If you want to get a sense of the trust level in an association boardroom, just listen. If you’re not hearing much, that could be a sign of a problem.
“When I walk into a room and people are either not willing to share or are only half-sharing, that’s a problem,” said Lowell Aplebaum, FASAE, CAE, CEO of the leadership consultancy Vista Cova. “You can tell they’re holding back, not asking questions, or not listening.”
Trust among board members is harder to come by in the long-running pandemic era. On the cusp of a fourth year of pandemic-related change, boards have experienced extended periods without in-person meetings, had divisive conversations about how an association should act during a crisis, and worked to navigate economic hits from reshuffled meetings and other disruptions—all of which can make it more difficult for board members to find common ground. These conditions can also have trickle-down effects on an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission: According to a 2021 BoardSource report, nearly half (49 percent) of nonprofit chief executives said their boards lack the members they need to “establish trust with the communities they serve.”