At In Trust, we spend a lot of time talking about what board members should be doing. And we give examples of many schools who have turned a corner, worked through challenges, learned how to thrive.
It's much harder to talk about problems. As a membership organization, we don't really want to single out member schools who aren't thriving. We don't particularly want to focus on bad examples. And we don't want to kick an person -- or an institution -- when it's down.
But sometimes it's worth talking about bad examples and "worst practices."
Back in the New Year 2009 issue of In Trust, we took on this topic head-on with an article by Rebekah Burch Basinger called "Nipping Trouble in the Bud: When Board Members Behave Badly."
In the Autumn 2009 issue, Rebekah has written a follow up article called "When Board Members Behave Badly, Part 2: Anchoring Loose Cannons and Other Strategies for Peaceful Governance." In this article, she takes on the Chatty Cathies who give away secrets outside the board room, the overextended or lazy members who refuse to do any work between meetings, the drama queens and kings who employ the "board card" irresponsibly, and the lowest of the low -- the Brutuses who stab the president in the back.
Rebekah isn't the only writer who is addressing bad behavior. Blue Avocado is also stepping into the fray, with a new article called "What to Do with Board Members Who Don't Do Anything." I really like the suggestions in this piece, which are helpful and respectful.
Of course, the purpose of these is not to show disrespect for board members, who volunteer their time and are almost invariably committed to the mission of the schools they lead. And we certainly don't expect each board to behave in the same way. Rather, we're trying to provide real examples of governance best practices, but also to help schools address their own governance worst practices.
It's a tough tightrope for us, and even tougher for the boards and administrators who grapple with these issues all the time.