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Build a Board that Builds Your Brand

I know him well. He goes to my church and he’s a good guy.

We have so many legal questions…Does anyone know an attorney?

Who do we know that would be willing to help with fundraising?

All statements I’ve heard in the boardroom when it comes to recruiting new members.

So often, when recruiting directors, the focus is placed exclusively on recruiting for skill gaps, i.e. legal or accounting expertise, selecting from internal networks, or targeting resources. While none of these angles are wrong, they are narrow and short-sighted. Last week, I shared a Board Recruitment Inventory on our member page which can help identify gaps in skills and traits on your existing board as well as take inventory of a candidate’s ability to meet those gaps. Those are quantifiable hard skills or known attributes. Below are tips to recruit for the less definable “X-factors” that will help you to build a board that understands and grows your brand.

Know Your Brand > Who You know

Is your organization bold? Aggressive? Conservative? Check out these personality archetypes for household brands from Lean Labs below, also check out their brand identity survey.

APPLE – Rebel

TACO BELL – Jester

REI – Outdoors-lover


SUBWAY – Optimist

WHOLE FOODS – Peace Lover

Let’s assume for a moment that your organization desperately needs help with financial oversight. Your board members decide to recruit a CPA that several of them know/have worked with. She’s a dynamo with a spreadsheet, but extremely conservative and tends to pull all conversations into her area of expertise. New ideas are stopped cold if they’re not in the budget and high-risk opportunities inspire her to raise her voice. Let’s also assume your organization is known for Apple-esque rebellion, forward-thinking, and style. You may have checked the box of “financial experience,” but have you welcomed a war every time the marketing budget is brought up?

We tend to default toward what is easiest in the short-term. Although sourcing board members from your network is a valid option, it should take a backseat to finding and selecting board members who are a cultural fit. Knowing your own brand identity and communicating it effectively to prospective board members is critical to building unity.

Humble, hungry, and smart.

Patrick Lencioni’s The Ideal Team Player is one of the best lenses I’ve seen for identifying fit and future trouble when building a team. We all want smart, humble, and hungry board members, but we don’t want the extreme in any of those attributes.

The “charmer” who dazzles and sways other members but is unwilling to tap his/her network for support or show up, will ultimately lead to dissension.

The “bulldozer” who loves the sound of his/her own voice more than the mission will likely distract and cause really long board meetings.

As important as humility is, you don’t want a “pawn” who will not challenge the organization or uphold good governance decisions.

Rather than “Ideal Team Player,” I wonder if the center of this diagram should show a photo of a unicorn. The reality is that no one fits this ideal…if they claim to, they’re likely residing in the way south sphere. If you have several humble members, recruiting those that are more hungry or smart may provide balance. The adverse is true if you have several charmers. Aim for balance among all of your members.

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos

I have to close with this quote from Jeff Bezos as it defines the importance of building a board that reflects and builds your brand. An ideal board serves as a group of ambassadors as much as they do governors. What do you want people to say about your highest level of leadership?

 – Katie Appold, MPA


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