Ten Purposeful Provocations for Association Boards in 2021

I recently attended a webinar on the subject of this blog post by Executive Advisor, ForesightFirst, Jeff De Cagna.

Jeff is always thought provoking in his presentations and his insights are worth discussion as we navigate the new order of our organizations in these unprecedented times.

He segmented his presentation into three areas:

Where are we at this moment?

  • Turbulent Twenties (T20s)
  • No new normal, we have to adapt to the new way of doing business.  The pandemic has changed the way we do business and we must change our thinking moving forward, as we serve our members.
  • Uncertainty, volatility and risk is the new “discontinuous next.”
  • Finding a balance between the short-term and long-term for our organizations, think the next quarter vs the next decade.

Ten Provocations for Boards

1.  Embrace voluntary service – it is a high privilege to serve on a board, it’s a choice to serve the long-term stewardship of an organization;

2.  Capacity over comfort – continue to look at building capacity in our organizations versus thinking about just being comfortable.  The future will have uncomfortable times for boards and the decisions they will need to make;

3.  Discard orthodox beliefs – everything we think about is grounded in history and that has changed.  We have to base the future on the now and not the past.  Don’t let orthodoxy capture our thinking going forward;

4.  End inequities – build diversity in your boards, move to picking key stakeholders who may or may not be part of your membership (an orthodoxy is that all board members must be members of the organization);

5.  Pursue stewardship with intention – leaving systems in better shape than what they inherited;

6.  Focus on governing – ensure the organization knows what it is trying to accomplish.  Focus on outcomes;

7.  Stand up for the future – ask different questions with an eye towards the future (i.e., again think decades not the next quarter).

8.  Step back from strategy – stay out of the weeds and bring in younger stake-holders;

9.  Reject ideological division – reject the divisions on our boards and in our communities and focus on what is good overall for our organizations; and

10. Sacrifice for their successors – long-term shared interest for the members of the organization for when board members are long gone.

What are we going to do differently this year?

  • Don’t wait to act on the new way of thinking in these turbulent times on your boards and organizations.
  • Reinvent the work of your boards.  What can we do differently?  Your boards need to ask the question, where are we going, not where are we or where we’ve been?
  • Build a high-performance board to thrive in the turbulent T20s.

He ended his presentation with his favorite quote from Barbara Jordan – “For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.

For resources on Jeff and his work go HERE.

Energizing Virtual Meetings: No More ZZZZZ’s

I recently attended a great session on conducting productive virtual meetings by Joyce Weiss, training and development specialist and an Institute for Organization Management faculty member.

She started with the following statement – “It’s all about engagement!”

She talked about how it’s important to get people on camera, don’t let them do other things, like “shampooing the cat,” a real-life example she gave.

She talked about a study that stated that 86% of attendees were fully engaged, as good as face-to-face meetings, if the following five rules are followed.

5 Rules for Online Meetings:

  • The 60 Second Rule – use a statistic or story to let participants understand the content immediately.
  • The Responsibility Rule – set the tone that participants are not observers and the session will be participatory.
  • The Nowhere to Hide Rule – use break out rooms and give clear and special tasks to let everyone know their role.
  • The Power Point NO Overload Rule – mix facts and stories and use minimal slides unless it’s a webinar.
  • The 4 Minute Rule – never go longer than 4 minutes without giving the group an activity (write a comment in the chat function, stand up, reflect on your presentation).

She went on and gave us 4 Tips for Setting Your Virtual Agenda:

Openers – never be boring!  Start with an informal opening by asking a question, let people know what to expect and allow them to get comfortable for the session.  Start with a statistic or story.

Revisit – go back to previous comments and tie them in to help retention of information.  It allows participants to write things down and stay involved!

Energizers – tools you can use to get folks involved, ask a question and make them stand up, go to a breakout room, two opposing views.  Or have a controlled stretch break.


Closers – action plan to tie it all together and leave time to allow for celebration.  People need to leave feeling good about themselves.  And don’t forget to give them a challenge!


For more information on Joyce Weiss and her work go HERE.