Help Boards Perform Without Using Term Limits

By Rory Rowland

The current political and economic environment is placing an increasing amount of pressure and responsibility on boards and their individual directors.  As boards are held to a higher level of scrutiny and accountability, it becomes critical for them to improve. 

Although often implemented under the guise of bringing a fresh perspective to a board, terms limits are often used to deal with non-performing board members.  Term limits can force these burdens those who strain the governance process. However, they can also eliminate quality leadership that is directing the credit union in a positive direction. 

There are alternatives to term limits, particularly a board survey process and open up a dialogue between board members. This process—outlined below—is fairly painless, and clear expectations from the start prevent malicious survey answers.  Instead, a board is provided with constructive feedback that enables positive change and leadership development.

A recent survey discovered that only 30 percent of boards surveyed claimed their operations were very effective. A staggering 70 percent stated that they could see room for improvement.  So how can a survey help you even if you lie in the extreme minority?  Some of the tangible benefits awaiting a self-evaluated board include increased performance, a better-defined culture, accountability, innovation, and transparency.

The Survey
The process, especially with a goal of improving board member performance, must be well defined.  It is recommended to use an online survey that is designed to quantitatively and qualitatively measure your board’s performance. 

Questions should determine how well your board and its directors are meeting their governance challenges and provide a framework for understanding where the board should set its priorities for improvement. 

After the survey has been conducted and responses collected, the chair of the board should be provided with an opportunity to review the documents and help guide the board to meetings that are more productive.  This will also enable the chair to coach board members who has been recognized as failing to perform at the level requested.  Our experiences have found that coaching is a far better solution than forcing these members out.  Not only does this help the board function in a safety net of trust and mutual respect, but it also provides unique leadership development for board members, ensuring that they improve their skills as well as the credit union.

A formal board evaluation process helps a board maintain peak performance, improving its ability to effectively serve all stakeholders and constituencies. 

Learn more from Rory Rowland at the 2011 Convention and Annual Business Meeting on September 20-22, 2011. Register before August 19 and get a discounted rate. Register today!


Questions?  Contact Training Programs Coordinator Yuri Jung: 206.340.4817,

Posted in Events, MAXX Annual Convention.