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Board Recruitment: Guidelines for an Effective Board Succession Plan

RATHER THAN PROVIDING informed and disciplined leadership, many private club boards ebb and ow with the moods of the membership. The result is often reactive and inconsistent leadership that disappoints club members. The solution is to develop board leadership in a deliberate manner that uses proven and respected leadership tools and a boardroom succession plan.

Proven Leadership Tools

The three primary tools that ensure high marks for transparency and trustworthiness are the club’s strategic plan, current board policies manual (BPM), and board-performance scorecard.

Strategic plans are a comprehensive description of the purpose, values, goals and objectives of the club. An effective strategic plan is not a capital expense roster, the annual budget or the club’s rules. An effective strategic plan for a private club is a 20- to 25-page description of the club’s future, which includes statements of vision, mission and core values. A good strategic plan analyzes the market segments for the club, its financial plans and intentions, and—of critical importance—the goals and objectives of the club.

Board policies manuals are five-part descriptions of how the board will attend to the club’s business. The best-performing club boards use the BPM for self-guidance and to inform the members of the processes and methods being used by the board. An effective BPM diminishes the ready-shoot- aim leadership style of so many clubs.

Board-performance scorecards are exactly that. Reporting on a quarterly basis, the scorecard makes the board accountable to the members by describing the three to five annual goals of the board on the left-margin vertical. Such descriptions may include “Increase net membership count by 3 percent annually” or “maintain 92 percent member satisfaction levels.” Across the horizontal axis of the scorecard is a quarterly profile for reporting the performance results.

Several important guidelines for using the performance scorecard effectively include:

■ Report quarterly to the members using member-preferred media as well as reference within the board meeting notes;

■ Review performance progress at board meetings as interim updates for board members; and

■ Tell it like it is with no spin-doctoring or excuse-making. The board is either performing to plan or not.

Board Succession Plan

Who will be the next club leaders? How do the members know who leads most effectively? And, what are the consequences of inadequate succession planning? Most members want their clubs to “run like a business,” but effective businesses plan carefully and prepare future leadership resources that will be needed for the carefully drawn plans to succeed. The leadership pipeline in most clubs flows through the club’s committee structure.

■ Who will be constructively engaged?

■ Who puts the needs of other first?

■ Who is capable of working effectively within the club’s governance structure?

■ Who can be relied upon to do the work and participate consistently?

An effective board succession plan must answer these questions based upon proven performance through the club’s committee structure. Trustworthy succession plans should include the following key points:

■ The succession plan should be written and widely distributed to all members and reviewed in detail with all committee members. “If one wishes to take a seat on the club’s board, this is the pathway.”

■ The theoretical construct of the board should be created to address such board needs as accounting, finance, legal and risk management priorities. Of equal importance should be communications, member recruitment and retention, and brand management. These are capabilities that club boards require either internally or through the club’s committee pipeline. The board must record what skill-sets are needed to successfully lead the club.

■ Effective succession must address the transfer of authority and accountability from board to board. Board recruitment in clubs requires advance planning and the proper tools for recruiting servant leaders who will lead the club into the future.

Henry DeLozier is a principal at Global Golf Advisors, a Legacy Alliance Partner of the National Club Association, and an international club management consulting rm that provides specialized services to more than 2,700 clients from offices in Toronto, Phoenix and Dublin (IR). He can be reached at [email protected] or visit