In Part 1, we explored what happens to relational communities when an organization grows and expands. People want to be part of a growing, thriving organization and they want to feel like the community is still their family and their home. We discussed why it is important to provide people with the education and perspective they need to understand the shifts they are experiencing. In this week’s blog, we explore how.

One of the most common things I see as the source of breakdowns in communication and connection is what people call “issues of transparency.” If those serving on a Board of Directors or sub-committees are doing their jobs correctly, they are obligated to protect the organization by knowing which elements of confidentiality they must preserve, particularly around personnel issues. The issue is not one of people keeping secrets or operating with covert agendas. Rather, the issue stems from a lack of training and education within the community that leads to misperceptions. In relational communities, people benefit from knowing where boundaries exist. Spouses need to understand why their partner may not be able to answer the question, “How was the board meeting last night?” Friends benefit from understanding why a person serving on the board is particularly mindful about what she shares or comments on in the parking lot. All members of the community, not only the Board of Trustees or Directors, need to understand the parameters of responsible volunteering and leadership.

Here are five guidelines that help relational communities stay connected, healthy, and strong throughout the expansion and evolution of the organization.

  • Keep a well-articulated and inspiring mission statement at the center of everything. Read the mission at the beginning of board meetings. Use your mission statement to inform both the decisions your organization makes and the approach you use to arrive at the decision.
  • Bring the entire leadership team together for training at least once a year. Replacing even one or two members of the board shifts the dynamics of the team.  Give new members and veterans an opportunity to explore together the roles and responsibilities of serving as leaders in the community. Use this opportunity to affirm the focus and direction of the current team during the upcoming year.
  • Explore options for educating the entire community about how the leadership structure of the organization works. Before a situation arises, explain how and why personnel issues must, legally, be handled confidentially. If you hire someone outside your community to lead trainings, work with them to ensure they include examples that reflect common issues within your specific community.
  • Have a plan that ensures that all members of the community know how to responsibly interact with the leadership structure of the organization. Be sure that people also know where they may turn if they feel misunderstood or unheard by the person they initially choose to contact.
  • Provide specific training that develops the ability of your entire leadership team to hear the essence of what a person is communicating and reflect the communication back to the person in a way that either affirms the message was understood or invites clarification.

All members of a community need to understand the roles, responsibilities, and the issues of confidentiality that leadership teams navigate. The entire community benefits from developing trust and awareness of the structures that exist and from knowing how to interact with those structures. When we provide education and training to help people understand the evolution an organization is experiencing as well as the structures that are in place to support that growth, we invite people to stay engaged. We invite them to be active, responsible participants and to help keep their entire community healthy, growing, and strong.

Sarah M. Kipp is a speaker, coach, and consultant who provides leadership and diversity training to schools, businesses, and congregations. Sarah lives near Boston, Massachusetts with her family.