By Kelly A. Reed
In a 2015 blog post, founder and principal of Thomas, LLC. and independent consultant, Scott Downes, wrote about his insights regarding his experience as a board member for a couple of non-profit organizations. Effective board work…he notes, “is not just a question of showing up. It demands having a strong personal belief and interest in an organization, its mission and its vision. It’s a matter of thoroughly understanding the core work and culture of an organization. And, it’s a matter of providing the right balance of guidance and support and fulfilling the responsibilities of governance and strategic direction.”
Exactly, Mr. Downes, exactly!
As a – shall I say - “seasoned” organizational leader, I have come to truly appreciate the value of a strong Board of Directors who assist and guide the agency they represent towards its next best steps. When I came to Huther Doyle, I had been away from the non-profit environment for a decade, so it took me some time to re-acclimate. The Huther Doyle Board made this a smooth process, with all members welcoming and supportive.
It was clear to me from the start that my new Board had the clarity of purpose and belief in Huther Doyle’s mission that Downes sited as essential. Likewise, they understood the work of the organization and believed in it at a very deep level. They also had a keen ability to provide that exact right balance of guidance, support, governance and strategic direction Downes spoke of. They still do, and what we have accomplished together in the (just shy of) three years I have been Huther Doyle’s CEO has been incredible!
One Board Member in particular stands out to me at this particular moment as a Board Member of Distinction. That member is Cenette Burdine. Cenette was the Chair of the Board when I was hired and remained in that position through my first two years of work. At this year’s Annual Meeting – held a few short weeks ago – Cenette was specially recognized for her years of service on the Huther Doyle Board of Directors. Regrettably – although naturally – her many distinguished years of service had to come to an end after many terms of dedicated service.
So, there we were at the Annual Meeting and although, I promised myself I wouldn’t, and I tried valiantly not to, I cried – embarrassingly – as I acknowledged her. I spoke of her beaming smile and enthusiastic welcome as she greeted me when I arrived for my interview for the job, her clarity, her patience and her constant state of calm as I set forth on my journey as the third Huther Doyle CEO in as many years. This agency of extraordinary excellence was experiencing a sense of uncertainty and some turbulence when I first began. Leadership change had taken its toll on everyone. It needed a gentle guiding hand to re-stabilize. I knew this coming in – instinctively – that sort of change at the top leadership level can be very unsettling. And Cenette knew – instinctively – that I would need some support righting the ship. That support was ever present, on target, appreciated and always exactly what I needed. She stayed on as Board Chair for an additional year to ensure the ship was heading where it always had been and where it should return – back to its excellence. Then one more year as Past President and BOOM – her term on the Board was up. Oh no, I thought! Oh no, no, no. And so, in what she described as a “Hotel California” type move, the Board asked for her to re-join the Board as an Honorary Member. She graciously agreed.
Then with continued graciousness, she rose, gathered a gift bag from One World Gifts and began a tale of her tradition of giving folks “gifts of untold and immeasurable value”, explaining that these were typically small trinkets with big meaning – and that’s what she had for each of us.
Our gift was a set of beautiful chopsticks. Intricately engraved and placed inside a clear packaging with ribbon and a glittery “thanks” card tying it all together, they were stunning, yet still curious. Why Chopsticks?
This gift of immeasurable value was given to us, she explained, as a representative token of her gratitude. She continued with a touching story of what these represented to her.
She told of seeing the chopsticks and thinking how they stood out among all of the other beautiful items in the store. Gathered tightly together, in a supportive group - such as we are here at Huther Doyle – and standing out as unique and different than the others – like we do here at Huther Doyle. Finally, she said, one chopstick cannot do its job if it is without the other. Again, symbolizing the value and strength of the collective effort that is a signature style here at Huther Doyle.
Beautifully said and remarkably well-delivered by the incomparable Cenette Burdine, a Board Member and Board Leader who has left an indelible and influential mark of excellence on Huther Doyle. Guidance and support, governance and strategic direction offered by Cenette and the other strong and committed Board Members of Huther Doyle will propel us forward for years to come.
Kelly A. Reed
P.S. We are always looking for interested folks from the community to serve as Board and Committee Members. Please reach out and let me know if you’d like to join the Huther Doyle team.