Good Relations with Board Members Depend on Trust, Respect, Clear Knowledge of Roles

In your experience, what is the key to fostering a good relationship with your board, especially your board chair?

cindy besterCyndi Bester
Lethbridge (AB) Chamber

The key to fostering a strong relationship with a board, particularly the board chair, lies in open communication, transparency and collaboration.

Building trust is paramount — regularly update the chair and the board on organizational developments, challenges and successes. Actively seek their input, valuing their perspectives and expertise. Establish clear expectations and goals, ensuring alignment with the chamber’s mission.

Show appreciation for their dedication and commitment, acknowledging the key role they play. Foster a culture of inclusivity, where all members feel heard and valued. Effective relationship-building involves not only conveying information, but also actively listening and responding to concerns.

Ultimately, a harmonious relationship with the board chair is built on mutual respect, shared goals and a commitment to the chamber’s success.

Monica Holdaway
Box Elder (UT) Chamber

This is a great question for all chamber staff. I think one word can describe the fundamental element for a good relationship with the board and board chair. That word is TRUST.

That trust needs to go both ways. If the chair can trust staff to do their job to the best of their ability, then the chamber will succeed, and the work will be done. Therefore, make sure that the chair’s goals are accomplished and that staff are able to foster and build trust with their chair.

Here a few examples of ways to build trust:

• Listen to the goals of the chair, respecting the chair’s ideas and comments.

• Follow through on ideas from the chair, within the chamber’s goals and mission statement, and ensure that ideas are brought to fruition through the staff’s work.

• Thank the chair often for their guidance and willingness to help lead the organization to succeed.

As staff listens, follows through and thanks the chair, the chair will trust staff to do their jobs and ensure success.


Janet Steele, ACE, IOM
Albany Area (OR) Chamber

First, as the president/CEO you should have a huge voice in who goes on the board, the executive committee and up the ladder to chair. You will be working with them for years and people you respect and trust are key to yours and the chamber’s success.

Make sure the board chair and executive committee are well aware of any issues, challenges and opportunities the chamber has. Be honest and upfront. Build a culture of trust. They are my “sounding board” for new ideas — are they crazy or will they work? It’s their opportunity to give important feedback and my opportunity to understand them and the business community they represent better.

We also have some fun at our board meetings. Lunch is served before the meeting, giving everyone a chance to relax. During board introductions, there is a question of the day that everyone answers. The questions can be personal, or business related. Either way, everyone gets to know each other a little bit more.

Our annual retreats are out of town and allow us the opportunity to socialize. Board members pay for their rooms and the chamber pays for the rest. The night before the retreat, we have a board/spouse/staff/facilitator social with heavy appetizers and no-host bar. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to relax and unwind before we get down to business at the retreat.

I am fortunate that many of my board members and chairs have become great friends, and we get together outside the chamber world. The culture of trust and respect that we have at the chamber continues as friends.

Scott Ashton
Oceanside (CA) Chamber

My keys to success are transparency and clarity about the role of board members. I am proactive in keeping our board informed in a timely manner on critical issues related to finances, staffing and public relations. We created a comprehensive onboarding process to provide new board members clear direction on their role with the chamber.

It is critical for a CEO to have a strong voice on the board and officer nominating committees. I have spent decades building productive relationships with business leaders in our community and have a good sense of who to recommend for consideration for board and officer roles. Consequently, before anyone joins our board, I have usually already developed a positive working relationship with them.

By the time one of our board members takes the chair role, we have developed a synergy and mutual respect that help us lead as an effective team.

Lance BeckLance Beck
Spokane Valley (WA) Chamber

In my experience, cultivating a robust relationship with the board, particularly the board chair, hinges on the bedrock of trust and a shared comprehension of expectations. Establishing a solid foundation in relationships before individuals assume board roles is pivotal.

While inherited board members are inevitable, actively shaping the composition of the board by transparently engaging with the nominating committee is crucial. Open communication about expectations not only fosters a harmonious board dynamic but also aligns the team toward common goals.

Ultimately, the proactive approach of shaping relationships and expectations lays the groundwork for a cooperative and effective board dynamic.