Taking the hit and miss out of board elections

Elections, by their very nature, carry the risk of the wrong people getting up, in companies, as much as politics.

After all, when board member positions need to be filled there is a process to be followed.

Under the constitution, the organisation will call for nominations, interested parties will put up their hands, they will embark on a campaign to whip up support from the other members and might go on to win a seat on the board.

It’s very hit and miss, with no guarantee that the person elected adds value by bringing the skills the board so desperately seeks at that particular juncture in the organisation’s life.

In short, such an approach is a long way off best practice.

And while falling short of being foolproof or watertight, there is an entirely legitimate –and best practice – approach to the process that will significantly improve the chances of getting what is needed, for the good of the board and the organisation.

It all comes down to thoroughness and diligence that, through implementing and following a few straightforward steps, will guide the process and hopefully lead to the best possible outcome.

Best practice organisations know where they are heading in a strategic sense. They have a deep understanding of what they require of their board in terms of the skills and experience to deliver on the chosen strategic direction.

Before the election takes place, these organisations do everything in their power to ensure that those up for election have a comprehensive grasp of the organisation, the position to be filled, the skills required and the demands it will make of the successful candidate.

When calling for nominations, they will require all interested individuals to agree, if elected, to commit to a board position description and a Code of Conduct. They will also require candidates to complete a detailed blurb that not only lists the skills and experience they believe they offer but argues how their expertise tallies with the specific skills the board considers desirous.

The board, of course, cannot tell the membership how to vote; rather, good boards can influence how they might vote by educating the members and informing them about what is important for the organisation’s sustainability and future growth.

They do so by seeing to it that when the election papers are distributed to members for voting purposes, they include a reference to the basic requirements for serving as a board member, the specific skills being sought by the board at the election and the detailed election blurbs or manifestos of each candidate.

With candidates understanding what the job entails and members across what the organisation is looking for, the chances are those elected will not only be the best fit for the tasks at hand; they will know what is expected of them and how they should behave.

Until next time,
Kate.

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