Content Index: Click on a topic title to jump to that section:

 

This section covers a wide variety of topics including leadership definitions, building leadership capacity, recruiting and mentoring new members, conflict management, personality traits, generational issues, and suggested methods to avoid Stagnation. While there are many additional topics, these issues are likely the main factors that might influence the leadership capacity of a board, and the effectiveness of board’s processes and outcomes.

What is Leadership?

by Abbie Phillip

Leadership is a fundamental component of a functioning board. Leaders facilitate the work and well-being of a group by contributing vision, resources, skills, and knowledge.

There are many definitions and philosophies on leadership. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines leadership as the office or position of a leader or the quality of a leader, having the capacity to lead. The role of a leader can be described like a coach, an orchestral conductor, or a film director, who must get others to work together as a team (Cronin, 2000). John Quincy Adams, our 6th US President (1825 – 1829) noted, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

Leadership development in the 21st Century is commonly centered in groups or organizations, rather than individuals, in order to engage the heart, mind, spirit, and energy of a group. According to Vandenberg and Sandmann (1995), “The driving forces of this philosophy, then, are community, the heart of a group’s leadership; vision, which engages the spirit; learning, which stimulates the mind; and action, which compels energy.”
The old model of one leader and many followers in a hierarchy has evolved into a new model that gives equal importance to leadership development and the mission of the group, thereby empowering each member to contribute and collectively work on complex community problems. As Senge (1990) notes, “Implicit in leadership development programs of the past is the idea that leadership rests in individuals, who must be capable of inspiring and influencing others to solve problems and achieve goals, referred to as the “heroic” view of leadership.”

Alternately, the modern, “post-heroic” view of leadership is based on “bottom-up,” transformational leadership fueled by shared power and community-building (Huey, 1994).

Building Leadership Capacity

Leadership is not an ability bestowed upon a limited number of talented people; rather, leadership roles can be fulfilled by anyone with the resolve to lead and commitment to the process of building leadership skills, understanding issues, team building, problem solving, action planning, implementing solutions, and evaluating outcomes.

Building the skills needed for leadership will enhance the capacity of any individual to effectively perform the role of a board member or committee chair. Leadership skills and qualities can be learned through observing and mentoring with other leaders, having opportunities to work with groups, and participating in leadership classes. Clearly understanding the roles, qualities, and skills that are needed for effective leadership is the first step to building leadership capacity.

Common qualities of outstanding leaders include: visionary, trustworthy, committed, courageous, self-starter, solution-oriented, team builder, caring, considerate, and creative. Other valuable leadership qualities include: knowledgeable, inclusive, accountable, helpful, charismatic, friendly, humorous, flexible, hardworking, and resilient.

The American military leader Perry Smith (2002) writes about valuable leadership skills, such as running effective meetings, organizational development, problem solving, and communication. Other leadership skills include cooperation, building key partnerships, conflict management, strategic action planning, decision making, various leadership styles, asset mapping, group facilitation, and board governance.

Understanding the Stages of Group Development

A conceptual model of the stages of group development is a powerful way to understand how people build teams and work together to achieve their goals. Bruce Tuckman (1965) originally developed a four-stage model to describe group development: 1. forming, 2. storming, 3. norming, and 4. performing. In 1997, Tuckman’s original model expanded to include a fifth stage, called adjourning (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977). Over time, this model has been debated and adapted to describe group development as a cyclical process, in which the group undergoes a transformation, returning to early stages like forming, storming, and norming when they accomplish and set new goals (Smith, 2005).

The group development model serves as a reflection and evaluation tool that will foster discussion about the team building experience and the progress of a group toward accomplishing their goals. A group will not necessarily progress through the stages in a linear fashion. It is common for leaders to use different skills and leadership styles to help a group overcome barriers and reach their full potential.

Forming

The first stage of group development is called “forming” or gathering. Group members are getting acquainted, beginning to function as team, understanding their purpose, and setting goals. It brings forth questions, excitement and anxiety from group members. During this stage of team building, the leader needs to be more of a director.

Storming

The second stage is known as “storming” or griping. Individual members will deal with conflict and frustration that stems from not knowing whether the group can resolve differences of opinion and achieve their goals. New members may decide to drop out of the group. Goals may be broken into smaller, more achievable steps, and the roles of individual members may become more defined. The leader needs to coach and assist the team as they find their direction through consensus.

Norming

The third stage is known as “norming” or grouping. The team will become more playful, cohesive, and collaborative. Among the membership is a sincere commitment to the group, to share ideas, to value individual input, to resolve conflict, and to achieve their goals. This can be an appropriate time to evaluate the team processes and measure productivity. The leader is actively supporting and mentoring the membership to facilitate greater group performance.

Performing

The fourth stage is known as “performing” when the team makes significant progress toward their goals. Teamwork and new synergy develop as leadership roles and responsibilities become more fluid. Confidence is high as the group continues to invest in teambuilding, sharpening their skills, and improving their processes for greater achievement. There is a high level of comfort within the group, and members may spend more time socializing. The team leader needs to delegate tasks to promote the shared performance of the team.

Transforming or Adjourning

A fifth stage of group development is “adjourning or transforming.” A group who has achieved their goals may decide to disband or adjourn. A group who was not successful in achieving their goals may be disappointed and need a change of direction. Sometimes the group re-energizes and decides to take on a new mission and new activities. Under this scenario, the group may cycle through a transforming stage, repeating the forming, storming, and norming stages and emerge into a new performing stage. Leaders will play a variety of roles, such as directing, coaching, supporting, delegating and mentoring depending on the circumstances of the group.

References and Additional Resources

Bennis, W. and B. Nanus. (1997) Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Cronin, T. (2000) Government by the People. Upper Saddle River, HJ: Prentice-Hall.

Fritz, S., A. Boren, and V. Egger. (2005) Diamonds in the Rough: A Case Study of Team Development Across Disciplines, Distances, and Institutions. The Journal of Extension, 43(5).

Huey, J. (1994) The new post-heroic leadership. Fortune, February 21, pp. 42-50.

Katzenbach, J. and D. Smith. (1993) The Wisdom of Teams. Harvard, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Katzenbach, J. and D. Smith. (1993) The Discipline of Teams. Harvard, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kotter, J. P. (1988) The Leadership Factor. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Senge, P. M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency.

Smith, P. (2002) Major General, Rules and Tools for Leaders. New York, NY: Perigee.

