Serving as a volunteer director on an association board of directors can be a hard and thankless job, even in the best of times. There is a lot of responsibility, a lot of work, and a lot of Robert’s Rules of Order. Directors can burn out because there is too much on their plate—and they can burn out because there is too little.
Here are four things your association can do to reverse that burnout and re-engage directors today.
1. Acknowledge that the burnout exists.
The first step to reversing any negative trend is acknowledging the problem exists. A full review of the problem has to occur before an illness can be diagnoses, much less treated. If you are seeing signs of burnout—missed meetings, distracted or disengaged during meetings, needlessly negative comments during meetings, no engagement beyond the bare minimum—then you are seeing burnout.
Don’t convince yourself the problem doesn’t exist, or that it’s not that big of a deal.
Eventually, a disengaged board can lead to a disengaged membership. Once that feedback loop happens, it can be impossible to stop.
2. Be willing to have hard conversations.
Once we’ve acknowledged the burnout, be willing to have hard conversations.
When that discussion occurs, don’t make the moment confrontational. Approach the discussion with empathy. The reason they may be burned out may have nothing to do with the association. It could be a personal matter or a professional challenge that has diverted their attention. Support from fellow members during hard times is the whole reason many people belong to associations.
Be willing to have the discussion, but don’t enter those talks assuming the worst of your friends and colleagues.
3. Facilitate personal goal setting.
Directors join boards because they care about their profession and have a desire to both serve and lead.
Unfortunately, hours and years spent making and seconding motions can suck the meaning right out of the idea of service. There should be nothing unexpected about that. When you recognize a director who just seems bored and over the whole notion of attending one more meeting, engage them in a discussion about their personal goals.
When they first joined the board, what impact did they want to have on their profession? How did they want to leverage industry leadership to help create a better life for their colleagues and themselves?
Use the language of inspiration and see if your director would set some measurable goals they want to achieve during their remaining time on the board.
4. Shake up the little things.
Even the tastiest sandwich would get old if you ate it every day of the week.
And even the best of board meetings usually isn’t a tasty sandwich.
(What about board meetings that serve actual sandwiches? Let’s be honest. Those aren’t that great, either.)
Shake up the logistics of your board meetings. If it’s possible, try a different format. Include brainstorming time in every meeting. Call upon colleagues for their opinions, especially when they feel reluctant to give them. Be conscientious about the changes you make, but shake things up—and do so intending to turn every board member into an active participant at every meeting.
Sometimes it really is the little things. Even a different type of food or venue can add a spark back into a meeting that’s gone stale.
Whatever you do, no association can afford to have apathetic board members. Acknowledging the problem, discussing the problem, setting personal goals, and shaking up the little things can help reengage your board and ensure your association remains relevant to its members.
Is volunteering for your association burning you out? It doesn’t have to be that way. Our AMC can help provide the staff, resources, and experience so your association can thrive. Contact us today to learn more about partnering together.