9 steps to take to help new directors serve well
In my November Good Governance column, I talked about the importance of having a process in place to identify potential board members, introduce them to the credit union and, eventually, ask them to run for the board. Once directors are elected, you’ll need to build a robust, comprehensive onboarding program that includes such elements as:
- Public announcement of the election. Kick off your orientation program (and a welcome to the board) with a public announcement of your new colleague’s election. Use this opportunity to get to know your new director and for him or her to know the credit union more closely.
- Hold both formal and informal board orientations for the board and staff. This is the easy part. Schedule formal briefings with both the board and staff for your new director. From our experience, this is where most credit union orientation programs start … and, sadly, where they also stop.
- Appoint a mentor or guide. Identify a seasoned director to mentor and guide your new colleague for the first year. The mentor can answer questions on a one-on-one basis, accompany the new board member to credit union events and generally help shepherd the new director through the first year.
- Schedule regular check-ins by the board chair or mentor. Have regular de-brief conversations to “check in” with your new board members to answer any questions and take their pulse within the first two months.
- Schedule an informal meet and greet event. To introduce your new director to the full board, host an informal event, either before or after his or her first meeting, to welcome your new director to the ranks.
- Have the chair appoint the new director to a committee or taskforce. After a period of time, and in consultation with the new board member, appoint him or her to a board committee or taskforce. Be sure he or she is well oriented and welcomed by the committee or taskforce chair.
- Schedule regular check-ins by the board chair and/or mentor. Schedule another check-in at three to six months.
- Encourage participation in external educational opportunities. Expose your new board member to external educational opportunities, such as national conferences offered by CUES.
- Schedule regular check-ins by the board chair or mentor. Schedule another check-in in the 6- to 12-month time frame.
In addition to the steps outlined above, some credit unions have developed associate director programs in which new directors join in a non-voting capacity before any official positions become available. Still others use their supervisory or audit committees as effective training grounds for new board members.
Remember, ultimately, you are bringing a new colleague into the fold. I know that for many of you, it may be difficult to remember back to your first board meeting. For some, it may have been 20-plus years ago. And the times have changed dramatically. What you needed to know then and what your new colleagues need to know now is night and day.
Develop a plan. Be persistent. Be patient. But above all, prepare your new board colleagues well.
Michael Daigneault, CCD, is CEO of CUES strategic provider Quantum Governance L3C, Vienna, Va., and has more than 30 years of experience in the field of governance, management, strategy, planning and facilitation. With more than 40 percent of Quantum Governance’s engagements being with credit unions, the organization fields more engagements in the credit union community than in any other. Daigneault served as an executive in residence at CUES Governance Leadership Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.