Smith, M. K. (2005) Bruce W. Tuckman – forming, storming, norming and performing in groups. The Encyclopedia of Informal Education: Retrieved: Jan 24, 2016, http://infed.org/mobi/bruce-w-tuckman-forming-storming-norming-and-performing-in-groups/ .

Stein, J. (2003) Using the Stages of Team Development, Learning Topics. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved: Feb. 9, 2016, http://hrweb.mit.edu/learning-development/learning-topics/teams/articles/stages-development

Tuckman, B. (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin 63 (6): 384–99.

Tuckman, B. W. and M.A. Jensen. (1977) Stages of small-group development revisited. Group Org. Studies. 2:419-27.

Vandenberg, L., and L. Sandmann. (1995) Community action leadership development: A conceptual framework for

Michigan State University Extension (MSU Extension Leadership Series No. 95-01). East Lansing: Michigan State University.

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Recruiting and Mentoring New Members

by Betsy Webb

How does your board work to attract, develop, and retain strong leadership to build leadership capacity for the future? There is no definitive answer about how large a board should be. Your board size may be determined by code, ordinance, or resolution. Some boards are larger than they need to be because they try to include members from too many constituencies in order to gain input and buy-in on high stakes issues. An effective board needs to have a diversity of perspectives, knowledge and skills in order to accomplish their work. If the board is too big, decision-making and discussion may be hampered. If the board is too small, the lack of diversity of opinions and experiences on complex issues may limit its ability to make the best decisions.

A diversity of knowledge and experience will serve to enhance a board’s ability to address the many issues that may be confronted. Although it is sometimes more difficult to obtain agreement with diverse opinions present, critical issues are tackled early on and the decisions made will likely have included more perspectives, thereby making the process more robust.

Composition of the board should be related to the defined needs and purpose that established the board. Board members, elected or appointed, need to be committed to the board purpose, be willing to prepare and research for their leadership roles, and follow through with their commitments. If you are recruiting for new board members, a board committee should look at the qualities and capabilities needed on the board. Make a list of potential stakeholders regarding the board’s purpose, charge board members in identifying suitable candidates for consideration, and advertise your openings to the community at large.

Once you’ve recruited members, you’ll need to orient and mentor these individuals so that they can be effective and active participants on the board. The term, “mentor,” has its origins in Greek mythology. Mentor was a trusted friend of Ulysses. When Ulysses was preparing to fight in the Trojan War which would require him to be far away for a long period of time, he asked his good friend, Mentor, to look after his son, guide him, and teach him right and wrong.

On a typical board, members serve for a period of years and eventually leave the board, replaced by the next set of board members. Over the years, the composition of the board changes, but the organization itself needs to remain stable. Board members can contribute to the health and continued functioning of the board, in spite of member turnover, by grooming and training others to lead through a well-developed mentoring program.

In the context of boards and board leadership, mentoring new board members contributes to a healthy, well-functioning board. “Older,” more seasoned board members can be paired with newer board members to help them understand the purpose and function of the board, to orient them to by-laws, and answer questions that the new board member may have about policies, procedures, and the board itself. By appointing a mentor to a new board member, lines of communication are defined and information is shared on a timely basis. New board members know where to go with their questions. The purpose of the mentor is to help the new board member gain the information or assistance they need to come up to speed quickly.

Board members also need an effective orientation to enable them to quickly become active participants in the board’s work. They need information about the board’s history, organization, finances, policies, procedures, and the board’s roles, responsibilities and operations. The board should define the new member orientation process in its by-laws. The orientation may be provided by an assigned mentor, or through another board member.

References and Additional Resources

Brounstein, Marty (2000). Coaching & Mentoring for Dummies. IDG Books World Wide, Foster, CA.

Enterprise Foundation (1999). Leadership Skills for Board Members. Columbia, MD.

Huff, Andrea (2004). Board Leadership: A Mandate to Develop Future Leaders. Directors Monthly: Washington, DC. www.nacdonline.org

Lakey, Berit (2010). Board Fundamentals, Understanding Roles in Nonprofit Governance, Second Edition. Board Source, Washington, DC.

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Conflict Management

by Betsy Webb

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.” —Max Lucado

While serving on a board, arriving at good decisions that positively impact the public will involve differing opinions, looking at situations from as many angles as possible, and the tension that accompanies this work. Inevitably, the board will find itself in conflict. Healthy conflict can lead to robust discussions, informed decision making, and a greater buy in from diverse constituents. Successful resolution of conflict can lead to better relationships among board members, increased confidence to tackle hard decisions, and a greater sense of team in accomplishing the work to be done (Ursiny, 2003). Conflict does not need to be feared; instead dealing with the conflict that arises within a board will lead to better decisions.

On the other hand, unhealthy conflict can derail the work of the board. When opinions are not stated, conversations go “underground,” emotions are not dealt with, or regular stale-mates are experienced, the work of the board can be undermined and good decision-making can be at risk.

This section will discuss sources of conflict, strategies to deal with conflict, a self-assessment to determine your usual conflict style and suggested readings for more information.

Sources of Conflict

Suzanne McCorkle (2010), Professor and Director of the Dispute Resolution Program in Boise, Idaho, presented a workshop on managing conflict and strengthening workplace relationships at Montana State University in 2010.

Dr. McCorkle identified the following sources of conflict:

  1. Information Conflicts. These conflicts have to do with data, misinformation, not enough information or withholding information.
  2. Emotional Conflicts. These conflicts involve feelings, ego, and self-esteem. High emotions interfere with parties being able to reason and listen well.
  3. Values Conflicts. Values involve deeply rooted beliefs, and may include religion, politics, and ethics.
  4. Process (Relationship) Conflicts. These are conflicts about who has authority, what relationships exist in the conflict (peer or other), how are decisions made.
  5. Style Conflicts. Communication styles, group versus individual styles, directive versus collaborative, in person versus electronics, high structure versus fluid.
  6. Substance Conflicts. These conflicts center on scarce resources, including financial resources, funding, time, space, and equipment.

McCorkle (2010) notes that if you are in a conflict, and the same problems keep arising, you are likely working on the conflict from the wrong source. Identifying one of the 6 conflict sources above can help to design a strategy to address the conflict in a healthy way. Each of the sources requires different approaches for resolution. For further reading, McCorkle and Reese (2010) have written a textbook on the theory and practice of conflict management.

