Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Traits Should a Board Member Possess?

We all sit around and talk about the trait selection within our breeding programs and what we are selecting for to meet our herd goals. This process can be applied to a breed association as well and board members who govern and lead it. The comments I make hear apply equally to sitting board members as well as potential board members, candidates. I am not writing to endorse any candidate, quite to the contrary. What I do want to discuss is what it takes to be an effective board member of a livestock breed association. First let me say being on any board is not for the tame at heart. The demands of the position are high in terms of time and energy. It is impossible to make decisions that all of the membership agree with and support. There will always be disagreements among board members as to what is best for the association; this is actually good for the organization as it provokes thought and debate. However it is none the less challenging.

Boards are a representative form of governance; individuals are elected to serve the membership. This is much like the form of government that governs our nation. Many people mistakenly believe that both our government and associations such as ours are democratic where by the members have a say in all matters, this is incorrect. In fact nothing would ever be accomplished if every issue was taken to a popular vote. This should not be taken to say that a once a person is elected they should forget to ask the membership who elected them for direction and input. Elected members must always remember to be aware of how the majority of the membership feels and what needs they have.

The first trait I want to discuss is duty of loyalty. Directors must exercise good judgment in the discharge of their duties in the operations of the association. They must discharge their actions in good faith and in the best interest of the association. What this means to me is that a director must wear the hat of the association rather than that of their own ranch. This is not easy and is sometimes quite challenging. In my experience some members can do this while others cannot. There are times when processes that may have worked well for a member’s individual ranch will not work in the best interest of the association. You must ask yourself is the person able to separate the best interest of the association from their own personal best interest.

What programs or business ventures does a potential member have that may compromise their ability to put the association first? After a member discloses conflicts will they remove themselves from votes or decisions they may benefit from? You must be able to believe that the person on the board represents the best interests of the association, your association, and not what benefits them personally.

What leadership and vision does a person possess? While many members may bring specific skills to the board from their life experience ask yourself what kind of a leadership skills they will bring to the association. What is the vision they hold for the association? Where do they see the association in 1 year, 3 years and 10 years? And more importantly what do they propose to do to make those things happen. It is easy to say we need to be more efficient or have better programs but bringing forth ideas to make those things happen is something totally different. And often more challenging is getting the board to agree to those ideas so they can become reality. Leadership is a skill that is seriously lacking in our society today. It is a skill that is important to rally fellow board members around a goal and get those board members to embrace it and move it forward. Equally important is the ability to get the general membership motivated to rally behind programs that are put forth so that there is support and buy in, without this nothing will be successful.

Will the person devote the time necessary to the position and will they have the courage the make tough decisions. There most certainly will be pressures to make decisions from friends, fellow board members and membership at large. Is the person strong enough to make the right decision under these conditions?

How does the director view the association and how does this align with your views? What programs do they support and how do they propose to make changes? Do you feel the director understands what it takes to lead the association forward; do they have the skills needed? Does a director have values similar to yours? Can they relate to you and your ranch? Do they understand your needs?

Important questions that are seldom asked: Which, if any, members owe the director money directly related to the industry and who does the director owe money to directly related to industry? Stated another way, are there any financial obligations between board members, or between board members and others in the industry, which might influence that board member’s actions? Will a Director steer clear of influence from outstanding financial obligations and declare conflicts of interest that may arise.

In closing take the time to formulate an opinion as to what you believe your association should be. Then take the time to ask the questions necessary to find what members fit the bill. Hopefully this thought process will help you to better understand your organization and help you to make decision for its future. If you do not devote the time to the process you may not like the results.


1 comment:

  1. The best indicator of future performance is past performance. Look at past performance when considering any candidate for any office-do they have a history of voting "present", an indicator of attendance, not an indicator of a position. Have they demonstrated an ability to subordinate a personal agenda from a vote for organizational good. Does the candidate have a history of benefiting from decisions they have supporte