THE NOTION OF “GOING ROGUE” conjures up ideas of defiance or independence. In many clubs, directors are dealing with rogue board members. Nowadays, rogue board members are people who either feel marginalized and unheard by fellow board members or who are unprincipled leaders who place their own wants and expectations above the leadership direction of the board itself. How can a well-meaning club board survive and prosper with a rogue member or two?
Merriam-Webster defines “rogue” as “an unprincipled or dishonest man.” The Urban Dictionary carries the definition of “go rogue” as “to cease to follow orders; to act on one’s own, usually against expectation or instruction. To pursue one’s own interests.”
Differences of opinion in the boardroom are extremely important to effective governance. Nonprofit governance expert Fred Laughlin says, “The board deliberates as many and governs as one.” The best boards foster an environment that invites different viewpoints and solutions to be expressed openly and constructively. The key to effective governance is to create an environment that respects different expectations and viewpoints.
Here is a short checklist that empowers differing opinions to work in the boardroom while minimizing counter-productive rogue behavior:
- Rely upon the club’s strategic plan. A current and effective strategic plan establishes boundaries for all in the boardroom. Mission, vision and values are basic to common understanding. These concepts are the core of the club members’ beliefs. Focus on strategy.
- Confirm that all are aligned with the current strategic goals and objectives. Review the strategic goals and objectives during each board meeting. Make “strategic plan update” as much a part of the board agenda as new and old business.
- Confront differences of opinion. Make the time and create a tolerant setting to allow all viewpoints to be heard. Confirm that those with minority views have the opportunity to present their opinions. Listen to and consider different options. Honestly evaluate the possibilities and ramifications of each option being considered. Close the discussion with definitive agreement on how the board-as-a-whole will proceed.
- Rely upon facts. Facts are often casualties of bruising differences of opinion. Ideas and viewpoints must be supported with trustworthy data. Unsubstantiated opinions must be set aside for fact-based decision-making. For those—especially those with minority viewpoints—who do not agree with going-forward decisions there must be a place for respect and dignity. It takes courage to argue an unpopular viewpoint.
- Set a timeline for review. Board members sometimes go rogue when they do not believe that their opinions are respected. Before closing out contentious topics, agree upon the date when the topic will be revisited. One feels “rogue” when he or she is made to feel that they are an outsider.
Sometimes roguish board members simply wish to be difficult. Usually rogue members violate certain principles of sound governance. In such cases, the board must enforce disciplinary standards such as maintaining the confidentiality of the boardroom, engaging in conflicts of interest or not tending to the best interests of the club. These principles should be described in the board policies manual of the club.
Determine whether or not a board member must be disciplined by fellow board members. If disciplinary action is needed, be quick, quiet and confidential. Fair and firm communication is important.
Rogue board members do not serve their clubs well when they move disagreement outside of the board room and act on their own interests. Keep them engaged and respect the differences that they express.
Henry DeLozier is a principal at Global Golf Advisors, an international club management consulting firm that provides specialized services to more than 3,000 clients from offices in Toronto, Phoenix and Dublin (IR). He can be reached at [email protected] or visit globalgolfadvisors.com.