You’re not the first to learn the difference between a board’s desire for change and their readiness to embrace it.

I recommend the direct approach: invite your board chair and a few key members to talk about the situation. With great diplomacy, remind them what they said they wanted when they hired you—and what you promised to deliver. Underline your shared to commitment to the success of the association and the critical role of the board’s partnership with you in making progress.

Listen to their concerns, and adjust your plans where you can without losing sight of larger goals. You need to inspire the excitement you feel about change and to engage them in overcoming the tension between pursuing a brighter future and holding onto what’s familiar. Try appealing to the current board’s interest in leaving a legacy of improvements the membership will notice.

Encourage those who see your perspective to be public in support of your role in implementing change. Meanwhile, offer the board a lot of information. Look for ways to involve them in the earliest activities related to change so they feel included.

And finally, be clear and constant and true to your vision. The board won’t always agree with you, but they’ll recognize the qualities of a leader.

Published in Associations Now, June 2006