Better Board Dynamics

Associations Now April/May 2013 Issue By: Kristin Clarke

Governance expert Glenn Tecker on how an exercise in expectations leads to a better board. [Titled "Mental Models" in print edition.]

Many association board members are reverting to governance habits they should have long outgrown, according to Glenn Tecker, president and CEO of Tecker International.

Tecker, the longtime facilitator of ASAE's CEO Symposiums, warns that "a significant number of board members and officers with virtually no experience in a leadership position, especially within an association, … bring with them their notions of what they should be doing from other places," such as trying to run an organization as they would their professional practices or companies.

In addition, he says, "we're seeing boards of scientific associations with a lot of middle managers who think they need to run the association like a department."

His response? A symposium lead-off exercise called Mental Models. "We ask folks to identify what their mental portrait is of a CEO and chief elected officer and where that comes from," he says. "What does that model look like for behaviors, responsibilities?"  

Tecker then asks elected officers to define how the association they're leading differs from the organization that was the source of their mental model, what the implications of those differences are for their leadership approach, and how they can work together with the CEO.

"The exercise gets both parties to identify their biases right away and then move through activities to look at the character of their association, their internal dynamics, and the environment in which they're operating," he says. "Raising the issue of mental models was something none of them had talked about, and it makes a big difference. That's a conversation you may want to have whether you go to the symposium or not."

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.