Giving Thanks

I’m not a holiday kind of person.  I don’t have or attend large family and friend dinners; hate giving and receiving gifts.  Don’t get all misty-eyed over holiday songs, plays, stories, movies, ballet.  But there is something I enjoy about Thanksgiving.

I like when people reflect on what they are thankful for.

Too often, our focus in on the negative.  I meet with colleagues and do we talk about the 97% of our clients who are wonderful?  Of course not.  We whinge on about the one client who is driving us insane.

Those involved with customer (or donor) relations know that a good experience will result in one or two people being told.  But a bad one….it’s as if the afflicted had a megaphone in a crowded stadium

Certainly, ED’s and Development Directors don’t focus on the good their board members do and bring. A lot of our business comes from staff leadership wanting better outcomes from their boards.  The focus, alas, is on what board members don’t do and/or what they do that is annoying, irritating, intrusive (and sometimes all of the above).

Undoubtedly, we end up with self-fulfilling prophesies.  I think this board member is awful and lo! and behold, she acts (or doesn’t act at all) in totally awful ways.

My sister is almost the mirror image of me (or I of her).  I live on the west coast; she lives on the east coast.  I have always had to work for a living; she has been “retired” for as long as I’ve known her. I work at nonprofits; she has frequently been on nonprofit boards.  My work is about fundraising and she is a major donor. And she is the best sounding board I know.

Many years ago, I was complaining about my board—they just weren’t doing what I needed them to do.  My sister looked at me and asked:  ARE YOU DOING WHAT THEY NEED YOU TO DO?

Hmmm, probably not.  I was focused on my needs and didn’t bother to find out what they might need.

Managing your board means that you work with each and every one of them to find the places where they can be successful.  None of us likes to work at thins where we have scant success.  They needn’t come to the job with the skills and knowledge necessary, but they must be trained, coached, helped to be successful.

So in this holiday season, think about your board.  See if you can identify three exceptional actions each of your board members has done for your organization.  Then ask yourself:  How have you recognized those efforts or achievement?

Start by thanking them. Publicly.  Tell their stories and how much good they bring to your table.  How they add value to your organization.

Thank them privately also.  Tell them how what they do matters and makes your organization better.

Ask them who on your staff makes them thankful.  Make sure your staff hears about the good things your board is saying about them.  Share with the board the things staff values in their board interactions.

It’s easy to complain. I know.  I am a first-class grumbler.   But I know that the more I whine, the more I feel I have to whine about.

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