Notes From the Field: When Impact Becomes Burnout

People Processes: Clarity & Consistency
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Sep 1, 2015 | Blog

When the final results of the board election came in at my AGM last week, my name wasn’t on the list of new board members. I knew it wouldn’t be, but that didn’t make it any less difficult. I’ve sat on the same working board for the last three years. Each year, seven dedicated individuals become the brains and the brawn behind a three day performing arts festival that showcases over 100 performers in front of an audience of over 1000. 

Several considerations led me to step down from my board of directors:

  1. Winning at recruitment – We were able to generate a lot of interest from potential board members. When all the nominations were heard, it became clear that all of the people running for the board were noteworthy candidates with a lot to offer and a lot to learn. Some were former board members with a wealth of institutional knowledge and the professional chops to know how to produce a festival. Some were educators in our community whose involvement in our festival would benefit the board as well as the community at large. And all of the members were fresh, untapped resources of enthusiasm. 
  2. One step forward, one step back – Each year, the board makes headway with governance-building – establishing policies, processes and protocols for a variety of recurring situations etc. Everyone is keen and we enjoy the opportunity to think strategically about what we’re all doing here. And every year, other aspects of our infrastructure fall by the wayside. Like many operational boards, we struggle to reinforce the changes we implement. We fail to pass on valuable information to new board members. We forget. The operational demands of producing our festival eat up all the time and brain space all seven of us have. Because we have so little to build on and so few tools to help, it’s like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without having a table to put it together on. 
  3. Burnout – I am burnt out. Bi-weekly meetings year round, tasks that require skills beyond the capacity of the board, ever-changing group dynamics, a highly-vocal engaged membership, culminating in a 5-day performing arts extravaganza. Gratifying? Absolutely. Inspiring? Always. Exhausting? Exhausting. As an individual, you can only reinvent so many wheels before it becomes repetitive. It got to the point that I couldn’t even appreciate the magic we had created for our community and our art form. 

So I decided my term had to end. 

Instead, I’ve created a new role for myself; starting now, I will be heading our brand new Governance Committee. What my organization really needed was someone to nurture our capacity to pursue our mission. I’ve cut out my own dead-weight; with operational responsibilities lifted, my inspiration has returned. This year, by stewarding my board through a strategic planning process and creating essential board tools (like a board manual), I’ll be leveraging my experience and knowledge to create a far greater impact than I could have had I remained a board member. 

Rather than being the end of my time with the organization, stepping down from the board has enabled me to contribute in a more meaningful way. I couldn’t be more excited. 

Liked this? Check out our resource: 10 Things Working Boards Need To Know

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Vicki Haynes

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