Every once in awhile, a difficult board member comes along. And that can make your job HARD (and not to mention, incredibly unenjoyable).
So what do you do? How do you handle the situation when you’re both clearly invested in your roles? Here are a few tips:
1. Always tie everything back to your organization’s “why”
Let’s say your board member disagrees with just about everything you say. You can’t get anything approved or accomplished.
If that’s the case, instead of focusing so much on the “what,” try tying everything back to your organization’s “why.” Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re pushing for a more seamless check-in process at your association’s next event. (The thing is, though, that costs money). Well, instead of focusing SO much on the new process and/or software (which you’ll still need to cover - don’t get us wrong), try emphasizing the importance of those shifts - happier attendees, which will, in turn, lead to return attendees. (More money year-over-year!)
Your board member might still shoot the idea down, but by highlighting the “why,” other people will see where you’re coming from and that you have the organization’s best interests at heart (and that’s really all you can do/hope for).
2. When appropriate, have group discussions
If you’re pitching an idea like the one mentioned above, try doing it in a group setting (if it’s appropriate). If your board member really is an outlier, other people will be there to back your idea - or at least see where you’re coming from.
Now this doesn’t automatically mean things are going to be smooth sailing, but you can pack power in numbers (to an extent). Don’t gang up on the board member, but do plead your case with an audience nearby.
3. Confront the board member head-on - respectfully (and listen!)
If things are getting worse and you’re growing increasingly unhappy at your job (because of this board member), it might be time to confront them - privately and respectfully. Do NOT talk about the board member behind their back. This will create a negative work environment and more problems down the road.
Instead, ask them for a little time to chat. Express your feelings and see if they’re picking up on similar vibes. Even if you’re frustrated, listen to what they have to say and where they’re coming from. This is your opportunity to mend the situation, so be open, honest, and receptive.
4. Reframe your mindset
This one’s listed last because we realize it’s not really want you want to hear. But let’s say the first three tactics don’t work. Well at that point, you really only have three options: 1) Leave (if it really is that bad); 2) Spend every day frustrated and upset (not ideal); or 3) Reframe your mindset.
Do you see the clear winner?
Now this is obviously easier said than done, but a few tips to help you reframe your thinking:
- Despite what you don’t like about the board member, think about the positives they bring to your association. Maybe they have a negative attitude, but they have a great network of contacts your association can tap into. Or maybe they’re loud and not the best listener, but they know how to take initiative and get things done. Focusing on these positives helps ease the pain (and frustration) of those lesser appealing qualities.
- Keep in mind this is temporary. If all else fails, remember that at some point, their term will probably end. There IS light at the end of the tunnel, so deep breaths - and patience!
If working with your board is fine, but managing your association is where the real problem lies (engaging your members, boosting retention, etc.), allow us to help. Check out our free guide to membership management below. It’s filled with best practices for membership recruitment, engagement, retention, and more!