In the past, we have addressed the issue of having difficult conversations, perhaps one of the toughest parts of any job, especially when it involves an employee, perhaps a long-term employee. Now let’s ramp that up a level and consider a similar conversation with a long-term board member, specifically a situation where the board member needs to resign. The role of “managing” a board member should, of course, be the responsibility of the board president or another board leader. Yet, as the executive director, you might find that you need to provide some coaching to the board president on how to have this conversation. As I was prowling around for some insights, I stopped at Jan Masaoka’s article on Blue Avocado entitiled Four Ways to Remove a Board Member. Under personal intervention, she provides some specific wording in three sample situations, all of which are helpful wording suggestions for this situation or other similar situations.
Let me remind you about the usual rules for having difficult conversations:
1. Always respect the individual and that that individual can have other opinions and behaviors that are different but not wrong.
2. Be specific about the actions that are creating the problem and (hopefully) refer to your prior conversations on these behaviors.
3. Be clear on why these behaviors cannot continue, that is, how they affect the operation, goals, or mission of the board or the organization.
4. If you intend for this person to resign, make sure to suggest that at the conclusion of your conversation…either “Maybe it is best for you to resign” or “I think it is best for you to resign” depending on the level of commitment to that person’s removal from the board.
I always “rehearse” this conversation, usually by writing out a few notes on the points I want to make. It’s usually beneficial to start with some questions, though. You may find that the person’s responses will lead you to the conversation more comfortably or will give you some clarifications on his/her mind-set that will aid in making your points.
Author: Larry Tucker, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org