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Does Your Board Trust You? By Henry Doorn

Leaders Must Work to Establish Board Trust and Credibility

Building board trust is essential. The relationship between a CEO and board is significant to an organization and it cannot be over emphasized how important it is to establish trust and credibility.

Cultivate Relationship

As a leader of an organization, it is imperative that you establish trust and credibility by building relationships with each board member. Leadership is a relationship and strong relationships build understanding. Understanding leads to board members believing in the leader and seeing them worthy of their trust.

Leaders focus and expend most all their efforts on the following conditions that are necessary for building trust and credibility with board members.

Develop Clarity

Develop clarity in all expectations, intentions, and agendas. This would require open communications and transparency so that the board would clearly understand what is to be expected, what are our intentions and what is the agenda. If there are objections or differences of opinion in any of these matters they need to be brought out and discussed. If there is an elephant in the room it needs to be openly talked about individually with each board member and in the board meetings. Also, it would be particularly important to make sure there are no surprises. Everyone must be in the loop before every board meeting.

Demonstrate Consistency

It is extremely important to be consistent in both word and deed. Leaders need to walk the talk and stay on a steady path with consistent effort in the right direction. Some of this is like the saying “seeing is believing.” Be a person of your word and follow-through on all commitments and decisions. If I say I am going to do something I need to do it. This more than anything else will move the board members to see the leader being worthy of their trust.

Respect Others

Strive to live and work with a real sense of respect for what is important to others. This could begin with lots of open communication for board members. Asking board members what is important to them. Asking board members what does the organization need to protect? Also, to invite board members into the process of building the agenda for the board meetings would give them opportunity to include items that are important to them. Also, make it a point to ask board members lots of questions about their thoughts on various items. Value their input. Ask board members how they think things are going and to leave an open door whereas they could contact you at any time to share what they are thinking. However, while providing board members opportunities to express what is important to them, be careful to respect their time by guiding the conversations to stay on track about what specifically are the board member’s role and responsibilities.

Be Passionate

Demonstrate a sincere desire to see the organization succeed. Be passionate about achieving the mission and vision of the organization and that must be obvious to the board. This will build trust in that the board will see that you are committed to the organization. Success also includes succession. That is, to engage and encourage the board in the candidacy selection process, with the leader (CEO) playing a lesser role in this process. Be careful not to interfere in this process which is meant for the board.

Communicate Consistently

In addition to these four conditions, I would also want to point out the importance of regular communications with the board to keep them informed between meetings.

I would keep a record of all my communications with individual board members. This would help to remind me to talk with each board member on a regular basis. At least once a month or more if necessary. I would also encourage board members to engage with various staff members when opportunity lends itself to this. Some board members may want more of this than others.

Various communications and materials relating to board business should also be circulated between board meetings rather than waiting for the meeting.  Make sure the board has ample time to review the agenda before any upcoming meetings. Also, be sure to ask board members how they would prefer their communications. What they want and when they want it.

The importance of developing clarity, consistency, respect, passion, and communication are key to building relationships with the board that will establish board trust and credibility.


Henry Doorn, CCNL, serves as the Director of Stewardship at Westminster Seminary California (WSC) in Escondido CA since 2003. In obedient service to God, WSC seeks to glorify Christ, promote his gospel, and serve his church.


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