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School Board Book: The Board Game by Dr. William Mott

Posted by Grace Lee on Jun 7, 2013 3:55:00 PM

The Board Game Cover

Today I had the opportunity to interview Dr. William Mott, author of the book, The Board Game. Bill has many years of education experience as a school administrator, college professor, and development consultant. 

We recommend this book as a valuable resource for board development, challenging members to talk about attitudes and actions that impact culture and results.  




The title of Dr. Mott’s book, as well as the thought behind it, was inspired by the growing concern he has for schools and non-profit organizations. The people in leadership roles are usually very passionate and committed to being in those organizations, and they usually want those who volunteer on their boards to have the same level of type-A drive.  This creates the problem that Dr. Mott addresses in his book: there is too much of gamesmanship and personal agendas when those kind of volunteer leaders come on the board. Organizations tend to suffer when that happens because often those agendas are not in the best interest of the organization.

With 30 years of experience working with non-profits and schools, Dr. Mott believes the services these organizations provide are vital in our society, so the stakes are incredibly high for their leaders. His hope in writing this book is to help develop a positive relationship between the chief administrators of non profits and the governing board. He believes, and I have seen it time and again in coaching through School Growth, that the most important factor in organizational success is having that relationship work well. This allows boards to measurably move the organization forward rather than getting caught in quick fixes and poor relationships. 

In our conversation, Dr. Mott identified a couple of current trends of organizational boards that trouble him. One is the highly overrated belief that a change in leadership is good. I often see this same problem in schools: they believe that hiring a new head will fix all their problems, when in reality turnover requires a massive amount of readjustment and can stall the progress of the whole organization. 

Another major concern that Dr. Mott and I share is that boards often have an inability to understand their governance role versus the managerial jobs they work in, which leads to micro-managing and a corresponding lack of training, orientation, and evaluation. This often happens as a result of trustees’ individual behavior and how he or she relates to the organization. Trustees must set their own agenda aside in order to listen to others who have valuable concerns about what may be needed.

Your organization is only one trustee away from a dysfunctional board, and in all my years of coaching, I have never once seen a stellar organization with a dysfunctional board! School Growth emphasizes that board members are there to create vision, viability, and visibility--certainly not to advance personal agendas. Boards, as well as the whole school, should be learning organizations committed to ongoing professional development for their trustees, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the school to be involved as lifelong learners. 

Dr. Mott has received overwhelmingly positive feedback for his book, indicating that these are exactly the kind of concerns boards are aware trying to address. He designed it to be a quick reference and to speak directly to real life situations. It is an enjoyable read, written as a work of fiction that follows David Andrews, who is a coalescence of many characters and individuals Dr. Mott has met over the years--the rest of the book is populated with individuals based on character patterns often observed on boards. 

We at School Growth recommend this book as a way to continue professional development and spark dialogue. It highlights many of the issues I speak to in our Boards Gone Wild video series, and has great insights on how boards can be efficient and effective in leading their organizations to success. 

Have you read, The Board Game? Do you have a book that you recommend regarding school board leadership?

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