Episode 43 – Working with Parent Board Members Who Struggle to Separate their Roles

Renata Porter

A very interesting topic about how to work with Parent Board Members who struggle to separate their roles and what are the right things to do in case you are in this situation.

In this episode you will learn:

✔ How to Set Expectations with the New Board Members
✔ How do you get past the conversation and ensure that the boards have an absolute understanding of what is expected of them
✔ How Code of Conduct can help Board Members to holds each other accountable
✔ What to do if you find yourself in this situation
✔ What is Herd Mentality and how you can utilize it?

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00:00:03 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource Podcast where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club, support your staff and the direction of your organization.


We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.


Hello all and thank you for listening to the Your Sports Resource podcast. My name is Renata Porter and I’m happy that you are here with us.


Today, we’re going to talk about a touchy subject that is in the arena of club swimming, which really gets people riled up.


I’m talking about being a board member or a head coach who is dealing with another board member who just can’t seem to separate themselves from being a parent from being a board member.


This situation can lead to conflicts of interest, strained communication and undue influence on coaching decisions. Understanding the complexities of this dynamic and finding ways to effectively manage it is crucial for maintaining a healthy team environment and ensuring your athlete’s best interest are prioritized and the duties of the board are maintained and adhered to.


To support you in navigating these challenges, the board and coaches must engage in strategies that promote open communication, establish boundaries, and foster a strong working relationship.


Now I’m going to go through my thought process on how to navigate this situation.


But I want to start with, setting expectations with new board members.


The first step in this process is how the board sets its expectations and on boards, new board members through the election and onboarding process, the current board should be transparent about the duties of the board member, including the fact that they are signing on to be a business Leader for the organization.


I know that it feels like something you shouldn’t have to point out or, you know, really make a strong statement as I did.


But being a business leader means that behavior and decisions are based on the best interest of the organization, not that person’s child.


And while intellectually everyone understands this, it’s not good enough to just have conversations about their new role.


So how do you get past the conversation and ensure that the boards have an absolute understanding of what is expected of them?


To my mind this can be done through a code of conduct and training.


Every board member should go through training that clarifies the distinction between the roles and responsibilities of a board member and how those differ from being a parent.


And what I mean by this is that truly understanding what it means to be a business leader and what you are on the hook for. So, your fiduciary responsibilities.


Meaning how your decisions keep the organization in a positive state with the IRS and the Secretary of State. The training must also include the roles and responsibilities of the head coach, so the lines of delineation are clear.


Often most conflict arises between certain board members and the coaches because they don’t understand where their role ends and where the coach’s role begins.


The same goes for the coaches. Often, they feel they have responsibilities or rights to decisions that well and truly sit with the board.


So being clear on each position, roles, and responsibilities provides clarity and reduces conflict.


Additionally, the board should sign off on its own code of conduct. Every club has a code of conduct for its members.


There should also be one for board members, one where expected behaviors and responsibilities are noted along with the processes that outline when to use the conflict-of-interest policy and how the board holds each other accountable to not blur those lines between the board member and the parent.


In order to maintain transparency and avoid conflicts of interest, the Code of Conduct should also contain procedures detailing how board members should handle situations where their personal interests may intersect with their board responsibilities.


This includes providing clear guidelines on how to disclose potential conflicts, recuse oneself from discussions or decision-making processes where a conflict may exist, and how the board as a whole can address these situations in a fair and unbiased way.


Moreover, the code of conduct should emphasize the importance of keeping board and parental roles separate during board meetings and other decision-making processes.


By setting clear boundaries and expectations, the board can prevent blurring of lines between their dual roles, ensuring that decisions are made objectively and with the best interests of the club in mind.


OK, so before we move on to what to do if you find yourself in this situation, I want to tell you about http://www.yoursportsresource.com


On this website, you can find articles and tools that are all free to download and use.


For example, we have a tool that walks you through how to know if you are in a conflict of interest situation, what the severity of that situation is, and then what to do about it.


I think it’s an amazing tool that each board should keep in hand. This and many other tools, please feel free to download them and use them as they are or hand them out to your families or take them and recreate them to suit the purpose of your club or program.


The website again is www. yoursportsresource.com


OK, so what do you do when you find yourself in a situation where a board member is struggling to navigate between you know that seat and their seat as a parent, how do you get them to understand what they’re doing?


So first you need to Foster and encourage open and respectful dialogue where all board members and the head coach can express their concerns and opinions without being accusatory, address any confusion or concerns that have arisen due to the mixing of roles.


Two, use the Code of conduct processes you’ve established as your guide. Having a formal set of instructions in these instances leaves very little wiggle room for nuance and emotional decisions.


Three, seek guidance and support from a consultant or experienced facilitator or mediator. An outside voice of reason can encourage mediation and understanding because they’re just not emotionally charged over the same instance at hand.


Four, if all else fails, the board must require that the person who is emotionally charged over a situation recuse themselves from any decision making over the issue, as they have a conflict of interest.


And lastly, there really must be consequences for repeat offenders who simply cannot separate themselves from being a parent, and this really should be outlined in that code of conduct process.


Now lastly, I want to touch on something called herd mentality and while I feel like it’s far and few in between, there is such a thing as herd mentality and being able to address it while staying focused on the organization’s best interest can be daunting.


Just like I witnessed, club boards are being afraid to let coaches go when they have every right to.


I’ve heard many stories on the flip side, those where boards get emotionally charged over 1 minor incident that could be easily corrected instead of just letting them go for the silliest of reasons.


So, while the process is the same as I’ve already outlined in dressing this, it’s important to recognize that getting the ship to ride itself is much more difficult in the herd situation than working with just one outlier, so you must still break things down into parts, so the open dialogue engaging code of conduct and processes, seeking external guidance and requiring the conflict-of-interest policy to be utilized, however, when you approach open dialogue, I believe since you’re probably standing alone, being over prepared is key.


Create a plan to lay things out in a methodical way and work through what you believe their responses are going to be to what you have to say.


So, you already have some experience in how they act and how they behave, so incorporate ready-made responses into your plan if you’re able to answer their questions before they ask them because you’ve done that thought process, the quicker the walls will come down.


Because of the herd mentality, there are two things that you can do to reduce the hyped emotion.


First is to listen. Give them the chance to express themselves without jumping right in and defending your stance. You’ve prepared yourself so when it’s your turn, you will get all of your points across in a succinct way.


While you’re listening, you could probably ask some clarifying questions just to be prepared. So, ask them to give you examples or explain what they mean by specific statements.


The more clarity you have, the better your responses will be, and 2nd and probably the hardest part is to not engage emotionally, no matter how poud you are.


The more matter of fact and the ability to stick to the facts. You can approach the situation with the better.


So, whether you are the coach or that one board member who is fighting the herd, being prepared in your approach and doing your best to not be drawn into the emotion will help you stand your ground and make your case.


Navigating the challenges of working with the parent board member who struggles to separate their roles can be a difficult situation for sure.


By establishing clear boundaries from the beginning and fostering open communication, a positive environment can be created for all involved.


All right. Thank you for listening! And please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast so we can grow our audience. We appreciate you and you can always find more by looking at www.yoursportsresource.com Thanks everyone!