Dr Jouko Huju, GMBA Finland: finding the right people for an association board is not always easy. Part 1/3

Part 1/3 

Benefits of board service for industry members

Although there is a tradition of a rather significant co-operation among marine businesses around the world, it is not easy to find motivated, qualified people to work for a wider, common cause. Most marine companies are SME’s and therefore have limited resources in terms of disposable time. As the challenges of the industry increase and they get more complex, there is a rapidly growing need for people in the governing positions with versatile skills, a willingness to give back and high motivation.

To begin with it is important to understand that above all a board membership means responsibility, not power. The board is the guardian of the organisation’s mission and it makes sure that the organisation lives up to its mission and appraises its performance. The membership means responsibility not only to the organisation but to the whole board, the staff of the organisation and to the agreed mission. The board members should be able to take off their company hat and try to see things from a wider perspective. There seems to be a relation between a need to contribute to a wider cause and possibility, through this work, to have an influence on the future of one’s own company. The individual expectations are considered to be in line with the overall goals.  Most people join a board because they feel passionate about the organization’s mission. Board members need to be kept informed about new program developments and given examples of how the services of an organisation are having an impact on its mission. In the marine business it seems to be more a question of a practical and even pragmatic approach than a passionate one.

The service in the marine industry association board is usually considered rewarding and interesting. Board members receive an opportunity to serve an organization they believe in, a chance to learn new skills, an opportunity to be with people that share the same values, and the opportunity to forge strong personal and professional connections. In return, they offer the organisation their time, skills, knowledge, and commitment. Burnout and lack of direction, however, can lead to a lack of productivity, a misalignment of board actions and board member values, and general dissatisfaction on the board. For the health of the organisation, it is critical to create an environment that fosters and maintains a high level of board member motivation and accountability.

Rotation means new ideas and new ways of thinking

As far as the rotation of the board members is concerned, the situation is always somewhat complex. On one hand most people agree that new blood brings new and fresh ideas. On the other hand, people do realise that the size of the industry in many countries poses serious threats in terms of available and skilled people.

If the same people serve year after year, there is no way for new blood and new ideas to flow into the board and the association activities. Despite their sense of commitment, the same people will make the organization a “closed corporation.” Rotation prevents the possessiveness that sometime characterizes self-perpetuating boards. In a time of rapid change, like the pandemic, new people, who bring a new perspective, will promote creativity and innovation in board decision making. People who are not carrying out their commitments as board members become major blocks to overall board effectiveness. One needs to realise that organizations also need a process for evaluating the performance of board members and making recommendations regarding their future service with the board.

The development of an effective recruitment and nomination process could take the following course:

  • Establish a board development committee
  • Prepare for active board recruitment.
  • Develop a profile of the current board.
  • Determine strategies to build board diversity.
  • Develop an initial list of prospective board members.
  • Contact top recruiting prospects.
  • Schedule and conduct orientation sessions with prospective board members.
  • Select new members to the board.

Providing new board directors with the information they need to perform effectively is the next critical step in developing a strong board of directors. Because board members are likely to come to their positions with very different perspectives on their roles and responsibilities, as well as the mission, vision, major goals, and strategies of the charter school, it is important to develop a timely and thorough orientation strategy that supports the board members from the recruitment stage, through the first three months, and beyond.

Here’s how a board orientation program for new board members might work:

  • Pre-election orientation which details the organization, strategic plan, the workings of the board, expectations of board members, etc.
  • New member orientation which provides additional information and training.
  • Written board director manual which is a critical reference in new board director orientation as well as ongoing board training and education.

On-going training, such as providing webinars on special interest topics and easy access to publications and conferences.


Disclaimer: Global Marine Business Advisors and its associated website www.gmba.blue are not registered legal entities. GMBA is a network of independent marine industry advisors. In all articles the opinions expressed are those of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of GMBA