In the nonprofit boardroom, this one thing is considered a cardinal sin, and unfortunately, it’s one that happens all too often.

Any guesses on what it might be?

If your mind is like mine, you probably went straight to worst case scenario—having an affair with your Executive Director. The good thing is that no, it’s not that (although that’s certainly pretty bad!).

It’s micromanagement.  

As BoardSource describes, “Boards that micromanage want to set strategic direction and actively oversee the implementation of the details, creating confusion among staff and volunteers regarding how the work of the organization gets done.”

So, what are some common causes of micromanagement?

In my years working with boards at all stages of development for nonprofits of all sizes, it boils down to one of the following three things:

  1. The board doesn’t understand the difference between governance and management. Many board members run companies or have leadership roles in their day job, and success is tied to action and getting things done. Governance, on the other hand, takes longer and is more complex. It doesn’t give the quick dopamine hit that checking off an item on our “to do” list does. As a result, you find board members tend to gravitate to what they know, what they do well, and what they are rewarded for in their careers.
  • The ED doesn’t know how to utilize and engage the board. This leads to sharing too little or too much information with the board, often leading the board into the very weeds the ED wants the board to steer clear of.
  • The board lacks trust and/or confidence in the ED’s ability to manage the organization. This could be that the ED is new and hasn’t had a chance to prove themselves yet, or perhaps the new ED followed the former ED who drove the organization into the ground. Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand the history, which often plays into the current day pain points.

What else would you add?

Stay tuned for next month when we dive into examples of micromanagement and how to fix them.

Hat tip to your success!

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