similar voice as them) and build a critical mass in that front. One can also scan the horizon to see who the chairperson tends to listen to and to naturally look at the qualities of those who have similar qualities as yours. Through this, one can build confidence to speak up and contribute to building trust among the board.
5. Identifying the correct non-profit board that best aligns with their values and purpose.
One should not sit on boards just to make their CVs look good. Start by checking up the board’s values and purpose online and through contacts. Being a board member expects one to think in the way that allows for them to contribute and bring things to the table that they wish to do and not expect others to do. Similarly, one should know when to pull the plug – to take the decision to step down from certain commitments so that they can better learn the responsibilities for the other commitment(s) or board(s).