…but when she was bad, she was horrid.

Apologies to Longfellow for appropriating his poem “There was a little girl” for the title of this post, but his verse keeps coming to mind as I consider the topic of the misbehaving board member.

Our friends at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) recently published “Annoying boardroom habits,” a two-part series on their blog. (Read part one here and part two here). The posts are based on the author’s takeaways from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter.

These posts reminded us of our own two-part series of articles “When board members behave badly,” published in In Trust in 2009. The articles, “Nipping Trouble in the Bud: When Board Members Behave Badly” and “Anchoring Loose Cannons and Other Strategies for Peaceful Governance,” outline troublesome behaviors in board members, as well as how to address them.

Blue Avocado has also addressed the topic of deadwood on boards in the article, “What to do with board members who don’t do anything.”

Each of these is an entertaining read, tackling less-than-ideal board behavior with both humor and finesse. After all, the board members who serve on our boards do so as volunteers who care deeply about the mission of the institution. Working together to improve behavior is in the best interest of every institution. And with some thoughtful action and deliberate conversation, perhaps Longfellow’s poem might have a different ending:

“When she was good, she was very, very good,
And when she was bad, careful conversation prevented her from being horrid.”

That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?


Illustrations by Geoff Isley