Conflict Strategies

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a well-used instrument for assessing the ways that people approach conflict (1974). Thomas and Kilmann (1974-2009) developed a tool for assessing conflict styles which include the avoider, the accommodator, the compromiser, the competitor, and the collaborator. In times of stress or conflict, people generally revert to their preferred style. However, in healthy conflict, a strategy can be chosen from these 5 approaches. Thomas Croghan and Nancy Yeend designed the self-assessment and these descriptions of the conflict strategies from the TKI (Thomas and Kilmann, 1974-2009).

The avoider tries to stay out of conflict in the first place. From previous experience the avoider may expect to lose in this conflict situation. They may withdraw physically or psychologically; may be saving for an issue in which can be more productive.

  • Potential uses: When confronting is unsafe or damaging; when the situation may resolve on its own; when it’s a battle not worth picking; when time is needed to cool down or plan.
  • Potential limitations: Important issues may never get addressed leaving the conflict unresolved; conflict/emotions may escalate or resurface/explode later. If people are not actively involved in the resolution, they may not be committed to the solution.

The accommodator or friendly helper cares more about the relationship than personal goals. They are nonassertive but cooperative. They want to smooth over difficulties and pacify others.

  • Potential uses: When the relationship is more important than the current issue; when wanting to demonstrate a willingness to be flexible; when thinking they’ll get their turn later.
  • Potential limitations: Although they may please others, it may be at the expense of their own needs. This person may feel like a “doormat” after a while if always in this role with the same person; being “nice” won’t necessarily resolve the problem.

The compromiser bargains with the other party for a solution. They believe you have to be satisfied with part of the pie. It can be a lose/lose approach with each party losing a little. Compromisers tend to ask for more than they really expect to get.

  • Potential uses: Good for fast decision making on minor issues—or to avoid a win/lose situation; when parties are of equal strength; when competition or collaboration fail.
  • Potential limitations: Everyone may feel disappointed; quick fix may not address underlying needs; may only deal with surface conflict and leave significant issues unresolved.

The competitor tries to employ power and dominance to win at any cost. They believe compromise is a weak mode and generally unacceptable. They place a high value on achieving personal goals and little concern about maintaining a relationship.

  • Potential uses: When immediate action is needed; when safety is a concern; when issues are too important to compromise or to lose.
  • Potential limitations: This approach may permanently damage relationships; losers don’t often support the winner; intimidating; doesn’t allow for others to participate in problem solving or to own the solution.

The collaborator tends to have both a high concern for the goals of all the parties and high concern for maintaining the relationship between parties. They work at trying to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict. They believe relationships can survive when working through problems.

  • Potential uses: When there is time to develop mutually satisfying solutions; when parties concerns are too important to compromise; when strong commitment is needed by all parties to the solution.
  • Potential limitations: All parties must embrace the approach and work in good faith to come up with a solution that will meet the needs of all; requires time, commitment and some skill; it’s voluntary.

Working with Different Conflict Styles

The Center for Collaborative Solutions (Bozeman, Montana) teaches a 40-hour Basic Mediation Training class. The Center for Collaborative Solutions has been training mediators, employees, business owners, teachers, students and community members since 1997. Using the TKI, the CCS offers the following suggestions for working with people in each of the different conflict styles.

Avoiders

  • It is important to engage them
  • Use open-ended questions
  • The environment must feel non-threatening/safe
  • Try to frame conflict as opportunity
  • Build on early success (tackle easier issues first)
  • Ask, “What will happen if the problem is ignored?”
  • “What is going to happen if you can’t solve this?”
  • And ask yourself, why is this person avoiding?

Competitors

  • Try to get competitors to understand the others’ point of view
  • “Tell me how you think Jane sees this…”
  • Have Jane correct the statement, and then restate her view
  • Ask the competitor what he/she thinks he/she would do if they were Jane
  • Frame the problem from a team perspective
  • Get the emotions along with the issues

Compromisers

  • They may not be happy with the result, as they are “giving up” something
  • Move from compromising to the best possible solution (not always meet in the middle)
  • What are the other interests in the situation not being identified?
  • What can you do so everyone gains?
  • Ask the compromiser, “Are you totally satisfied?”
  • “Can you be totally satisfied by doing something else?”

Accommodators

  • Often don’t see them in conflict, because they have already accommodated others so there is no issue.
  • Have accommodators speak first, before others views have been stated.
  • Have them propose the first solutions.
  • Keep the environment safe.
  • Have them write down their solutions – then they can’t back out.
  • “I know everyone in this room has some feeling or opinion on this subject….”

Over-collaborators

  • Have to fully discuss and fully process everything.
  • Have collaborators prioritize the most important issues.
  • Give them the time needed to solve the situation.
  • Ask them the relative importance of the issue versus the time it takes to reach agreement on all the issues.

Shifting to a Learning Stance

In Difficult Conversations (Stone, Patton & Heen, 1999), the authors introduce a conflict resolution approach that invites participants to enter conflicts from a position of learning. They recommend taking the time to explore each other’s stories, trying to see the issue through the other’s lens, and moving away from “certainty” to “curiosity.” Blaming, judging, and focusing on the past does not move groups towards conflict resolution. When arguing is taking place, people lose their ability to listen well.

Mark Umbreit (1995) offers the following twelve strategies for managing workplace conflict that are aligned with the learning stance philosophy. He recommends the following:

  • Choose the time and place carefully
  • Change behaviors, not people (the conflict is not about you as a person, but the situation we are in).
  • Agree on something
  • Use “I” statements (“I am angry about this issue because… ,” not, “you made me angry because…”)
  • Figure out where you went wrong
  • Criticize with precision
  • When someone attacks, agree
  • Bow out for a while (take a break from conflict, give yourselves a “time out,” come back with a fresh lens.
  • Have more conflicts (the more time you spend working things out, the better you will become at resolving conflicts).
  • Find the third option
  • Agree on the future (vision)
  • Work it out on paper

What if the Board gets Stuck?

