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Have You Overstayed Your Board Seat Welcome…?

February 26th, 2013

For those that know me, I am a fiercely competitive individual and that competitiveness extends to not only my cycling, but to a different degree, the office. Depending on the environment and who I am dealing with, my competitiveness will be adjusted accordingly. The satisfaction I have gotten from my career has been the derivative of the environments I have hired into and being able to let that competitiveness play out in the form of driving improved financial results at all levels, thus improving the financial health of the company. Over the last few years the scope of my involvement broadened as pursued my first Board seats, both of which were with non-profits. Both were equally enjoyable and had satisfying missions.

One of those Boards, the Orange County Marathon Foundation, was dedicated to the organization and execution of the OC Kid’s Run, which is a peripheral event to the Orange County Marathon. The Board already had a strong line-up, but I was asked to participate on the Board and very quickly was asked to be the Treasurer, a nomination I gladly accepted. I decided to participate since there was a strong initiative to increase participation, address sponsorships, and a few other key items. Seemed like a perfect strategic fit for what I had essentially done at a corporate level in the past. I spent my first few Board meetings getting to know the broader team, as well as the past challenges they had to deal with in the past. Very quickly I found that it was a very capable crew. Yes, there were a few contributions I made, but I also came to realize that it really wasn’t the standard “restructuring” I was used to, nor was there really a need for any intensive financial planning. The expenses that the team was dealing with were almost entirely variable with the runner count for the event.

Now let’s rewind to that whole “Performance” thing that drives me in my personal life. Essentially the Board really only needed an accountant or bookkeeper to count the debits and credits. I also really started to question my contribution to the Board and whether I was adding value to the seat I was occupying at each Board meeting. It took a bit of time to admit, but I arrived at the decision to discontinue my involvement with the Board because I knew there was somebody else out there that would deliver much more value than I was, which ultimately, would benefit the kids that much more. With such a capable team behind the Foundation, I didn’t want to hold onto my seat strictly for the sake of having a placeholder on the resume.

Whether non-profit or your standard corporation, it’s the duty of Board members to ensure that they are delivering value and helping the team drive a higher level of performance that might not be there in their absence. If that is not the case then perhaps they should be rethinking their position on the Board. I received some feedback that suggested I should hold my seat until I found another Board, but that certainly wouldn’t have been appropriate, or fair, to the Foundation Board. I know that as I continue my networking efforts I will find that next Board opportunity that will allow me to leverage my experience and deliver the value I expect to.  Have you overstayed your Board seat welcome…?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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