Here is a board member qualities exercise that I sometimes use when facilitating board retreats.
I put 10-15 images on the table. I ask each person to look through them and:
- Choose at least 2 images that show board qualities that are currently represented on your board.
- Choose at least 2 images that show board qualities you would like to see represented on your board.
For example: Take the picture in the top right that shows the blue ice with a van in the distance. One person might think about a current board member who can see beyond what is right in front of them (the ice) to look at the whole picture. Another person might look at that picture and say a quality you need is someone who knows when it is time to move on from what they are doing. A third person might look at the picture and see a board member who can keep serene in different situations. Same picture – very different perspectives and qualities.
Then, on a whiteboard, I collect the two lists of qualities.
Why do this board member qualities exercise?
There are a host of insights that might be gleaned but here are a few key takeaways that often come up:
- To appreciate what you already have
- Consider what qualities will help you with your next step.
- What people think the next step for the board should be
- Not everyone is a visual person and can connect with images
- That the very different perspectives that each person brings to the table are essential to the organization
When should you do this:
- To start a strategic planning session about what you think the future might look like
- As a starting place for board assessment and reviews
- To remind the group of the value of different perspectives
- As an ice breaker (ask for something besides board member responsibilities)
However, and whenever, you use this exercise, it can bring your group a greater awareness. It can be used if your nonprofit board is meeting over Zoom or you are reading this post-pandemic and you are able to sit in a room together. Just grab some images and get started. I promise you will be surprised by the results. In a good way.