Could Your Board Benefit From Spring Training?
While you may think spring training is only relevant for professional baseball players, it’s a good training tool for boards too. One leadership and communication expert shares how spring training, or consistent training, makes for more effective boards and stronger associations.
It’s officially spring training season for Major League Baseball.
But this type of training isn’t just for professional athletes. According to Christina Rowe, MSOL, an expert in organization development, leadership, and strategic team communication, consistent training benefits any group that frequently collaborates, including your association’s board.
“With a different mix of people coming in every few years, the way your board makes decisions, communicates, and feels supported may frequently look different,” Rowe said. “Spring training, or consistent training, can help members better understand themselves, the group, and in turn, your association.”
She shared how spring training benefits both new and experienced board members and strategies for implementing it no matter the season.
Stretch the Right Muscles
Whether strategic thinking or financial literacy, spring training is an opportunity to expand a board’s skill set. Once areas for improvement are identified, get feedback from board members on what they want from the training.
“As an outside consultant, I talk with a few members about the overarching area we’ll cover and ask them what they want to see as outcomes,” Rowe said. “Then I work backward so I can tailor each interaction with the board to meet these needs and know what’s on their radar.”
Rowe recommends making consistent training both fun and informative. A shared learning experience with gamification opens opportunities for peer-to-peer connections.
“Sometimes I present a challenge example and then break the board into teams,” she said. “These challenges look at how well or how quickly they can solve problems.”
Adding constraints to challenges will encourage members to lean into their decision-making and communications skills. “It also leads to a great debrief afterwards,” Rowe said. “We discuss what got hard, who approached the problem from a new angle, and how those new approaches helped.”
The Value of Practice
“Board members will see more value in this training if they know they can apply the skills once the training ends,” Rowe said. I use a ‘me, we, us’ approach in my work with boards.”
She breaks down the value into multiple levels: individual, group, and organization, or “me, we, us.”
“By starting with ‘me,’ board members think about how they can adapt the training in their day-to-day work. Then we move onto the ‘we,’ how they can take these skills back to their team at their organization, or with their fellow board members,” Rowe said. “Finally, the ‘us’ is industry-wide and how they can adapt the training into the role they play in the association.”
In addition, if some of your more experienced board members view this training as unnecessary, Rowe recommends enlisting these members as guides in your training.
“In that role, they can contribute to the overall outcome of the board rather than build individual skills,” she said. “Serving as a guide or mentor will also leave these members more open to learning.”
Building a Game Plan
During this training, Rowe recommends carving out time for board members to identify their strengths and areas of need, particularly in communication and decision-making.
“Encourage them to think about how they process information, how they communicate, and what they need to feel safe making big decisions,” she said. “Developing this awareness will help your board members show up at their best, whether it’s for a preplanned meeting or in response to a crisis.”
During this process, also help your board determine their collective blind spots. Doing so will put them in a good position when it comes time to select a new team member. “Your board will know the right voices to invite who can challenge the blind spots,” Rowe said.
Ultimately, this type of training will also allow staff and board members to better communicate and collaborate with each other.
“When association staff know how the board best processes and receives information, it helps them do their jobs more effectively,” Rowe said. “They have a way to cut through the noise and get a response from members quickly.”