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Addressing the Under-Performing Board Member By John Pearson



7 Reasons You Must Exit an Under-Performing Board Member

There are at least seven reasons why a board must remove an under-performing Board member. Is it time to address the elephant in the room?

1. Missed Meetings

If your under-performing board member misses meetings and doesn’t apologize or explain her absences—then the board chair should call her (not email). While still thinking the best of her—and that that you can inspire her to improve her performance—be prepared for a resignation.

 Read: “Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome”

2. Core Values Misalignment

Your ministry’s core values are prominently displayed on the boardroom wall, but one board member continues to push the board down inappropriate paths that are hardly God-honoring. “This works in business,” he blusters. “It will work here.”

Read: “Cut the Cord! Invite Board Members to Exit When They Don’t Live Your Values”

3. Hyper-Focus on the Volunteer Hat

Two years ago, she was the ministry’s “Volunteer of the Year.” The Governance Committee nominated her for board service, but failed to explain the three hats of the board—and most importantly the Governance Hat. With inadequate board member orientation, she continues to drag the board down into volunteer operations. (News Alert! Many volunteers are happiest being volunteers, not board members!)

 Read: “If You Need a Volunteer, Recruit a Volunteer”
And also read: “If You Need a Board Member, Recruit a Board Member”

4. Same Song/Second Verse

It’s little bit louder, and a little bit worse! Your ministry’s mission and vision clearly point you in the direction of “Plan A.” And on your knees at your recent board retreat, the board sensed God’s leading and you reaffirmed that direction in the Rolling 3-Year Strategic Plan. Yet, one board member continues to lobby for his “Plan B.” That’s all he talks about—and it’s not only annoying, it’s disruptive. He has no filters.

Read: “Sidetrack Harebrained Ideas”

5. The Bully in the Boardroom

Whew! Memo to self: Next time, check a board nominee’s references (work and church) before you bring him onto the board. Once the bully is in your boardroom, it will be very challenging to extract him from the board—but you must.

Read: “The Bully in the Boardroom”

6. Time, Talent, and No Treasure

Some board members—often due to inadequate cultivation, recruitment, and orientation—never become “generous givers” to the organization. When you recruit with your board-approved “Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement,” you can inspire board members to meet this standard:

“I affirm that during my three-year term on the board I will arrange my giving priorities so that I am able to be a generous giver to XYZ Ministries, recognizing that major donors, foundations and other donors have the expectation that the XYZ Ministries Board of Directors will be part of the ‘most highly committed’ group of donors.” 

Review Tool #21 in ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance for the definition of generous giving. “Generous giving” does not mean that board members must be wealthy.

7. The Passion Has Left the Building

Some board members are comfortable with longer board terms (maybe a year off after two three-year terms, and then repeat)—while others thrive best with a change of scenery. When a board member’s passion to serve has left the building, it’s time to create an exit plan—even if it’s mid-term. As Dr. Henry Cloud notes, “Wise people know when to quit.”

Read: “Seven Times When a Board Member Should Bid Adieu”

It’s not if, but when your board chair or Governance Committee will need to have a frank one-on-one conversation with an under-performing board member. Don’t put it off. Pray, discern, seek counsel from other board members—and then have the conversation (if possible, in person). Board service is for a season—but it is not forever!

Call to Action

BOARD DISCUSSION: What did our annual online board member self-assessment reveal about the health of our board? Have we talked openly—and with God-honoring graciousness—about the steps we would take should a board member need to exit?

THINK ABOUT: “Good governance is not just about doing work better; it’s about ensuring your organization does better work.” (Bill Ryan speaking on “Governance as Leadership: Key Concepts”)

MORE RESOURCES: The click-on index to 40 guest bloggers (and their 40 blogs) is posted at the More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom BlogClick here to read the 40 color commentaries, plus the 40 lessons from the book


John Pearson is a board governance and management consultant from San Clemente, Calif. He served more than 30 years as a nonprofit ministry CEO, 25 of those years as the CEO of three national/international associations, including Willow Creek Association, Christian Camp and Conference Association, and Christian Management Association (now known as Christian Leadership Alliance).

We are grateful for the support of ECFA and there support of The Outcomes Conference 2021 in Orlando.  They are the sponsor for the Board Governance workshops and will also be available as an exhibitor in the Connection Central Exhibit Hall also!

Be sure and connect with their team at The Outcomes Conference June 15-17.




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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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