I've been the CEO of a trade association for about three and a half years now. And I've just returned from one of my own Board meetings. Since it's near the end of our fiscal year, and several Board member terms are coming to an end, this was the meeting where departing Board members were thanked, the gavel was passed to a new chairman, and incoming Board members were given their first glimpse of how this Board operates and what it is that they'll be expected to do.
And as all that was happening, it occurred to me that it will only be a few more years before it's me--the CEO--who will have the most association-specific experience at that Board table. The group of Board members who were there when I started--and who really set the tone for what the Board is and how it will govern the association--are bit by bit rotating off, and the new people coming on--while well-intentioned and experienced in their own businesses--understandably have more questions than answers in this regard.
If there are traditions to honor, policies to enforce, and expectations to communicate, it'll be up to me to make sure they are appropriately honored, enforced and communicated. Now, for new Board members, and soon, for the entire Board, I will be the sole source of information for what the Board does and how it does it--not just its procedures but its very culture.
This is a different view of the equation than I've previously had. New Board members don't really know what they're getting into, and their on-boarding is a critical time to get them engaged and assimiliated into the culture of the team their joining. An experienced association CEO can take ownership of that culture in a way new CEOs can't, shaping it Board member by Board member in a positive direction and then reinforcing its best elements for the good of the organization.