Hugh Ballou and Jeff Magee



Here are two viewpoints on a topic that impacts the overall effectiveness of leaders in a social benefit culture. This isn’t a debate – it’s a dialogue from the perspectives of two experienced leaders. The goal is to provide different perspectives to stimulate creative thinking and bring leaders into a new paradigm of functioning, not to provide final answers.

The magic of the mix of talent and subject matter expert responsibilities of your board will rule your effectiveness, stability, and growth, or slow decay!

Musical Conductor, Leadership Coach

Hugh Ballou is a Transformational Leadership Strategist, President of SynerVision International, Inc., and was a musical conductor for 40 years. Hugh has written numerous books on Transformational Leadership and works with leaders of religious organizations, business and nonprofit communities as an executive coach, process facilitator, trainer, and motivational speaker, teaching leaders the fine-tuned skills employed every day by orchestral conductors.

Executive Coach, Human Capital Developer

Jeffrey Magee (Ph.D., PDM, CSP, CMC) is the “Thought Leader’s Leader.” He is a columnist, the publisher of Professional Performance 360 Magazine, editor of Performance Execution and Performance Driven Selling blogs, a former nationally-syndicated radio talk show host, published author, and recipient of the USJC TOYA award. A motivational leadership speaker, he is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world.

Rule I: What Essential Mix of Talent Should a Board Have?

Hugh Ballou
The competencies on the board of directors should follow those defined by the organization’s strategic plan. The strategy defines the long-term strategic objectives, as well as the pathway to achieve those objectives over the months and years moving forward.

A critical part of any strategic plan is the list of competencies needed to achieve the desired goals and objectives. We need competent leaders in the organization that fit the culture norms defined in the strategy. Diversity, measured in many dimensions, is essential: race, gender, generation, background, etc.

Having a mix of skills and perspectives provides for more creative planning and implementation. Having different perspectives, along with different skills, creates a balance of input to support the nonprofit executive in their work.

Think about the C-suite of a large, thriving, successful and profitable organization. As a nonprofit, you should mirror that same structure. For example, before you even evaluate the personalities of your present board or look to recruit your next board member, build out all of the board spots to align with all of the present and future operating business units to your nonprofit organization.

As the CEO, one of your board members should be, or should have been, a CEO in a like organization to be able to provide you with great counsel. You should have a CFO/CPA-type on your board to counsel you and the organizational leaders, and be the accountability conduit to your organization’s CFO/Treasurer/Bookkeeper.

You want to architecturally build out your board accordingly, with one board C-suite occupant for each organization C-suite player. Now you will have integrity, efficacy, and accountability check points in place from your board to the operational leaders within your organization.

Rule II: How Do You Know You Have the Right Talent Mix on Your Board?

Taking the competencies defined in the strategy, develop a definition of role and responsibility for each board member along with performance expectations. Each board member should have a working position in their defined skills set with defined performance expectations.

The leader cultivates a culture in which work happens between meetings, with reporting at the meetings. With clear deliverables for each project led by a board member, there will be opportunities for the board members to collaborate from their different teams and projects to make the work more effective and efficient for everyone.

Combining talents is also a way to maximize outcomes. If there’s a mismatch with board assignments, there should be the opportunity for the board members to switch roles and responsibilities to be in a better place that’s a right fit for their skill. From time to time, the board should conduct a self-evaluation to review its performance, looking at several areas: skills, systems, engagement, and contributions, and then develop a plan of action for improvement in each area.

Start with your internal board of directors: Do you have a specific real-time job description or position responsibilities statement for each position? Or do you just have a mix of people with no real defined roles?

You can get templates for board position statements from your trade associations or professional trade groups like Association for Talent Development, Society for Human Resource Management, VISTAGE, and ExecRanks, the leading boarding certification and search organization in America today.

Use these resource-leading organizations to create very specific task, credentials, and pedigree expectations for anyone serving on your board now or for candidates to possess in the future. Your board members should be rock-stars and serve as a calibrator for greatness to your daily staffers, managers and executives. The mix on your board should equal the core operating entities within your organization. If you have true subject matter expert leaders on your board so that you can draw a line from them to core leadership positions, you win.

Rule III: Is Your Board Only as Good as Your Last Board Development?

If the leader of the organization is consistently working on their own personal improvement, then they will influence others in the organization to do likewise. It’s also important to develop guiding principles around what’s commonly called capacity building for the board, which is leadership development for individuals and for the board as an entity.

Leaders are learners, and great board members are students. This means that your board should be hungry for board development opportunities, they must be engaged, they must listen and advise, and give great counsel to you and your senior team, not just be head-nodding validators to everything you do and say.

This article is reprinted from Issue #10 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

Join Hugh Ballou and Russell Dennis and their guests on our weekly Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange at 2 pm Eastern time.
If you already have a nonprofit or are thinking of starting one, this will be very helpful. Put it on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!
The Nonprofit Exchange on Tuesdays at 2 pm ET has been quite beneficial for many participants and we have enjoyed sharing thoughts and tips for moving past the stuck places we all find in leading an organization to achieving its mission.
Learn more and access archives HERE.
As the famous British Composer and Conductor Ralph Vaughan Williams once said, “Music does not reveal all of its secrets to just one person.” If you replace the word “Music” with the word “Leadership” or “Team” or “Strategy” etc., then we all give and receive value from others. That’s the spirit of the Tuesday afternoon Nonprofit Exchange encounters, sponsored by SynerVision Leadership Foundation’sCommunity for Community Builders.”

You can join the conversation on Zoom or watch on Facebook Live Video. It’s your choice. You can comment on Facebook and on the Zoom chat box on any device.

Put this on your calendar NOW! It’s a session that you don’t want to miss! Discover what’s blocking your success!

We’ll “see” YOU on the call. Here’s to your greater success!

Leave A Comment