5 Tips for New Board Members

You’re a new board member… now what? Stepping into a board position can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. These five tips will help you understand your new role:

  1. Ask Questions
    If you have an orientation or information session, take advantage of it and ask your questions there. If not, reach out to your staff liaison or another board member to ask your questions. Summarizing them together can make the most of a brief phone conversation and increase your confidence in your new role. It’s better to ask questions and fulfill your role than stay quiet and be unsure about something.
  2. Read
    Read meeting materials, especially the summary and action items before the meetings. If you have historical information, familiarize yourself with why leadership decisions were made. If not, ask for past board minutes to understand the background of discussions. Gather as much information as possible to optimize your efficiency as a board member.
  3. Understand Expectations
    Get clarity about what you’re supposed to do. Ask if you’re required to travel, cover your own expenses, attend other meetings, etc. Knowing what you are and are not ‘required’ to do helps you understand your role. Knowing the expectations of your position can help make you the best board member you can be while avoiding becoming overcommitted.
  4. Listen
    Meetings have nuances. Listening to the flow of conversation, discussion of issues, and how business is conducted will help you figure out how to best participate. If you’ve following Tip #1 and asking questions, listen to the answers and incorporate them into your actions.
  5. Use Resources
    Take advantage of leadership training opportunities, printed resources, and people resources. Your organization’s staff is the consistent link to past and present leadership making them familiar with organizational issues. Get some time with your key staff members and ask them the questions you may not want to ask peers. If they don’t have the information, they know how to get it. Their job is to support you to succeed in your role. Using their knowledge shortcuts your learning curve and better positions you as a leader.

Enjoy your time on the board. These relationships lead to lifelong mentors, colleagues and friends. Using these 5 tips will set you up for a great start to your new position.