Fisher & Ury (1981), in their book, Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, define an approach they call BATNA. This stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. When a stalemate exists, the question can be asked, “What happens if we do not resolve this conflict?” The alternative to not finding a solution may impel the group to work harder towards resolution. The reasons that groups in conflict negotiate on solutions is to produce something better than the results obtained without negotiating. What are those results? What is that alternative? Instead of ruling out any solution that does not meet the bottom line, compare proposed solutions with the BATNA to see if some of the interests can be satisfied. Another option is to use the Three-Step Model for Managing Conflict (CRU Institute 2005):

1. Define the Problem

  • Ask the other person (group) what the problem is
  • Restate the problem
  • Allow the other person (group) to correct any misinterpretations
  • Say what you think the problem is
  • Establish ground rules

2. Explore the Problem

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Use “I” messages
  • Restate what you hear, check assumptions
  • Enforce the ground rules

3. Find Solutions and Make Agreements

  • Ask the other person (group) for solutions
  • Give your solutions
  • Brainstorm
  • Pick the best alternative to implement

References and Additional Resources

Center for Collaborative Solutions (2006). Basic Mediation Training. Bozeman, MT. http://www.centerforcollaborativesolutions.com/index.html

CRU Institute (2005). Peer Mediation Training Manual. Bellevue, WA: CRU Institute. http://www.cruinstitute.org/
Fisher, Roger and Ury, William (1981). Getting to Yes. Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. New York: Penguin Books.
McCorkle, Suzanne (2010). Managing Conflict and Strengthening Workplace Relationships. Presentation at Montana State University, November 3, 2010. Professor and Director, Dispute Resolution Program, Boise State University, Boise, ID. http://www.montana.edu/hr/HR%20Management%20Skills%20Series/McCorkle_ManagingConflict.pdf

McCorkle, S and Reese, M (2010). Personal Conflict Management: Theory and Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.

Thomas, Kenneth and Kilmann, Ralph (2009). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument— also known as the TKI. Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc., http://kilmann.com/conflict.html

Stone, Douglas, Patton, Bruce, and Heen, Sheila (1999). Difficult Conversations. How to Discuss What Matters Most. New York: Penguin Books.

Umbreit, Mark (1995). Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts: A Pathway to Peace. West Concord, MN: CPI Publishing.

Ursiny, Tim (2003). The Coward’s Guide to Conflict. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc.

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The Importance of Public Trust

By Blake Christensen

As a public board member, you are in a unique position to make decisions for and work to improve the quality of life in your community. By serving on a public board, you take upon yourself the responsibility to represent the community to the best of your ability and act with integrity and diligence in your position. Fulfilling this responsibility builds and maintains trust with the public you serve.

Gaining and maintaining trust between your board and your community is crucial to effectively fulfilling the board’s purpose. When the public trusts local government leaders, including public boards, the transaction costs for governing decrease and community leaders have greater freedom to efficiently and effectively accomplish goals.

On the other hand, when trust is lacking, the transaction costs for governing as a board increase. In other words, rather than having the freedom to fulfill your role in the way that you see fit, the board will have to answer to much more rigorous oversight from the public. When the public does not trust the work of a board, the public will often ask more questions, request more information, closely supervise decisions, and more rigorously oversee the outcomes of the board’s work. While this additional oversight and involvement from the public is welcome under the Montana Constitution, it can also lead to greater frustration for board members.

So how does a board member maintain a high level of trust with the public? First, strive to create a culture of good governance for your board. As described in another chapter of this handbook, utilizing principles of good governance can ensure good relations between board members and between the board and the general public. This culture ensures participation, legitimacy, accountability, and transparency. The image you convey to the public—preferably an image of competency and credibility—can go a long way toward building trust.

In addition to establishing a culture of good governance, strive to know and follow the MCA sections that foster trust with the public. The Montana Legislature, recognizing the importance of gaining and maintaining public trust, has embodied certain trust-building principles within the Montana Code. These include provisions that encourage greater public participation (2-3-101), openness (2-3-201), record transparency (2-6-1001), and ethical behavior (2-2-101)—all laws that, when properly followed, encourage public trust in the work you do as a board.

Lastly, here are some practical tips for fostering trust as a board member:

  • Know and proactively follow the Montana code sections on public participation, open meetings, andethics. Not only do these laws allow the public to participate in decision-making, they also help yourboard avoid legal issues. Any non-compliance with the law—real or perceived—can erode public trust.
  • Discuss the principles of good governance with your board and make a plan for implementing them. While many of the principles of good governance may seem intuitive on paper, they are best practicedonly when board members take intentional steps to use them. Brainstorm ways to incorporate theseprinciples and hold yourself accountable for creating a positive environment on your board. A cultureof good governance, one in which the public witnesses collaboration, participation, consensus-building,and respectful behavior, increases public trust.
  • Foster a spirit of collaboration between the board and the public. When the public is recognized andinvited to participate in a spirit of collaboration, participants are much less likely to seek disruptivemeans of addressing public concerns.
  • Create opportunities for board members to develop relationships with each other. Developing a personalrelationship with your fellow board members fosters greater willingness to listen, openness to change,and opportunity to agree. When you show your fellow board members you are open to their ideas andconcerns, they will generally be more open to yours.
  • Engage issues through dialogue, rather than confrontation. When a board uses productive dialogue toaddress issues, instead of debate and argument, it is better able to create shared meaning and mutuallearning. Proactive listening and striving to consider alternative viewpoints creates trust and respect, bothwith your fellow board members and with public observers.
  • Develop cooperative goals. Speaking on the importance of goals in their book The Leadership Challenge,Professors Kouzes and Posner (2012) teach “[t]he most important ingredient in every collectiveachievement is a common goal. Common purpose binds people into cooperative efforts. . . . If you wantindividuals or groups to work cooperatively, you have to give them a good reason to do so, and that goodreason is generally expressed as a goal that can only be accomplished by working together” (p. 230-231).

Serving on a board is a great opportunity to make a difference in your community. That service will be much more effective and efficient if you participate in a manner that builds and maintains a high level of trust, both with fellow board members and with the public.

References and Additional Resources

Carver, J. 1997. Boards That Make a Difference, second edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Chrislip, D. 1994. The Collaborative Leadership Fieldbook. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kouzes, J. & B. Posner. 2012. The Leadership Challenge, fifth edition. San Francisco, CA: The Leadership Challenge.

Weaver, K. & P. Lachapelle. 2010. Governing Montana at the Grass Roots, third edition. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension.

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Understanding Personality Traits

By Nori Pearce

Some people walk into a meeting and take charge. Others may sit quietly in a room and not say much during a gathering. Some individuals are very good at organizing activities and events. One reason people react differently within the same situation is because every person tends to have a personality that defines who they are and why they do some of the things they do. Volumes of books have been written about personalities, or the temperaments of people, since the time of the ancient Greeks, to try to help people work together and understand each other.

