Three Modes of Board Work

The YALSA board is always looking to grow and improve. We use monthly board chats as a way to deepen our skills in governance and discuss trends and best practices impacting non-profit boards around the country and how we can bring those ideas to make YALSA the best association it can be.

In January, we met to discuss the article “Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of the Nonprofit Board” with past board member Maureen Hartman. Maureen is the Manager of Strategic Services for the Hennepin County Library. She and her team lead the library in strategic planning, learning and development, diversity and inclusion, and change management. I can think of no person more qualified to lead a discussion about the three modes of board work.

Governance boards spend most of their time in one of three modes:

  • Fiduciary: When the board is being a good steward of association resources. In this mode you might see or hear the board discussion financial reports or going through expected costs for an upcoming event. For YALSA, this role is carried by the whole board, but the Executive Committee takes on special responsibilities to care for our assets.
  • Strategic: My home library board is often in Strategic mode! Here the board is setting priorities, reviewing the strategic plan and monitoring progress. You have probably seen this mode from YALSA in the past, but recently we have been spending a lot of time in the third mode…
  • Generative: With the formation of the new organizational plan, the YALSA Board has spent a lot of time in this third mode. The Generative mode is when the board is deciding “what to pay attention to, what it means, and what to do about it.”

I don’t think these modes are exclusive to boards, I know I recognize these modes in conversations and meetings we have at my library. I bet you see them in your workplace too. As a board, we work to balance these three modes, which can be a challenges. Sometimes in the board cycle, like the recently organizational planning process we went through, will call for more time in the generative mode. Now the board, has to switch back to more time in the strategic and fiduciary modes as we work to operationalize the plan and move forward toward our goals.

To end the discussion, we all identified a goal or action item that we can work on at or leading up to the Midwinter meeting. Two goals clearly rose to the top as priorities for the board: communicating with members both in person, and virtually about the new organizational plan of YALSA and all the work we are doing, and helping the Executive Director and Staff balance their work to help achieve the goals of the new plan.

If you are wondering what the board is up to at Midwinter,  you can see the schedule of board meetings and agenda. If you are attending ALA Midwinter and you see a board member (look for our YALSA Board Member ribbons) please come up and say hello! We would love to hear from you!

Kate McNair is a YALSA Board Member. Come see her at the YALSA booth #709 on Saturday, January 21 9-10:30am.

About Kate Mcnair

Member of the 22x20 Taskforce
Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.