Boardmanship for Charity

Boardmanship for Charity: Part Four

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM / Published December 2016



Editor’s Note: Boardmanship for Charity, Part One, was published in the June 2016 issue; Part Two was published in the August 2016 issue; and Part Three was published in the October 2016 issue.


Boards, because they are made up of imperfect people in a relationship, are very likely dysfunctional. But before going further, definitions for “relationship” and “dysfunctional” are in order.


  • A significant connection or similarity between two or more things, or the state of being related to something else
  • The connection between two or more people or groups and their involvement with each other, especially as regards how they behave and feel toward each other and communicate or cooperate


  • Failing to perform the function that is normally expected
  • (Sociology) unable to function emotionally as a social unit
  • (Medically) unable to function normally as a result of disease or impairment

Members of a board are significantly connected because they share a common interest in a particular civic or philanthropic organization. They are volunteering significant amounts of time, energy, talents, and often personal funds. Whether their motives are self-interest, altruistic, or values driven, they are committed to a common goal.

Many boards are dysfunctional because they fail to perform the functions for which they were elected. Some boards fail to function emotionally, which causes members to resign. Others are impaired due to personal agendas.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni outlines five dysfunctions of a team. Using a leadership fable to capture the reader’s attention, he uses simple yet powerful examples of a team and its leader struggling to become exceptional.

The five dysfunctions he describes are dynamically connected and feed off each other. As each dysfunction grows unchecked, the team is more likely to fail. The factors are quite common:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

Adapting Lencioni’s dysfunction dynamics to your organization, a functioning board would demonstrate high levels of these five qualities:

Trust and Vulnerability

Board members trust each other on an emotional level and are comfortable being vulnerable about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors. They believe in the integrity, intelligence, and good intentions of the others.

Healthy Conflict and Debate

Because they trust each other, they are able to argue and debate honestly and passionately in the spirit of finding the best answers and making the greatest decisions.

Commitment and Confidence

Once all has been said and each has been heard, the board moves forward with a decision even though some board members disagree. But all agree to move forward with certain goals, strategies, and timetables.


Because of the commitment and confidence in moving forward, each board member is accountable for his or her part of the goal, strategy, and timetable, and each knows what the others are supposed to be doing. Each board member is held accountable by the other board members, not just the president or manager.


Since there has been a path of trust and vulnerability, healthy conflict and debate, commitment and confidence, and accountability, the board is very likely to achieve its goals. Members will not be ego-driven with personal agendas but instead will be focused exclusively on what is best for the community. If the desired goals are not met, this board will not hesitate to change directions.

So how functional is your board? Here is a quiz adapted from The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Evaluate the statements below as they apply to your board.

3 = usually, 2 = sometimes, 1 = rarely

_____    1. Board members are passionate and unguarded in their discussion of issues.

_____    2. Board members call out one another’s unproductive or inappropriate behaviors.

_____    3. Board members know what their peers are working on and how they contribute to the collective good of the organization.

_____    4. Board members quickly and genuinely apologize to one another when they say or do something inappropriate or possibly damaging to the board or organization.

_____    5. Board members willingly make sacrifices (such as personal pocket book, agendas, popularity) for the good of the board or organization.

_____    6. Board members openly admit their weaknesses and mistakes.

_____    7. Board meetings are compelling and not boring.

_____    8. Board members leave meetings confident that their peers are completely committed to the decisions that were agreed on, even if there was initial disagreement.

_____    9. Morale is significantly affected by the failure to achieve board goals.

_____  10. During board meetings, the most important and difficult issues are put on the agenda to be resolved.

_____  11. Board members are deeply concerned about the prospect of letting down their peers.

_____  12. Board members know something about one another’s personal lives and are comfortable discussing them.

_____  13. Board members end discussions with clear and specific resolutions, motions, and action plans.

_____  14. Board members challenge one another about fulfilling their promises or duties.

_____  15. Board members are slow to seek credit for their own contributions but quick to point out those of others.

Scoring:  Combine your scores as indicated below:

Quality 1           Quality 2            Quality 3               Quality 4             Quality 5

  Trust                   Debate        Commitment      Accountability         Results

#4_____            #1_____             #3_____                #2_____              #5_____

#6_____            #7_____             #8_____                #11____               #9_____

#12____            #10____              #13____                #14____               #15____

_______              _______             _______                _______               _______ 

   Total                     Total                    Total                        Total                      Total

If the score for any Quality is:

8 or 9—probable indication that Quality is high

6 or 7—probable indication that Qualify needs improvement

3 to 5—probable indication that Quality needs to be addressed

Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, defines the most capable leader as a “Level 5 Leader.” Level 5 Leaders “are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results. They will sell the mills or fire their brother, if that’s what it takes to make the company great.” Translated, that means the board member will vote to add new goals in order to keep up with changing demands, delete programs that have become obsolete, look in different directions for funding, and hire (or terminate) staff members.

Functional board members (and service volunteers) will produce results for your organization.


Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. For more than 15 years, Barbieux has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Barbieux is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact, (352) 326-8365, or