Your Board's Not Old, Your Approach Is

By Randy Karnes


You want younger board members, you can’t handle younger board members! Or replace the word “younger” with some other characteristic you’re looking for: more business savvy, more technical, more mission-based, more member-focused, etc. The bottom line is… have you changed your approach to teaming with board members to be more?

How young is your approach? Is it a carryover from when your current board members were 33 years old? You might have changed from paper reports to digital ones on a tablet, but are they the same reports? You might have changed the order of the board sections, but have you really changed the board content? You might have moved from a Tuesday evening to a Thursday, but have you added or reduced the number of meetings you have per year? You get the point.

Tough & Scary

It’s tough, scary, and an uphill battle with traditionalists to upset the apple cart, but when you do bring in new board members, even one by one, the traditions are what you teach, not what they demand. Are you the reason that your credit union makes old souls out of every board member you attract?

Often, when I meet 80-year-old-plus board members, I find they have stuck around not because of what is happening now, but because they remember what happened when it was “fun, rewarding, and real” for them as volunteers. They remember when they were part of building the credit union, not just rubber stamping someone else running the joint.

And right there is the key to how you need to make young board members feel today. They need a job, a purpose, and a role from their perspective–not yours, not the NCUA’s, and not from the perspective that the place is on auto-pilot. 

What You Might Not Realize

As a CEO, whether with 50 or 5000 employees, it can seem that you too are watching a business operation that is on auto-pilot when you think about the Monday to Friday operation. You can feel that you are supervising the operation and a board is a redundant asset helping you oversee something that cannot afford anymore supervision. So, you already feel marginalized, and you might be doing that to your board without even realizing it.

Just like you, they need to build something, to sense that they own something, and that their skills are important to something. Renew those feelings in your board and it won’t matter how old they are! They will engage what is being built, they will take interest in what they own, and they will get the pride of being important to it all.

Shift from blaming generational issues on your board and tackle the generational stagnation of your organization’s approach to the value of owners and their volunteering. Build something, if not just enthusiasm, and you will see a change.

Randy Karnes is CEO of CU*Answers, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Section: Standard
Word Count: 614
Copyright Holder:
Copyright Year: 2019
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