Boards (Issue 1022)

In which we are encouraged to choose at least one board or organization that draws on our deep energy.

This week, I attended for the first time the annual Corporation meeting of Community Boating, Inc. It’s a Boston-based community sailing organization, founded in 1946, the oldest public sailing organization in the country, whose mission is, “Sailing for all.” Initially focused on Boston children, it now draws from a much broader community of children and adults. During the past two summers, I have enjoyed many days of sailing on the Charles River in Boston. I recently applied to become a member of the Corporation, was accepted, and this was my first opportunity to participate in the annual Corporation meeting.

I was sharing the story with one of my friends and she asked, “Why do people go on boards?” It’s a good question as this is one of the “standard” strategies that we and others encourage for people who are developing their professional practices in their communities. Which boards? Why engage? How much to contribute?

I had to think about it for a moment. When my children were beginning to play soccer as second graders, I volunteered my way into the leadership team of our community soccer club. They needed an equipment manager for the in-town recreational soccer program. The main job was recruiting and leading a small team that purchased, organized, and distributed reversible maroon and white T-shirts to the kids; organized the #3 and #4 soccer balls and Pugg goals for the coaches; arranged field space and field lining for games, and so on.

After a couple of years, responding to my interest and a vacancy in the leadership team, they chose me to lead the in-town recreational soccer program and then, a year or so after that, to be president of the club, both the in-town and travel programs, in which capacities I served for about eight years. So, I thought back to that when she asked me, “Why did you do that?”

The answer is, thanks to some unfortunate experiences in my athletic youth, I had a strong, “can’t get it out of my head” desire to make changes in the way the soccer organization conducted its work: How we positioned ourselves, how we attracted kids and parents to the program, how we organized teams, how we trained parents to be coaches, how we ran the back office, and how we balanced the travel program with the in-town program. I had a clear vision and I aligned with others who had similar visions. The point was, “develop everybody”; we provided professionally-led programming for the kids and coaches in all age groups and additional development and licensing opportunities for parents and other volunteers.

During those years, I met hundreds of wonderful parents and coaches who were highly motivated to provide good experiences for their kids and themselves. There were many times as I walked down Main Street in Concord that people would stop me to say hello or introduce me to their children as the head of the soccer club. The eight-year-olds could have cared less… and the introductions told me that their parents were excited about the program.

So, responding to my friend’s question, I did it because I “burned” to make a change and, eventually, because I loved it. Others in different circumstances respond to different motivations. Whatever those are, the point is: While we can choose to participate in organizations out of a sense of duty or obligation or purely for the professional contacts, we can also choose at least one organization or board that calls out our “deep energy.” It’s good to feel the yearn.

In two weeks, I’m participating in the work crew that pulls the Community Boating boats out of the water and prepares the docks for winter. We begin again.

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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