Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to be a better BOD member

I took on a board position this last year, and now that I'm done, I can look back and think about all the opportunities I missed to make my experience better. Don't get me wrong, I did the best I could with the position I had; our league had some serious changes this year. We got a new space, a space of our very own, something we had been working for for years! Exciting times, but with every opportunity comes new and interesting dilemmas. We had to figure out how to schedule the space for practice, deal with the extreme temperatures, the floors, etc. On top of that, we had a lot of skaters retire the last two years and we lost two of our dedicated coaches. This last year was probably the most stressful I've ever had, and yes I change some of the things I did and didn't do, but I am also proud of the things we accomplished.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Yes, I think I sent out 847,952 emails this year dealing with BOD stuff and Training particularly. I could have sent more, and maybe should have sent more. It can be a little daunting to open your inbox and see seventy new emails about the number of volunteer hours the league members need to be able to skate. It's tempting as hell to skip them, but you should read every one of them and try to respond in a timely manner. Yes, does that mean you'll be reading emails at bedtime? Probably. Also, if you are not one to check your email regularly, and by regularly I mean at least twice a day, then maybe you shouldn't take a BOD position. There's nothing worse than thinking an email subject is dead, and then have a BOD member that doesn't read her email on a daily basis chime in two days later.

2. Realize your job is to make things better for the league. Personally, I loved working on Training issues this year, and I absolutely HATED dealing with  disciplinary issues, or league members not following the rules. Every time we had to deal with one of those issues, I kept thinking "man, this job would be great if people just followed the rules." But people do what people do, and that's just something you have to deal with when you're in a leadership position. As a BOD member, you have to slog through a lot of crap before you can deal with the things that will advance your league. Real life is messy, and so are people....and so is derby drama sometimes.

3. Find some organized people who can help you. Lord have mercy, but I would have shot myself in the face had I not had someone on my committee to help me herd all of the cats. As a BOD member, you cannot herd all of the cats by yourself; it's just impossible, and it will make you insane. I am not as organized as I should be; I admit it, but it helps so much to recognize some skill that you lack, and find someone to make you a better leader by helping you shore up your weakness. Find the people that make you better at your job and recruit them to help!

4. Learn from your mistakes. There were several times in my term as Training Director where I would sit myself down and say "Well, that didn't work." After I figured out what wasn't working, I had to figure out why it wasn't working, and what, if anything I could do to get it to work. Sometimes, the answer was "nothing." Sometimes the answer was "better timing" and sometimes the answer was "better planning." You're not going to make awesome decisions every single time, but you can learn from your boo boos. If you don't acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them, you're going to keep making them.

5. Know your limits. Nothing sucks worse than a BOD member who takes on so much responsibility that she eventually feels crushed by everything she has to do, and starts to become Bitterpants Betsy. "I've put so much time and effort into this league, and nobody appreciates it." Well, they do, but nobody appreciates a self-appointed martyr, especially when they get publicly bitter. Work needs to get done, but it doesn't all need to get done by the same person all of the time. Don't take on all the work ever and then complain because you're not getting respect and all the adulation from the league. If people think you're going to do all the work, most people will let you do it. I didn't have this issue with my particular job on the BOD, but I watched a couple of my fellow BOD members get themselves pretty wound up about how they did all this work, and nobody cared. This is a dangerous behavior pattern to develop.

6. Don't forget you're being watched even when you don't think you're being watched. People are watching you, and well they should because you are in a position of power. If you post a snarky Facebook status, people in your league might assume you're being passive aggressive about them. BOD members have to behave better than the average league member because you are being scrutinized; try not to have public meltdowns, do your league duties with a smile, and don't cause issues that have to be taken up by the rest of the BOD because someone in the league complained about your behavior. Is it fair? Nope, but it happens. I'm very glad that I only had to hear about this kind of thing from other leagues, but everyone should take heed and remember they're under a microscope.

Are there other lessons I learned? Of course, but I doubt they would be as universal as the ones I listed. If you are new to a leadership position in your league, congrats! The hard work is totally worth it, and I wish you nothing but success.


  1. Just finished up my term on BOD and agree 110%

  2. All of this is so on point!! Finishing up my first year and going into my second on the BOD. Everything about this is exactly what some people need to hear. Even some who aren't on the board, but are looked up to within our league. Thanks for another great post!

  3. I am going into my second term as president, and third term as member of our BOD, we call it Executive Committee. I couldn't agree with you more. Especially the part about finding people to help you. Nobody is perfect but we can be stronger when our skills compliment each other and we are open to learning from each other and ask for help.