Dr. Kevin Leman, a New York Times bestselling author and renowned psychologist, has completed extensive research on personality types and has identified an interesting way to remember the four most common personality types. By assigning characteristics of dog breeds to each personality he makes it easier to remember: Yorkies, Great Danes, Standard Poodles, and Irish Setters. He does not believe that one particular type is more advantageous than another, though he does believe most individuals are a mixture of types. Following is a brief synopsis of each personality type as identified Leman (2010).

“Yorkies” are the life of the party. They do not know a stranger. They will be the first to greet your arrival and they are always ready for the next event. They’re charming. They’re personable. They often get what they want, when they want it. They are the social ones. Their motto is “Let’s do it the fun way!” They can talk about anything at anytime to anyone. They are often loudest person in the group, or the person with the biggest smile. They are bubbly. They have a great sense of humor. They live for approval and acceptance. However, they may seem disorganized and seldom on time. They probably won’t remember your name, they may have a tendency to exaggerate and they may have a difficult time being serious. They may have difficulty with a budget and little attention for detail.

“Great Danes” capture people’s attention with their sense of presence and their stature. They like to take charge. They make quick decisions and these decisions are usually the correct ones to make. They have a high sense of self confidence. They are usually daring, adventurous and competitive. They are very persuasive. They tend to be outspoken and strong willed. Great Danes are also independent creatures. As such they may have a need to be in control and expect others to comply with their wants and desires. They like to be appreciated and respected. They can sometimes appear as bossy, domineering and insensitive to other people’s feelings, coming across as unaffectionate and uncaring at times. Many are very dedicated to their careers.

“Standard Poodles” as the breed they are identified with, live by high standards and ideals. They are very organized and orderly. They are highly analytical and live to do things the “right way”. They are skilled at setting, and achieving, long term goals. They love deep discussions. They are respectful of others, sensitive and thoughtful. Standard Poodles are faithful. However, Standard Poodles may have the need to have things done correctly as according to them. They need silence and space. They need sensitivity returned as well as giving it. They hate having to lower their standards or being forced to compromise their ideals. They thrive on stability. They can seem insecure, unforgiving and pessimistic.

“Irish Setters” are loyal. They tend to have a balanced, pleasing personality. They can solve problems objectively and don’t make impulsive decisions. They are good listeners, content and adaptable. They are patient and obliging. Irish Setters have a calming influence over others. They are peacemakers. And no matter how long it takes, Irish Setters stay with a project until it is completed. However, Irish Setters may seem lethargic and lacking enthusiasm. They want to avoid conflict and may avoid making decisions because they don’t want to offend anyone. They can be indecisive about setting goals. They may have a seemingly sluggish approach to life or be viewed as lazy or aimless. They may lack self motivation.

Very few individuals are solely one personality type. Most of us have blends of these types. Or we may be one personality type at work, while being a totally different type when at home with the people we love. Do you see a predominant personality or “dog” style within yourself? Think about the members of your board. Each probably has some identifiable characteristics from the personality traits identified by Leman (2010). Board members should recognize each other’s strengths and encourage the best of each person. Great Danes work very well as the chairperson or committee chairs. Standard poodles may thrive when given the responsibility of balancing the budget or keeping minutes. Yorkies make great hosts and hostesses for events and activities, as well as finding ways keeping meetings from becoming stagnant. And Irish Setters will work to make sure everyone has a voice and is a part of the group.

No one personality type is better than any other personality type. Each has its strengths. It is the combination of these types and learning to work together with all, which makes for the most successful teams.

References and Additional Resources

Leman, Kevin. 2010. Have a New You by Friday, Revell-Baker Publishing Group.

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Working and Volunteering with Multiple Generations

By Ashley Kent

Communities depend on citizens’ volunteer service to fill leadership roles by serving on boards, organizing community events and providing the intangible element that transforms a community from a collection of houses and businesses into a place for people and families to call home. Research from the University of Minnesota Extension describes Montana’s need for local volunteer leaders to be so high that one in every twenty-two adults would need to serve on at least one board, committee or similar organization to fully meet the demand (Winchester, 2020) and those needs are expected to increase in the future.

We are experiencing four, five and sometimes six generations all providing volunteer efforts in communities across the county. While this engagement in civic organizations is exciting and vital to the continued health of our communities, it has also highlighted many of the similarities and difference between the generations, particularly when one generation is ready to step back and the next generation stepping up does things differently.

Defining of each generation

There is a lot of informal discussion and formal research around the age ranges, common characteristics, and overarching values of each generation. Currently, we have five generations providing volunteer and workforce services. According to Pew Research Center, the Silent/Veterans Generation was born 1925 to 1945, the Baby Boomers were born 1946 to 1964, Generation X were born 1965 to 1980, Millennials were born 1981-1996, and Generation Z were born in 1997 to 2012 (Pew, 2018)

Understanding the common values, major events of their formative years, motivations, communication style, and common world view of other generations can help a person understand the behaviors and motivation behind the behaviors of different generations. For example, do you remember what you were doing when you heard President Kennedy had been assassinated? Do you remember sitting down with your family to watch a specific news anchor each night? Did you experience World War II or the civil rights movement or the rise in school shootings as a child or adolescent? When you entered the workforce, was the economy booming or was it suffering from the Great Recession? How did that shape your view of the corporate job market? Each generation will respond differently to these questions and their experiences that shaped how they see the world are all equally valid.  

 

Silent/ Veterans

(1925-1945)

Baby Boomers

(1946-1964)

Generation X

(1965-1980)

Millennials

(1981-1996)

Generation Z

(1997-2012)

Approximate Size

22 million

70 million

65 million

72 million

67 million

Core Values

Dependable, straightforward, tactful, loyal

Optimistic, competitive, workaholic, team-oriented

Flexible, informal, skeptical, independent

Competitive, civic-minded, open-minded on diversity, achievement-oriented

Global, entrepreneurial, progressive, less focused

Shaped By

The Great Depression, World War II, radio and movies

The Vietnam War, civil rights movement, Watergate

The AIDs epidemic, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dot-com boom

Columbine, 9/11, the internet, the Great Recession

Life after 9/11, the Great Recession, access to technology from a young age

Motivated By

Respect, recognition, providing long-term value to the company

Company loyalty, teamwork, duty

Diversity, work-life balance, their personal-professional interests rather than the company's interests

Responsibility, the quality of their manager, unique work experiences

Diversity, personalization, individuality, creativity

Communication Style

Personal touch, handwritten notes instead of email

Whatever is most efficient, including phone calls and face to face

Whatever is most efficient, including phone calls and face to face

IMs, texts, and email

IMs, texts, social media

World View

Obedience over individualism; age equals seniority; advancing through the hierarchy

Achievement comes after paying one’s dues; sacrifice for success

Favoring diversity; quick to move on if their employer fails to meet their needs; resistant to change at work if it affects their personal lives

Seeking challenge, growth, and development; a fun work life and work-life balance; likely to leave an organization if they don't like change

Self-identifying as digital device addicts; valuing independence and individuality; preferring to work with millennial managers, innovative coworkers, and new technologies

(Purdue Global, 2021; Statista, 2020)

Understanding the Generations

Lifestyles and world views change with each generation. While no individual can be fully understood by reading a broad generalization of common generational characteristics, the descriptions below might provide some insight into the behaviors and motivations of other generations.

