I believe that this preparation for change requires associations to prioritize diversity and inclusion at all levels, including on your board of directors. My association has 28 chapters, some of which are doing great work on diversity and sharing that with other chapters and the board. When it comes to nurturing talent and looking out for new leaders to take on volunteer positions, the board can look for the rising stars at our chapter events or meetings of chapter leaders, keeping diversity of thought in mind.
You can have a board that is wholly curious and open to learning, but if the members are homogeneous they are likely to have the same blind spots. It’s important to have members on boards of different ages, cultural experiences and educational backgrounds.
In the mental health field, we talk about difficult dialogues. Prepare people for the challenging conversations that will arise when board members have opposing thoughts on a situation. If the demographic of the board is weighted in one direction, the minority voices may be stifled by the fear factor. It’s important to develop a dialogue framework that encourages people to be respectful, listen to contrasting ideas, and encourage new faces to speak up. People who have different perspectives on what the future holds are critical for an association. Dissent promotes diversity of thought and diversity of leadership.
In terms of board member experience, this group of directors can have disagreements then leave that dissent in the boardroom and share a meal after the meeting. This ultimately makes board members better at civic engagement, and better people.
I am optimistic about the passion and excitement that board members bring to an association. I’ve only been an executive director for six months, and meeting so many people excited about my organization inspires me more every day. I’m lucky that my association is interested in learning and promoting diversity issues, because I know it’s only making us stronger in the face of an unpredictable future.
Nabil spoke in the “Foresight is the Future of Governing” session during SURGE Optimism 2018, an interactive virtual conference hosted by AssociationSuccess.org on November 7th-9th. Click here to watch the sessions on demand.