This is one of my favorite columns written by Kelly Otte, founder of this column. It’s about rolling her eyes, especially at board meetings, when she thought no one had noticed and why she’d pledged to quit.

Someone in a good mood accused me of rolling my eyes in a meeting. I admit that yes, but as at 14, I thought I had done it without moving my eyes. My friend informed me that, like most moms, she has the super power of detecting eye rolling when nothing is moving. Suddenly I was worried.

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Not because of what I did at that meeting, but because of the 10,000 times I’ve rolled my eyes at board meetings over the past 25 years thinking no one could. say. Not only am I now haunted by memories of all the moms in those rooms who probably knew exactly what I was doing, but I am flooded with memories of why I was rolling them in the first place.

I rolled at least one eye when the council members ask the same question that was asked and answered 10 minutes earlier. Rolled with both eyes when these board members didn’t hear the initial discussion because they were trying to read the board packet they hadn’t read before the meeting while pretending they weren’t .

High performing board members read the package before coming to the meeting and practice active listening during meetings.

What makes eyes roll?

I’m guilty of rolling my eyes when board members who never follow through are the first to volunteer to do things. Board members don’t win a roll when they already know they’re over-committed and say so or ask others for help. And the board members who always follow receive silent kisses and hugs.

Board members who overthink and talk about a $100 surplus in the financials but don’t care there’s no money in reserves have been the recipients of many stares quiet over the years. Board members should focus on the big picture and the sustainability of the organization and not go into details.

I admit I rolled my eyes when board members repeatedly didn’t let anyone know they couldn’t attend the meeting. Not achieving quorum at a board meeting is a lion’s roar that something is wrong with the board, and it can cripple the organization’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities. legal and fiduciary. I’m not talking about board members who sometimes get stuck and can’t let anyone know. I’m talking about the ones no one ever knows if they’ll really be there.

Dominant executive directors

It’s not just the board members. I reacted to the executive directors dominating discussions at board meetings.

Executive directors should practice servant leadership by facilitating the work of the board without usurping it. I’ve been in meetings when the GM interrupted a discussion and told the board members they couldn’t do certain things or they wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let the board members speak . Remember this is a board meeting and not just a board meeting.

I rolled my eyes so much they could possibly stay in the high position when I read of fellow board members not helping with our social media fundraising posts asking people to buy tickets for another nonprofit fundraiser. I wish I could offer a better way to respond, but I literally rolled my eyes writing this. Sometimes rolling eyes are truly deserved.

I’ve been tempted to gasp out loud when GMs point out something they’ve done without board approval. Like agreeing to receive funding for a program that is not part of the strategic plan and that deviates a little from the mission. Or tap into the emergency line of credit.

Whenever the ED begins to believe that he has the power to do whatever he wants, I can guarantee that sooner or later a member of the board will challenge his perception on this. A wise advice will do it as soon as possible.

Inappropriate behavior

My rolling eyes have become fixed and intense when a board member is inappropriate. At a public event, a board chair introduced our much-loved ED as “that little lady over there.” I didn’t roll my eyes, but I had a strong private conversation with the president later. It’s my humble opinion that my secret gaze would have been easier for him.

I rolled my eyes in my head when board members complained about their table location at an event that had already started. Such feedback should be given later if it is really a problem and not an ego.

I love when board members are creative and come up with a million ideas. But it is true that I am a bit irritated by board members who often have good ideas and expect us to implement them. Unless it’s a board member who works as hard as they can, does an amazing job, and the rest of us really need to pull ourselves together.

Opportunity to make improvements

Even though it doesn’t look like that here, I’ve been really lucky that in my consulting, leadership, and service relationships with boards and nonprofits, most people don’t didn’t deserve what I now know to be my ill-disguised criticism and inappropriate eye-roll.

And now that I know I may not have been as discreet as I wanted to be, I’ll never do that to anyone again.

If some of these eye-rolling moments sound familiar, maybe it’s time to have a candid discussion about what’s causing them. This can be an opportunity to conduct a board self-assessment to review what is working and where improvements are needed.

Board performance appraisals are a hallmark of well-performing boards and can lead to higher engagement and a better overall experience for volunteer leaders and the staff who work with them.

Kelly Otte, MPA, is the founder of Notes on Nonprofits and a 30-year nonprofit veteran. Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting, produces the column and always welcomes your comments and questions or topics for future columns. Please contact [email protected]

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