October 30, 2011

Leadership - "The Board of Directors"

Note: This particular article is direct and to the point. When it comes to the HBA board of directors I take a more aggressive tone because I deeply believe that at the local level board members are extremely vital to the health and well being of the local HBA.
This experience, if handled correctly, will help with the understanding of and better participation at the state HBA board and NAHB board of directors levels. 

The HBA board of directors gives a unique perspective of how the association and the industry are intertwined. If you choose to seek a board seat, and are selected by the nominating committee to serve, you will find that when you cross that threshold from general member to board member it will be like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz going from the world of no color to a fully aware world of technicolor.The primary responsibility of the board of directors is to protect the interests of the membership, generally, and the HBA, in particular. When you become a board member you do so by your choice, nobody else's. Resume builders are a dime a dozen but a true leader should clearly understand his or her role at this level. 
When I made "the crossover" I truly became aware of the purpose of the HBA and I made the choice to put the HBA above my personal interests because I knew the success of the association would give me the opportunity to succeed.

The following are the proper steps needed to become a board member of you local. It's a rewarding experience, if conducted properly, and priceless when it comes to the education of our industry and your growth as an industry leader and professional.

"The Board of Directors"
Note: The following is based upon local HBA board of directors. State HBAs may slightly differ but not dramatically. Some states have, based on builder membership totals, available board seats with the majority, in some cases vast majority, given to builder  members. Your local Executive officer can explain that process.

How to Become a Director
  • Financial commitment to the HBA ~ Those who invest in the HBA demonstrate a financial willingness to help in its success. These types of members "put their money where their mouth is" and that is a significant start. You may be in a situation where you absolutely can't participate financially. If this is the case ask yourself if you are doing all you can to influence others to invest in the HBA.
  • Excelled as a volunteer ~ If you were active as a volunteer, enthused and consistently followed through on your commitments, than you would be a welcome source of new blood on the board.
  • Have practiced "association first" ~ Members who have volunteered for the good of the association understand the value of a successful HBA. 
  • Announce your intentions ~ The HBA is a lot of things to a lot of members but being a mind reader is not one! If you have an interest in serving at this level speak with your executive officer, current president and\or past president. One of the three, if not all, will be happy to discuss options for you.
Make up of Board
  • Senior officers ~ The chief elected officer (president), according to NAHB by-laws, is a builder member. Next in leadership, depending on the individual HBA, you will have a first and possibly a second vice president (builder) to advance up the leadership ladder. Other positions that are common; treasurer, secretary and associate vice president. Associates could serve as treasurer or secretary. A strong leadership ladder at the HBA would be majority builder member. Most HBAs have at least one associate as an officer. 
  • Builder board members ~ builders should be the majority of your board.
  • Associate board members ~ the vast majority of HBAs have associates on their board. 
  • Alternate directors (non voting) ~ while this may be a non voting position you may be called upon to vote if you are filling in for a full director. It is advisable for you to attend as many board meetings as possible so if you are called upon you have working knowledge of current HBA issues. 
  • Life directors ~ This is achieved, in most local HBAs, after ten (10) years as an active board member with active meaning attending the minimum required board meetings per year. Each local is different in terms of total meetings per year and you can find the answer by asking the executive officer or reading your HBA by-laws. Some local HBAs include time served as an alternate towards the ten years. Again, you will find that out through your local. 
  • Past Presidents ~ Once a president serves his or her year as the chief elected officer, they become past, with the most recent called "immediate past." Depending on the local HBA there may or may not be required attendance in order for the past presidents to vote but just like the alternate, past presidents should be attending in order to vote on relevant and current HBA initiatives. 
  • Committee Chairs (non voting) ~ Some locals may have the multiple committee chairmen attend to give reports on their respective committees. Unless the chairman is already a board member, they can only advise, not vote.
  • State HBA Committee Representatives ~ Some local HBAs have their members, who serve at the state level on committees, give a report at the local board meeting. This way the local board can become better acquainted with state activities. Non voting unless already on the board.
Board Members Are Strongly Encouraged...
  • to attend board meetings ~ Life happens, work and family should always be at the top of your priority list, certainly higher than HBA involvement. No one will have any issue with you if "life happens" but if you know it will be ongoing please recommend someone else take your seat. The board, to operate properly, needs it's elected volunteers to attend meetings on a regular basis. 
  • to attend general membership meetings ~ board meetings are usually held before general membership meetings. You're there already so unless "life happens" you should stay, meet the new members and engage in conversation with existing members.
  • to demonstrate fiduciary responsibility ~ you need to understand this term as a board member. A member who has been nominated and then elected to his or her board has been entrusted with the well being of that HBA. 
  • to have a financial commitment ~ I have witnessed too many board members who have rust on the hinges of their wallets. We are not talking about breaking into your life savings or depleting your 401K but even a small financial investment is better than a non investment. How can we expect the general membership to invest in HBA initiatives if the board members do not?
  • to honor the Code of Conduct ~ most locals will have a code of conduct for their board members. Ask you executive officer for the language before you accept your board position. 
  • to understand, respect & follow Robert's Rules ~ parliamentary procedure that keeps the volunteers in an organized meeting. 
  • to be an active participant ~  Some boards are content with status quo, keeping non performing members as guardians of the local. The "you get out what you put in" theory is never more evident than on a local board. Some boards are actively engaged and passionate; those locals thrive in in today's economic climate. Other boards are apathetic; those locals are mostly distressed. Having a seat on the board doesn't mean to sit on your hands.
  • to recognize your choice to serve ~ all I am stating above is what is needed from you and your agreement to serve as a board member. This is your choice and how you choose to perform will give great insight to how you are as a professional. If you can no longer serve because "life happens" it is completely understandable, please just don't occupy a seat when there may be others who want a chance to help.

Next week's blog will explain the role of the senior officers.

Submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP
2011 NAHB Associate Members Committee Chairman

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, do more and become more, you are a leader" ~ John Adams

Note: This series of upcoming blog posts are based on The NAHB Associates power point presentation titled "Unlocking the Mystery of Associate Leadership. Thank you to the New Jersey Builders Association for donating the presentation to NAHB so that our associate members across the Federation could help those who want to contribute their skills and talents in helping the HBAs

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