Every association has a board of directors responsible for governance. Their efforts advance the mission, serve the members and manage the finances.

For the Board it’s a "Trip"

The mission statement serves as the primary driver of the board. The fuel for the trip is the availability of resources in the form of finances, time, volunteers and staff. The combination should provide for a high-performance engine.

At board meetings, the agenda is the GPS. For this article, let’s rename the GPS from global positioning system to “goals, priorities and strategies.”

Organizational values such as transparency, accountability and innovation should guide the forward motion.

The board meetings are especially important for achieving results. But engagement and efforts between meetings is equally vital. Directors should not disengage.

Forward Focus

All organizations should have an image of success or a stated vision. The board’s efforts should be about the future, not the past.

Be cautious of the frequent statement, “That’s not how we used to do.” Some boards use their rearview mirror too often.

Maintain a focus on the destination and journey. If the board is thoughtful about setting the destination, the committees and staff will manage the pit stops, taking care of details. The goal is to reach the destination as efficiently as possible.

Use performance measures to check the gauges along the route (speed, fuel, safety). The gauges or dashboards might track membership satisfaction, financial position and conference attendance, for example.

To be forward-focused, keep the windshield clean and use the defogger often. You may have to get out to clean off the bugs — they equate to the naysayers on the board.


The strategic plan is the board’s roadmap. Without a plan, any destination will do. It is especially a concern for an elected officer wanting to leave a personal legacy. The strategic plan should keep all parties on the right road.

Most plans have four or five core competencies toward which the board should drive. When the board or committees get lost, it should use the strategic plan as a compass. The board is responsible for achieving the results described in the plan.

Brake Lights

Some directors may have a fear of forward motion. They keep their foot on the brake. Members only see the brake lights of their leadership, disappointed by the board’s failure to advance.

Directors without courage to make meaningful decisions are overly cautious drivers. You might recognize them with the phrase, “I hate to be the devil’s advocate, but….” Some of them ride the brake at every meeting.

Experienced drivers know that the brakes have to be applied as a turn approaches but after that they can accelerate. For some associations, technology investment is the lubricant for a more efficient engine.


Associations and chambers rely on a volunteer board of directors to reach the intended destination. The good governance journey relies on a board that knows how to make the trip, knows how to check performance, and keeps fuel in the tank to reach their destination.