It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times: Board Recruitment In The Age Of COVID

Recruiting board members is a big enough challenge even when all things are equal. During a pandemic, it’s exponentially more challenging. If that weren’t enough, you can layer in all the equity and diversity considerations that keep nipping at the heels of performing arts orgs that they’ve been politely eyeing, but avoiding, for years.

But I genuinely do believe this is a best of times scenario.

Control and power sharing have always been among the tallest hurdles for established boards to get over and the reality, no matter how sobering it seems, is extreme pressures also serve as wonderful motivation for jettisoning long held conventions.

Joe Patti published some thoughts on this very topic, which in turn were inspired by some sharp thinking from BoardSource’s Jim Taylor. Find time to fit it into your weekly reading list.

Jim Taylor, BoardSource’s vice president of leadership initiatives and education, wrote about his experiences being recruited for board membership where he felt his only qualification was being a person of color because the board member couldn’t answer a simple question: “what value do I specifically bring to the organization?”

Many Lens of Board Recruitment

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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