The Role of a Board of Directors in a Successful Organization

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Whether you’re starting a new organization or managing one that’s long been established, the success or failure of every goal depends entirely upon the strength (or weakness) of your organization’s Board of Directors. As the foundation on which the house stands, the Board of Directors sets every standard and ensures the fortitude of the organization so it may endure any challenge it encounters. Without direction and definition, the house would crumble.

It’s also critical that a Board of Directors functions as a cohesive unit. While parts of a foundation can crack and at times may need to replacement, the integrity of the base as a whole is designed to weather any storm. Just as one proverbial brick can be removed without disrupting the entire edifice, the specific names and faces of the Board can change without causing the whole organization to come crumbling down.

But what does this look like in real life? Rome certainly wasn’t built in a day (I can’t help myself when it comes to cliches) and there are many instances where a Board isn’t able to support the weight of an organization’s challenges. Further, the success or failure of a Board of Directors (and by extension, the organization it directs) cannot be attributed to one singular characteristic. The triumph of an organization is instead gained by a set of values to which each Board member (and the Board as a whole) adheres.

The Function of a Board of Directors as a Unit

Regardless of industry, the function of a Board of Directors in any organization has essentially the same skeleton. This set of responsibilities creates a system of checks and balances among the Board, volunteer staff, and members so each party may flourish in its designated duties.

By knowing specific KPIs for which it’s responsible, Board members can shift their energy away from the smaller minutiae of an organization’s components and focus it towards its broader goals.

In maintaining the efficacy of an organization, the Board:

  • Sets the mission of the organization
  • Selects, supports, and evaluates the CEO
  • Ensures effective planning and monitoring
  • Protects assets and provides financial oversight
  • Builds a strategic, competent board (present and future)
  • Ensures organizational integrity
  • Evangelizes the organization

Of course, not all of these responsibilities are quantifiable, but having defined responsibilities makes it easier to evaluate the Board’s relative strengths and weaknesses.

The Function of Individual Board Members

Within the Board of Directors itself, each member should have a clearly outlined idea of expectations and responsibilities for the job. Sometimes it’s helpful to have Board members take an oath upon their transition into their new role or acknowledge a formal, written code of conduct or outline of expectations.

Although the people who would naturally rise to this type of leadership position would ideally have an inherent regard for the ideals of your organization, a specific outline of the standards to which Board members will be held accountable will help mitigate any grey area when it comes to evaluating specific actions.

In upholding the responsibilities of the Board, each Board member:

  • Stays informed on organizational priorities and programs
  • Reviews agenda and materials prior to meetings
  • Acts as a vocal supporter for the organization
  • Recruits leaders for board and other key positions
  • Understands external environmental influencers
  • Ensures organizational integrity
  • Evangelizes the organization
  • Treats fellow board members with respect
  • Treats staff with respect
  • Executes on fiduciary responsibilities of the organization
  • Outwardly supports board direction and decisions

While this list of expectations can (and should) be adapted to fit your organization’s unique needs, there are thematic elements that will inevitably transcend your industry, size, and goals. With an evergreen list of responsibilities that will be expected of each board member, managing expectations becomes a much simpler process.

In conclusion…

Creating a new organization can seem intimidating. Fighting for relevance as an organization that’s been around for a long time can, too. Having a Board of Directors that’s tasked with the responsibility of ensuring your organization’s perseverance makes either challenge a lot easier to tackle.

What challenges have you encountered with your organization’s Board of Directors? What helped you overcome those obstacles? Leave a comment and let us know!

Kaiti Norton

Kaiti Norton

Kaiti is the Social Media Associate and Blog Editor at Innovatis Group. Her primary goal is to curate content and create a cohesive online brand for Innovatis and many of its clients. (Fun fact: she has 2 twin Siamese cats and has an extensive eyewear collection!)