Silent/Veterans (1925 – 1945)

The Silent/Veterans generation Americans were largely raised in agriculturally-based families in small towns. As children, they experienced the impacts of the Great Depression, and the oldest of this generation were involved in the war effort near the end of World War II. They are significantly less likely to have obtained a college degree than later generations, and often remained close to their hometowns for their adult lives. They are characterized by their dependability, loyalty, and straightforward communication style (Purdue Global, 2021). The Silent/Veterans believe good things come to those who wait and that an employee has a responsibility to be loyal to his or her company for many years, if not their entire career.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

The Baby Boomers name comes from the substantial increase in American birth rates following the end of World War II. Baby Boomers enjoyed relative national prosperity in their formative years and have been characterized by their commitment to work and loyalty to one or two companies for most of their careers. They were impacted by the Vietnam War, Civil Rights movement, and the Watergate scandal in their formative years (Library of Congress, 2021; Purdue Global, 2021).  Baby Boomers often believe a job is a calling and defines who a person is, professionally.

Generation X (1965-1980)

Generation X, the smallest generation by population, is also known as the MTV Generation or the Lost Generation. They witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the AIDs epidemic, and the dot-com bubble crash during their formative years. They were the first generation to spend significant time unsupervised after school as children due to both parents participating in the workforce. Generation X is often overlooked by observers whose attention can be captured by the Baby Boomers and Millennials on either side of Gen X. They have experienced career progression blocks due to Baby Boomers retiring later than expected (Library of Congress, 2021). Generation X’s view of a job departs from earlier generations in that Gen X sees a job as a contract in which the company is responsible for treating the employee fairly. If that contract is breached, this generation has no problem finding another company to work for that offers more favorable contract terms.

Millennials (1981 – 1996)

Sometimes referred to as Generation Y, this was the first generation to reach adulthood around or after the new millennium. The term “millennial” has been used to generally describe all young people in recent years, however the millennial generation is a distinct cohort that shares common experiences and characteristics. They were largely in middle school and high school during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and faced the financial crisis of the Great Recession as they were entering the workforce. Millennials are currently the largest generational cohort, outnumbering both Baby Boomers and Generation X (Library of Congress, 2021). Millennials, and some Gen Xers, believe flex-time, telecommuting, and alternate methods of communication are tools that can help people gain efficiency and productivity. The Silent/Veterans and Baby Boomers tend to believe that people are not actually working unless they are physically involved or on site. Millennials and Gen Z tend to focus more on meeting outcome goals than defining how or when work needs to be done.

Generation Z (1997 - 2012)

Also known as Gen Z, iGen, and Zoomers, Generation Z are digital natives, meaning they did not know a time without the internet and its related technologies. They grew up in a post-9/11 world where the threat of terrorism, mass shootings, and the importance digital safety have always been front of mind. This generation is the most racially diverse in America to date as roughly half identify their primary race as something other than Caucasian, and are characterized by their global mindset, acceptance of diversity, and individuality (Library of Congress, 2021). Gen Z is entering a workforce that is global, competitive, and distrusting of corporations. Gen Z professionals often work in the gig economy, taking on project-based work, as part of their primary job or as a secondary source of income. While Gen Z is still reaching adulthood and entering the workforce, its 67 million members is slightly smaller than the Millennial generation making it the second largest generation in the United States.

Generations on Volunteer Boards

Every community experiences the changes that come with new generations transitioning into leadership roles in civic organizations. The current generations in leadership roles have stewarded beloved community systems, processes and events, often for many years or even multiple decades. Traditions are important and exist for good reason. Younger generations usually experience the world differently than their older mentors and approach the operations and purpose of civic organizations in new ways. While new ideas can spark innovation, new engagement, and exciting opportunities for communities, it also can bring fear of the unknown and hesitancy to change from the traditional methods.

Multi-generational volunteering can be incredibly powerful and provide unique opportunities for people to connect and learn from one another. However, when leadership roles are dominated by people from any one generation, new volunteers from other generations may not feel welcome to contribute their ideas or participate in leadership which is counter to much of their experience in school where opinions are regularly sought and valued. If new volunteers from other generations are met with pre-conceived negative expectations of their values or work ethic or if their ideas are not sought or valued, those new volunteers may seek other, more satisfying volunteer opportunities, leaving existing organizations with little ability to sustain their work into the future.

It is up to each community to find the balance of preserving important values and traditions with embracing new ideas, energy, and interests. How does your community invite multiple generations to work together toward a common goal and develop new volunteer leaders? Are younger generations expected to conform to the older generations values and processes or are people open to new ideas and fresh perspective? 

References and Additional Resources

Library of Congress. (2021, July 22). Research guides: Doing consumer research: Generations. https://guides.loc.gov/consumer-research/market-segments/generations

Statista. (2020, June 17). U.S. population by generation 2019. https://www.statista.com/statistics/797321/us-population-by-generation/

Pew Research Center. (2018, March 1). The generations defined. https://www.pewresearch.org/st_18-02-27_generations_defined/‌

Pew Research Center. (2021, May 29). Defining generations: Where millennials end and Generation Z begins. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and-generation-z-begins/

Purdue Global. (2021). Generational differences in the Workplace [Infographic]. https://www.purdueglobal.edu/education-partnerships/generational-workforce-differences-infographic/

Winchester, B. (2020, September 15). Rewriting the Rural Narrative. University of Minnesota Extension.

