Expect Multiplier Thinking

The following is excerpted from “Reimagining Board Service: A Practical Blueprint for Building an Impact Board.” You can purchase a copy here.

Individuals tend to rise to the level of what others expect of them, and it’s true for your board as well. People will work hard to deliver what’s expected of them. And when board members and CEOs are given the green light to dream big dreams, they’ll do it. 

The organization’s CEO and board chair need to articulate a clear and direct expectation that board members always bring their “A” game when it comes to thinking big. While it might seem insignificant, habitualizing such an expectation is an important first step. They also need to create the conditions for bold thinking to flourish over time within all board and committee interactions. Here are a couple of ways to do that:

1. Create a board job description, which lays out the expectations of a High Impact Board member.

The expectation to think bigger and aim higher should be clearly articulated in the job description of a board member. This job description can be used in the recruitment and orientation of new board members as well. Your board should be constantly reframing the organizational mindset from one of incremental improvement to one of exponential impact.

An important thing to note here is that, when anyone in the room feels encumbered in their ability to speak their mind or voice unpopular opinions, true multiplier thinking cannot take place. One way to ensure that a culture of true candor is instilled in your board is to communicate to every incoming board member that respect for all opinions — even ones they may disagree with — is the expectation.

Download an example job description here

2. Consider the use of an award for bold ideas presented at board meetings.

At the Impact Learning Co., we use a crystal ball as a symbol of bold thinking. We actually announce and remind directors of the crystal ball’s presence at the beginning of each meeting. Giving Hearts Day, a giving day that we co-host with Dakota Medical Foundation and the Alex Stern Family Foundation, was itself born of a bold idea presented at a board meeting. What started as a $400,000 day has now surpassed the $100 million mark thanks to these boards’ willingness to aim much higher than they ever had before. 

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