Having an educated and engaged executive board is another key component in creating and supporting member activists. Executive Board members who understand our union’s strategies, priorities and campaigns can help to educate other members.
Approaches to executive board development include:
- Holding retreats where the board members get to know each other, discuss their vision for the local union and provide input on union direction and programs.
- Adding trainings and/or strategic discussions to executive board meetings (prior to or following meetings)
Some common pitfalls that retreats and trainings may address:
- Time on the Trivial. Major program issues go unresolved while the board grapples with various details.
- Short-Term Bias. The long-term future of our union is a key responsibility of a board, but many boards deal far more with the short term, and often, with the past.
- Reviewing, Rehashing, Redoing. A significant amount of time is spent reviewing what the staff has already done and/ or revisiting decisions that the Board’s already made.
- Confusing Roles. The staff receives conflicting directions and assignments from the President and/or the E-Board. Once the Board has made a decision on a particular direction or program they try to micromanage the implementation instead of letting the President or other staff carry out the day-to-day work operations.
- Leaky Decision-Making. The Board makes a decision as a group, but later individual board members go back to their worksites and lobby against the decision.
- It’s Just Perfect Attendance. Board members think that their role begins and ends with their participation at board meetings. They don’t always recognize their responsibilities outside of attending meetings.
- The Rubber-Stamp. There are situations where the Board, rather than developing, debating and deciding policy or goals simply approves without questioning and/or fully understanding what is presented to them.
- Confusing Ends and Means. Boards can become so engrossed in the many activities of the union that they lose sight of the results that the activities are supposed to accomplish. No one is measuring the effectiveness of the Local’s activities or projects.
- Ineffective Board Meetings. Meetings are poorly organized and/or run in a way that nothing meaningful is accomplished. Board members stop coming or are demoralized when they do. Real discussions and decisions may happen outside of the Board meetings or only among a small handful of Board members.
- Out of Touch with Membership. Board members forget to include the membership when making their decisions or have stopped trying to involve the members all together. Board members maintain contact only with a few members that they work with or know personally and the Board has been unable to effectively communicate its message to the members and get them to support overall union plans. The Board has become a body that is out of touch with the memberships’ needs, and the members may view the Board negatively.
- Second-Guessing Answers. Board members quarrel about a policy or procedure rather than checking the Local’s constitution and by-laws. (While these documents cannot cover everything, they should be the first source of reference that Board members check when there is uncertainty or disagreement.)
- Fragmentation. Committees and/or individual Board members operate within their own agenda instead of working from a commonly developed plan. Committees don’t have a full understanding of each other’s roles; they don’t communicate or share information with each other; and there is no sense of how their objectives connect to the Local’s overall plans.
- Weak Accountability. Board Committees aren’t held accountable. Some follow deadlines and some don’t. Some have full participation and developed goals while others do not. Inconsistencies in accountability weaken the Local’s program as a whole.