The Ideal Club Board Member

This month’s issue of Private Club Advisor  included a most interesting piece on the obvious disqualifiers from Dan Denehy of Club Thinking Partners.  These disqualifiers include:

  • Legacy thinkers, those who wish to “make their mark” on the club;
  • Micro Managers, who seem focused on day to day operations rather than policy and planning;
  • High profile, but low club use members, those who get by on charisma more than participation;
  • Members who tend to “influence the result” and seek ownership of decisions on matters they find important.

From this, it occurred to me that while avoiding certain types of board members is important, finding the right mix is even more important.  Below are some characteristics I’ve identified that may make an ideal board member:

  • Diversity – It’s critical to have board members from the various tenures, ages, groups and “cliques” across the club spectrum;
  • Commitment – While being a productive board member takes time, it’s important to identify those who have other interests and don’t make the club the entire focus of their life.  Those who spend all their time on club affairs often tend to seek solutions (more rules) to problems that don’t exist.  The ideal board member will have time to deal with club affairs but will also have other responsibilities.  The full-time job of running the club is that of the management and staff;
  • Club Culture – Those members who observe and understand the character and culture of the club and while allowing for evolution can still respect the most sensible traditions of the club;
  • Futurists – Many clubs eschew the future in favor of tradition.  Board members with a vision for how the club can succeed into the future are essential;
  • Fiscal Realists – Some clubs have boards that are full of those who seek to keep dues and costs down.  Others are unconcerned with the cost.  Each club has it’s own culture and it’s important for the board to understand the concept of value in membership, to both the existing and future membership.  This includes the responsibility to steward the club to the next generation in a solid financial condition, sometimes by being able to make tough decisions in the best interests of the club’s future.  In some instances this means reinvesting in the club, in others it indicates the need for fiscal restraint.  Every club is different;
  • Sincere “Public” Servants – At many clubs the boards are made up of those who enjoy the authority that goes with being on the board.  Sometimes, they serve for way too long.  The need for board members who truly care about shepherding the club for the benefit of the greater good (not their own personal goals) is great.  It is sometimes difficult to get quality individuals to serve because a few stick around too long and have too much influence, thereby obstructing progress.

As we often see from our federal government in Washington, governance by committee can be challenging and decisions often come slowly and are sometimes counter-productive.  At clubs, there is often an emotional element that prevents boards from making the right decisions, often for the wrong reasons.  Those of us that observe numerous clubs on a regular basis can often assist board in making the best decision for their club’s future.  Not only do we have the benefit of observing many types of clubs and their (positive & negative) histories, but we have no emotional attachment to the end result.