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Youth Participation

by Micky Zurcher

Consideration of youth on boards is often overlooked. By involving youth in local decision-making, they become assets and resources to a community in addition to fostering civic participation in their lives. The potential for young people to challenge, question and/or reshape local decision making process provides an inclusive committee of board representatives.

Recognizing that young people have a civic voice in decision-making allows them to explore and challenge the decisions that are being taken today for the futures that they will inhabit. Enabling youth to reflect critically and carefully upon board decisions will enhance their capabilities and will offer personal and social futures which will help generate critical thinkers.

Creating an opportunity for youth on boards provides another level of personal and social connectivity within the communities which they reside. Youth participation with boards provides an opportunity for youth to develop life-long skills. Early participation generates the capacities and structure needed for youth to engage in a meaningful public debate and new democratic structures. Building youth capacity to participate in meaningful processes can help make a difference in their role of working with other generations.

Youth who contribute have a special kind of vision, the kind that allows them to see beyond-beyond themselves so they can think of others, beyond today so they can consider what happens tomorrow (Lerner, 2007). The willingness of youth to become civically engaged is strongly intertwined by Lerner’s Positive Youth Development perspective, the Five C’s model: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, and Caring. Youth who have a role and awareness in society can express the Five C’s and be better prepared for civic engagement.

References and Additional Resources

Lerner, R. M. (2004). Liberty: Thriving and civic engagement among American youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Lerner, R. M. (2007). The Good Teen. Three Rivers Press: New York.

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Avoiding Stagnation and Creating New Ideas

by Tim Fine and Betsy Webb

One of your board members has served for over 20 years. Similar issues arise and they are handled in a consistent manner. The board’s work is completed efficiently and predictably. How do you avoid stagnation and inject creativity into managing the board’s duties and purpose?

If the board’s work is being completed with quality and accomplishing its purpose, you may not need to change anything you are doing. However, if the board feels stagnant, new ideas are not being generated, and this has become a problem in accomplishing the required tasks, then some changes may be required. When a board is newly formed it is easy to identify needs and goals to be addressed, ways to address them, and evaluation techniques to determine whether or not they were met with satisfaction. After initial tasks are met with success, however, the next steps the board should take and new goals will need to be identified.

It can be beneficial for a board to re-visit the goals and objectives that were initially determined to be the top priorities. It is possible that, as times and situations change, so will topics that were determined to be most-important. There is potential for well-established boards to continue doing the same programming and stick with the same agendas because of historical precedence. While many of the goals and objectives will not change from year to year, the board must be prepared to adapt.

Creating New Ideas through Brainstorming

Typically, looking for new ideas and new ways to solve problems is considered something a board has to do upon formation. Once these items are accomplished they can be brushed aside. However, boards must remain viable and sustainable. Board members must come up with new ways to evaluate the priorities and the work of the Board. Often, a brainstorming session will help accomplish this task.

Brainstorming is simply gathering suggestions, ideas, and information from a group of people regarding ways to accomplish a pre-determined goal or objective or set of goals or objectives. There are several ways that a brainstorming session can be accomplished and while they all have their benefits and drawbacks, they are meant to bring about ideas from a group in order to help the board determine priorities. There is one primary principle that must be adhered to during any brainstorming session. All ideas are good and no ideas should be criticized. It is important to set guidelines prior to the brainstorming session that allows all participants to think and contribute freely.

There are several different methods to conduct brainstorming sessions but the most common approach is to use the group brainstorming method, which essentially allows for a diverse group of people to give their input. Group brainstorming allows for members of the group to draw on their personal experiences to accomplish a common task. When conducting a group brainstorming session, there are some steps that should be taken to ensure the session is effective including the following:

  • Find a comfortable meeting environment, and set it up ready for the session.
  • Appoint one person to record the ideas that come from the session. These should be noted in a format than everyone can see and refer to. Depending on the approach you want to use, you may want to record ideas on flip charts, whiteboards, or computers with data projectors.
  • If people aren’t already used to working together, consider using an appropriate warm-up exercise or ice breaker.
  • Define the problem you want solved clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met. Make it clear that the objective of the meeting is to generate as many ideas as possible.
  • Give people plenty of time on their own at the start of the session to generate as many ideas as possible.
  • Ask people to give their ideas, making sure that you give everyone a fair opportunity to contribute.
  • Encourage people to develop other people’s ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones.
  • Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to contribute and develop ideas, including the quietest members of the group.
  • Ensure that no one criticizes or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for group members when putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free running nature of a good brainstorming session.
  • Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from solidly practical ones to wildly impractical ones. Welcome creativity!
  • Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long. Make sure that you generate a sufficient number of different ideas, as well as exploring individual ideas in detail.
  • In a long session, take plenty of breaks so that people can continue to concentrate.

There are many strategies for avoiding stagnation mentioned in the book, The Board Members Guide: Making a Difference in Your Board and in Your Community (Adams, 2003). If you feel your board is stagnant, consider these additional steps:

  • Revisit the board’s purpose and strategic direction. Is your work reflective of the board’s purpose and plan? Do you need to have a discussion about the work of the board? Are there tasks that should be eliminated or added to the board’s work?
  • Committee work. Break up your board into smaller subcommittees and assign tasks to a smaller work group. Reticent board members may contribute more in a smaller group. Creatively assigning board members to subcommittees may inspire new conversations about the same issues.
  • Invite outside stakeholders. Invite community members to your meetings to add new perspectives and new ideas related to your purpose.
  • Invite outside experts. A new look at the same issue by an expert in the field (local or from outside your area) may add new information and solutions that have been implemented in other areas to current issues.
  • Read/research – go online. Research your subject area from a variety of sources. Find new ways to investigate your issues. Become an expert in the areas that your board addresses.
  • Attend other boards meetings. Go see how other boards are functioning and how they conduct business. You may learn something from another group that you can incorporate into your board.
  • Go on a field trip. Depending on your board’s purpose, set up a field trip to learn about the issues that directly affect the decisions you make. Visiting in person may re-energize your board members to their purpose.
  • Gov 2.0. Investigate Government 2.0, new electronic ways to connect your citizens to your work. Use a blog for community input. Investigate bar codes to share information. Be on the cutting edge of citizen engagement technology! Google Government 2.0 and see what you find.
  • Encourage new membership. If there hasn’t been any turn-over in board membership, consider leaving the board so new members can join. Board member turn-over can lead to new creative ideas.
  • References and Additional Resources

Adams, Richard (2003). The Board Members Guide: Making a Difference in Your Board and in Your Community. Academy for Leadership and Governance. p. 41-42

Brainstorming Techniques. Mind Tools Ltd: http://www.mindtools.com/brainstm.html

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Strategic Board Planning

By Paul Lachapelle

Ultimately, your board should be committed to not only addressing the current tasks at hand, but also consider planning for the future. Strategic planning is a technique to proactively and constructively consider present trends and future scenarios. By conducting strategic planning, your board will be better prepared to address the many issues, some unanticipated and some conflicting, in the future. There are many tools and techniques to consider when planning; below are some suggested ideas to consider.

