Building a Board Into a Team

Wes Crago
Program Administrator, Clear Risk Solutions
background image

                        I do love a locker room. It smells like potential.
                                                                 -Ted Lasso

Teamwork is the most important determinant for the success of any board. We all learn teamwork when we are young, in school, on an athletic field or around a game board. However, we rarely take the principles of teamwork into our board meetings. Here are some techniques to foster teamwork within a board of directors.

If we consider a board as members of a sports team, the foundational documents for organization are akin to the rules of the sport. Board members must be aware of, if not conversant in, the founding or governing documents of their organization. This may include bylaws, organizational structure, policies and the like.

All boards should have a “Rules of Board Procedure” document that establishes the process of how votes are taken and agendas are set. Board members should also be aware of their relationship to the organization’s staff, and the structure of the insurance provided.

Two foundational pledges should be adopted to foster a solid foundation for board members and staff:

  • A pledge to never surprise one another in public
  • A pledge to never disparage one another anywhere

The board and organization should also mutually follow two foundational principles:

  • Leadership through persuasion
  • Reciprocal accountability

Like an athletic team, board members should have a clear vision of their overall purpose. This can take the form of a mission statement. One simple, yet iconic, example is that of the McLaren Formula 1 Team: “We exist to win."

Fundamentals for any team are the crucial, repeated and everyday tasks. In our industry, the most fundamental task is building trust. Trust between the board and staff flows from a true understanding of the scope and limits of everyone’s role.

Therefore, onboarding, clear responsibilities, ongoing training and retreats are all critical. Making sure to balance educational time with conversational activities will help build those relationships.

Fundamental trust is also built in maintaining board-appropriate communications pathways. Any conflicts that arise should be discussed professionally and openly.

Like an athletic team taking the field, board meetings are where the foundations and fundamentals of teamwork are implemented.

Recruitment and time spent on your board’s composition is crucial. Having a blend of abilities, interests and backgrounds on your board will help develop a solid diverse team.

To function well as a team, the most impactful member is your board chair. The chair will represent the organization, run the meetings, and must, therefore, be most knowledgeable. Make sure to spend time with your board chair.

Professionally run meetings will likewise lead to success. A carefully structured meeting, utilizing a consent agenda, functional committees, and measured staff input, will help streamline meetings. Combined with the ongoing training fundamental, this will lead to shorter, more focused meetings. Spend time practicing and communicating meeting expectations.

Great teamwork is the overall goal. Your board and staff can work best together when fulfilling distinct roles but uniting together as a team.

*The views and opinions expressed in the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) blogs are those of each respective author. The views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRIMA.*

By: Wes Crago
Program Administrator, Clear Risk Solutions

In 2003, Wes assumed the post of city administrator for the City of Ephrata, WA. Wes’ greatest strength is knitting together powerful and long-lasting teams that go on to achieve great successes. Wes is well-experienced in crisis management, forms of government and public communications.

While city administrator, Wes also served on the board of directors for the Cities Insurance Association of Washington, a 200+ member municipal risk pool. There he led the board for a decade as chairman; negotiating mutually successful agreements with state officials, regulators and many large and diverse insurance matters. In 2019, Wes accepted the position of city administrator for the City of Spokane, WA. While short, it was an exciting and rewarding experience.

In late 2020, Wes assumed the role of program administrator for Clear Risk Solutions. He oversees the two municipal pools; one county group, and the other comprised of cities and special districts.

Sign Up for Our Education Newsletter

You Might Also Be Interested In