Paxton/Patterson Blog

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Making your Relationships Last: Advisory Board Engagement

by MAlutto 25. October 2013 08:42

In order for a relationship to be successful it requires commitment, clear communication, goal setting and achievement, honesty and a periodic sense of renewal or excitement. It is very easy to slip into a rut, begin to take one another for granted and quickly develop feelings of isolation, a lack of appreciation and connectedness. When working with your school’s advisory board, it is really no different than the stages that any relationship goes through: Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing. Figuring out how to navigate these stages successfully is incredibly important.

Initially, the board will need some basic ground rules to follow as each member learns about his/her role and how best to work with others within the group. During the forming stage, just like in our relationships, we tend to be on our best behavior. We are polite, respectful and present our best qualities. While this is all well and good, keep in mind that each board member will bring his/her our own sets of traits, strengths, weaknesses and baggage to the table! To be sure that the group gets off to a good start, consider these tips while navigating the potential pitfalls of the ‘forming stage’:


  • Adopt a set of bi-laws and financial policies – this will help you avoid potential future conflicts down the line
  • Begin and end every meeting on time - this sets a tone of mutual respect
  • Provide a clear agenda, with reasonable goals/topics to cover prior to each meeting so that members will know what to expect

Once the group gets to know each other a bit better, it will be easy to gain a sense of individual’s level of commitment to the group. While conflicts are typical in the ‘storming’ phase, it is important that you continue to move the group toward goal setting and more sophisticated organization.


  • Setup an annual calendar for meetings, including one longer session for an annual strategic planning summit
  • Incorporate students into meetings regularly, keeping members connected to the reason they initially volunteered
  • Elect official officers for the board - this will be a turning point from a position where the school is directing the group to a state where the board becomes its own governing body
  • Establish sub-committees because the ‘real work’ won’t happen at the board level

When couples reach the ‘norming’ stage, they spend considerable time figuring out how best to work, live, laugh and love together.  It is obvious that they have achieved this stage because their communication improves and overall satisfaction increases. It is the same with advisory boards. Soon enough the group will be working well together, coordinating events and gaining more support for the school throughout the community. As this group further matures, transitioning from ‘norming’ to ‘performing’, the opportunities  are endless and your students will truly reap all the benefits of your hard work and dedication to the cause.

So don’t be intimidated - all first meetings are tough! Stay the course and know that you aren’t alone – all relationships, school faculties, advisory boards and people in general experience this.
***Is your first advisory board meeting coming up? Feel free to email me with questions or concerns. I’d be happy to help!

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