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The Right People on the Bus...

In Jim Collins' business classic - Good to Great - he states that you need the right people on the bus and in the right seats before deciding where it's going. 'Great vision without great people is irrelevant.' I think the instinct is to relate this statement to your staff, right? Sure it is. Makes complete sense. Though of course these days, due to low supply and high turnover, those tasked with hiring in the hospitality industry aren't as picky. But, I want to shift gears and see if we can steer this blog post towards your board, honing in on board recruitment.


A few weeks back, we asked 'What is a more important factor to effective club governance; board recruitment or board education?' the answer came back as follows...

(Club Study, Feb 2023)


I get it, or at least, I kind of get it. Board education is fluid. As one GM stated in the comments during this survey, "it's ongoing", and as a Club Manager encounters daily, and potential long term, challenges their club will face, it's up to them to relay info with appropriate context during meetings, orientations and retreats.

There's no doubting that proper board education is paramount to club success.


It just leaves me a little unsettled, I can't help but wonder if the reason why more voted for education over recruitment was because it's the one there's seemingly more influence over from a Club Managers perspective. After all, the GM doesn't pick the board. Some of those gaining board seats will eventually be reviewing their performance!


Board recruitment is tough for many reasons, first of which is that many are simply not interested in the job. They just want to leisurely enjoy the club. After that it's finding the right people. We are starting to see Club Managers have a more active role within their Nominating Committees. Over 80% of GM's think the Club Manager should have a seat on that committee. It has likely increased with the evolution of the GM/COO governance model, and that makes sense too. I wouldn't be silly enough to think GM's are free of bias towards potential board candidates but safe to say they have the deepest and widest knowledge of who have the right intentions.


The right intentions, let's park here for a second. All too often the most "passionate" members to join the board are one's with the axe to grind or some sort of personal agenda to cover. We've all seen it and it's hazardous. In light of this, it's become good practice to have a skills matrix to vet board candidates. A form of due diligence to narrow the selection.

(Club Study, Oct 2021)


What's on said skills matrices? Good question. They are improving but I don't believe there is an industry standard here, not yet however. The good ones can filter experience and determine if you've served within the club or on a volunteer board before and to what capacity. Professional expertise is examined to see where technical skills may fall. Naturally, we were curious, and so we asked recently, who sits on your board? Are specific professions targeted? Is it diverse? Here's what we found...

(Club Study, March 2023)


Okay, anyone that has been in the industry a while won't be surprised by this data. This seems to have been the common alchemy of any given non-profit club board for quite some time. On the outset, a lineup like the one above is a diverse board covering a lot of bases, but I wonder if this is the ideal makeup? Maybe, but all we have for certain is a list of professions and demographics. Are these the only boxes nominating committee is interested in checking? I wonder what a GM would think? I mean hypothetically, if a Club Manager had their choice of board members would they prioritize those that check these proverbial boxes? Well, surprise surprise we've asked about that too...

(Club Study, June 2021)


It's possible that those listed in the board makeup above; Entrepreneurs and Financiers, also have vision and are trustworthy but it's really difficult to know that even with an aforementioned skills matrix. This is exactly why the GM needs to be involved with the process. They're the best bet into any intel regarding who board candidates are and what they stand for.


So is it as simple as changing the focus from job titles and career experience to traits or values? Sort of. I believe in the skills matrix, truly, but perhaps in future iterations it can be populated with a way to assess the human skills above; selflessness, collaborative, integrity. In leading Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant's book, Think Again - The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, he states - “Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn. Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.” a critical leadership skill today.


How can we find out which members have open-minds, including the ability to unlearn what they thought they knew, while putting the mission of the club above their own interest? I do know one club that sends a regular (either annual or bi-annually) member survey with strict questions meant to assess board candidate potential. What a novel concept and innovative cultural practice! What else can we do? I certainly don't have all the answers from my armchair, and please, anyone that has additional examples, leave comments below. I do have one idea though I want to leave you with...


I post fun (for me anyways), sometimes abstract poll questions on LinkedIn every week or two. Here was one from the fall...

If you're trying to assess one's character, how they treat others, their care for the club and intentions, it could be valuable to ask the staff or management team. Knowing now that the GM is officially involved, or at least formally consulted, in the process, it's time to take the next step. I'm a big fan of peer assessments, that is, asking a group what they think and collectively formulating a conclusion vs any one individual doing it. Club personnel would be as qualified as anyone to critique a member's kindness, communication and relations within their given faction. Information that anyone assembling a leadership team would be grateful for. The environment they see each member in is equitable and staff can get to know members quite well. Relying on only a few opinions is risky and not as precise as the wisdom of the crowd - a proven method of accuracy. Of course there is the topic of contested vs uncontested elections but we will save that for another day.


Can Nominating Committees have a board recruitment tool box, add the skills matrix as the first tool and see what else can be used to accurately assess those soft/human skills needed for a team to thrive. I started with Jim Collins and think it'd be fitting to bookend this blog with him as well - “First Who ... Then What. We expected that good-to-great leaders would begin by setting a new vision and strategy. We found instead that they first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats—and then they figured out where to drive it. The old adage “People are your most important asset” turns out to be wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”










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Membro desconhecido
11 de abr. de 2023

Well written Ryan. I was in the minority on your poll and felt Board selection is the more vital process. If the wrong person is on the bus, you can educate them all you want and they’ll find ways to discount it or work around it. Likewise if those new candidates don’t know or subscribe to your Board’s Policy Manual, the club and management will have trouble moving forward. All of a sudden, you can find the bus changing destinations mid way through the trip!

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