Letting your Board ‘SOAR’ (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results)

The SOAR method, an acronym standing for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results is used as a heuristic to understand the potential for board action related to meeting process and outcome. The method has been applied in many settings and diverse disciplinary areas, from community planning to nursing practice and patient care (Stravos, Cooperrider, & Kelly, 2003; Havens, Wood, & Leeman, 2006).

A SOAR analysis is based on a process called Appreciative Inquiry, which provokes reflection and action focused on the positive attributes of a process and outcome, instead of the problems. For example, rather than posing questions such as the following: “What’s wrong with the people on this board?”; “Why isn’t this board doing better?”; and “What’s causing this conflict, and who is responsible?” inquiries are phrased using the following questions, for example: “Think of a time for this board when performance was high—what were you and the others doing?”; “What external factors supported these moments?”; and “How might this board function if we could expand the conditions that led to past successes?” The former set of questions assigns blame and encourages the demonization of government, as well as the disengagement of citizens; the latter set of questions embraces citizen obligation and responsibility to be a part of the process and solution.

  1. Ask board members to reflect on the following questions regarding the four categories of SOAR:
  2. Strengths: What are our greatest assets? What expertise do we have or have access to?
  3. Opportunities: What prospects for success exist? What options are available?
  4. Aspirations: What is our preferred future? What specific goals do we have?
  5. Results: How do we identify objectives that will lead to our goals? Who will do what, by when? What are the measurable outcomes?

The SOAR method allows board members to focus on the positive attributes of the process and outcome, to assess how the board functions as a cohesive team, encourages introspection on effective communication and execution, and ultimately develops leadership skills within the board.

Evaluating Progress: Identifying Indicators and Reaching your Goals

Often, a board may not know if it is reaching its goals and achieving success. In order to know if you’re getting close to achieving your goals, you have to know what it is you what to achieve, how you will achieve it, and how you will measure or evaluate whether you are making progress. Identifying what it is you are evaluating is critical to understanding if you are being successful in reaching goals.

Strategic visioning can be used by your board to identify future goals and work collectively to address board needs. Strategic visioning is a process in which individuals discuss past and present issues, determine positive qualities and assets, identify future goals, design a plan, carry out a series of actions, and evaluate the outcomes. Through a process of collective dialogue and reflection, strategic visioning has the potential to lead to board action by creating a “road map” to the future. There are generally five steps to a visioning process with corresponding actions and tasks (see Table 6).

 

Table 6

 

In order for strategic visioning to be successful, it requires the process be organized, focused, and well-managed. It also requires the board be actively engaged in the process, eager for dialogue and change, and concerned about its future. Regardless of how a board undertakes strategic visioning, the process will likely lead to enhanced trust, increased skills, knowledge and abilities of board members, improved communication and relationships, and a sense of responsibility and teamwork.

In order to evaluate your board’s goals adequately, you must understand the definition of an indicator and the characteristics of a good indicator. An indicator is a specific parameter that can be monitored to determine whether objectives are being met. Based on Phillips (2005), there are eight desirable characteristics of a good indicator:

  1. Measurable: Indicators should be quantitative—subject to measurement. Indicators should be able to be counted, meaning you can assign a number to measure change that may result over a given period.
  2. Reliable: Indicators should be capable of being measured precisely and accurately. If an indicator is reliable, it should also be repeatable and able to be measured accurately by different people.
  3. Cost-Effective: Indicators should be capable of being measured cost-effectively, generally using simple equipment and techniques. A measurement that takes a long time to acquire or is cost-prohibitive is not likely to be analyzed over the long–term.
  4. Significant: Indicators must relate to significant conditions or features. A good indicator should be capable of detecting changes and must relate to conditions or features that are important to the board.
  5. Relevant: The relevancy of the indicator refers to the types of changes that are to be studied and should be from appropriate and related activities or situations.
  6. Sensitive: Indicators should focus on sensitive components (early warning) and allow time for correcting.
  7. Efficient: Indicators are most efficient if they represent broader conditions. Efficiency reduces the number of circumstances that must be monitored.
  8. Responsive: The indicator you are monitoring should be responsive to change.

An indicator is like a yardstick to measure how well the action plan is being carried out and whether the goals are being met. Good features of indicators can make it easier to measure the progress of meeting your board’s goals. When you are considering evaluating the work of a sub-committee or the progress of your strategic planning, consider identifying indicators and the characteristics of a good indicator.

References

Ames, S. 2006. Community visioning. In Steiner, F. R., & K. Butler, (eds.). Planning and Urban Design Standards. (pp. 39-40). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Havens, D. S., Wood, S. O., & Leeman, J. 2006. Improving nursing practice and patient care: Building capacity with appreciative inquiry. Journal of Nursing Administration, 36(10), 463-470.

Phillips, R. (Ed.). 2005. Community indicators measuring systems. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Stravos, J., Cooperrider, D., & Kelly, D.L. 2003. Appreciative intent: Inspiration to SOAR: A new framework for strategic planning. AP Practitioner. Available at http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/uploads/Stavros%20-StrategicInquiryArt.doc
24 Based on Ames (2006).

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About the Authors

Jennifer Anderson is the Montana State University Extension Agent in Rosebud-Treasure County, Forsyth, Montana. She can be reached at (406) 346-7320, jenanderson@montana.edu.

Dan Clark is the Director of the Montana State University Extension Local Government Center. He can be reached at (406) 994-7756, daniel.clark@montana.edu.

Tim Fine is the Montana State University Extension Agent in Richland County, Sidney, Montana. He can be reached at (406) 433-1206, tfine@montana.edu.

Ashley Kent is the Associate Director of the Montana State University Extension Local Government Center. She can be reached at (406) 994-6657, ashleykent@montana.edu

Paul Lachapelle is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Montana State University. He can be reached at (406) 994-3620, paul.lachapelle@montana.edu.