We happen to live in a quiet and fairly wooded area of our city. It provides the environment for a lot of birds (and sometimes other, unwanted wildlife – read coyotes). We enjoy watching and listening to the birds and are growing in our ability to identify by sight and sound. We keep feeders full in order to ensure that our yard is full of feathered visitors on a daily, year-round basis.
As I’ve been reading about birds, I’ve discovered there are some species that we had not previously been able to attract to our yard – even though they are somewhat common in the area. No matter how much I filled the bird feeder, or kept the bird bath clean, they wouldn’t show up. My reading also informed me that the species that have not yet shown up are quite ‘picky’ when it comes to food. So, it hasn’t been enough to keep the bird feeder full. I’ve needed to supply the right kind of food if I want those species to visit. So, I made a few changes this year to the food supply, and sure enough, our yard is now quite full of the finches I was hoping to attract. Who knew?!
A board’s ownership linkage activity is somewhat similar. It’s not enough to just talk to owners. If you just talk with no focused, intentional agenda, you will likely attract the same thing you always have – concerns or complaints related to how they personally want to be treated by the organization. Or, another way to put it, ‘customer’ related issues.
Ownership issues are those which are future focused. What difference should our organization make in the world? Five years from now, what should be different for people because we were here? In order to attract that kind of thinking from owners, boards need to be deliberate about the kinds of question they ask. Consider asking your owners (or sub-groups of ownership) some of the following questions:
- What do you believe will be the most significant challenges facing our industry/community in the next 5-10 years?
- If we were meeting in 3 years [or, if we were meeting in year 20xx], looking back, what would have to have happened in our community for you to be happy with the progress made by our organization?
- What difference would you like organization to make within this community/profession/industry?
Of course, this is just a very small sample of the kinds of questions you might ask. Be creative and find ways to pose questions and engage in dialogue that help your ownership, your board, and your organization focus on the future. That is the kind of ownership linkage worth attracting.