BE MY BOSS! Now how is that for an opening? The truth of the matter is that the leadership of any organization can make or break it. Not only does the leadership set the organizational direction, they set the tone and influence the culture. I have had the privilege of working for and sitting on many boards of directors through my working years and understand how important the board-staff relationship is to the success of the organization. Perhaps it is this understanding that has helped Central Counties Tourism continually push the envelope when it comes to program delivery and stakeholder engagement.
Being a board member is a balancing act. You already have a full-time job and/or other commitments that keep you busy. The last thing you need is a ton more work to do. However, you also want the time you are giving to the organization to have an impact. Sitting in board meetings being reported to and not making strategic decisions is not a good use of your valuable time. Neither is getting into the weeds of day-to-day operations. I can assure you that the CCT Board spends its time setting strategy and ensuring staff have the ability to deliver the plan.
I think the number one motivator when it comes to tossing your name in the hat for a board position is that you must have passion for what the organization stands for and is trying to accomplish. In our case, we are trying to grow the visitor economy by providing stakeholders with the tools and opportunities to grow their capacity while reducing roadblocks. In simpler terms, we are trying to make sure that everybody – residents, councillors, businesses – understands the importance of visitors to their communities and work together to make sure they have a great time, which will lead to more people visiting and spending money in the community.
Every year we have a few board members who have completed their two terms, leaving vacancies. This year, four of our sixteen board positions need to be filled by passionate people that are representative of the communities we serve. The Central Counties Tourism Board of Directors sets and monitors the strategy and yearly direction of the organization. Each fall, we get together for a two-day facilitated session where the Board’s expertise in their diverse fields is utilized to set organizational priorities. Staff are fully integrated into the process, bringing to the table research, results, and knowledge of how programs are being received by our stakeholders. After the priorities are set, staff build the yearly business plan and budget around them. Once the plan has been approved, the board oversees its implementation and course-corrects when required (the last two years being a good example of having to shift gears many times).
The CCT Board knows exactly what the organization is trying to accomplish both within the fiscal and on a two- to three-year horizon. Through the business planning, they understand how the staff are going to get the organization there. And, through committee work, board members have the opportunity to provide greater direction and oversight to specific areas of the organization like finance, human resources, and partnerships. Being part of a committee adds a few hours of your time each year, but really does give a board member a deeper understanding of how the organization actually operates.
At the end of the day, I believe the reason that Central Counties Tourism is so effective is there is both trust and comfort between the Board and staff. We have a very capable and passionate staff that like to keep pushing forward and we trust that the board is going to set strategic priorities that make us trailblazers. In turn, the Board has comfort with the direction of the organization because they actively have set it. They trust the staff to deliver, and more importantly, know that the staff will reach out for Board direction if they hit a roadblock.
The next three years are going to be very interesting in the world of tourism. There are a lot of people “crystal-balling” what the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 are going to be for the visitor economy. The CCT Board of Directors has proven time and again that they have the ability to set long-term direction as well as be completely nimble in uncertain times so that the organization provides the very best support it can in any circumstance.
If you want to help set the course for Central Counties Tourism, please consider applying for one of the Board vacancies. This is not a wallflower, pad your resume type of position. The rest of the Board and staff are looking for people with ideas they want to share, a voice that represents both their organization and sector, and a passion for working together to push the envelope. We haven’t become the Central Counties we are by sitting back on our successes. In fact, we are more the organization we are because the Board challenges the organization to try new things, learn from our mistakes and make it better.
I was saying to some friends the other day that this is the longest I have ever stayed in one position and that is because every year brings amazing new challenges that keep the job fresh and vibrant. I have the Board to thank for that. It really is an impactful volunteer position and I encourage you to consider applying.
Have a great day!