Thursday, May 6, 2010

Everybody Knows

Everybody knows the dice are loaded
Everbody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody know the fight was fixed,
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows.*

It makes for good music, but poor policy.  When I hear a board member say "everybody knows the biggest threat to our industry is the current legislation that could effectively put us out of business," I cringe.  Everybody knows?

I don't think so. But when I hear such statements in meetings of boards of directors, I know that someone on the board doesn't understand the need to ask members their opinions, nor tell members what the board thinks. Why should members be told? After all, they already know, don't they? It's as clear as soot in a chimney.

Regardless of how well members of the board know the issues, and regardless of whether their approaches to confronting the issues are right, they must communicate with the remainder of the membership. Explain the issues. Explain the deliberations that have taken place. Explain the decisions made and why. Ask for support. And DON'T offend the members by suggesting that they are stupid if they don't already know what you're telling them...if you say "as everyone knows," that's the message you're sending.

Some of the brightest board members and association executives I've ever worked with make it a point to keep members thoroughly "in the loop," even risking telling them more than they wanted to know...just to be sure members have every opportunity to know what's being talked about, what's being decided, and how to make their views known if they disagree with decisions being made on their behalf.

It's far more comfortable to apologize for being "too" transparent than secretive. 

* With deep appreciation and humble apologies to Leonard Cohen.