I facilitated the work of a Board of a major medical center on Monday. It was their second day-long offsite. The purpose of the first offsite was to clarify that the Board no longer governed the institution, but rather was an advisory, fund-raising board. This was a hard conversation, because three of the six founders of the institution still served on the Board – and they still saw themselves as “owners” and thus governors, even though the center was now governed by a much larger university. It took some powerful facilitation – and at times heated conversation – to iron that issue out.
This time, we focused on the need to expand the medical center campus. The Board needed to take the lead in raising $50 million. My goal was to get them to commit to raising the money as their top priority. Everything hinged on the preparation. I worked with the CEO, helping him polish his argument. I also worked with the fund development director, helping her hone her case for change. Their presentations came together nicely. By noon, I called the question. “Are you ready to commit to this as the Board’s top priority?” I went around the room, asking each person to declare his or her position.
It worked beautifully. Every single Board member agreed the top priority was raising the $50 million. We then spent the afternoon defining who would be responsible for what. Who was responsible for introducing new prospects (Board members), who was responsible for qualifying prospects (staff), and who was responsible for making the ask (senior staff).
Lewis, one of the founding fathers, joined the meeting in the late afternoon. He raised his hand, and when I called on him, he said he didn’t see the need for the expansion. I explained that we were now discussing how to implement the Board’s goal. He asked the CEO to explain the need. I cut him off. “We’ve already covered that,” I said. “We’re moving on.” I felt badly. But it was my job to keep the Board on track.
After the meeting adjourned, many people came up and told me I’d done a superb job. I took the Board chair aside. “What did you think of how I handled it?”
“You did exactly the right thing,” he said. “Even though he is capable of making a gift of $5 million, we can’t let him disrupt our meetings. You handled it just right.”
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