Liz Maw joined Net Impact as CEO in 2004. During her tenure, Net Impact has tripled its chapter network to more than 300, formed partnerships with over 50 global corporations, and developed multiple new programs that engage students and professionals in sustainability. Liz is the President of Net Impact’s Board of Directors. She is also a Board Member of the World Environment Center. We asked her about her experience and lessons learned.
1) Strategy: What does Net Impact’s board provide input on and what do you think are its greatest strengths?
The board was instrumental in helping to shape our current 10-year strategic plan. For this process, I worked closely with board leadership and engaged the full board at meetings over an 18-month period. It is invaluable to have a thoughtful and smart group of people who are more removed from the organization and in leadership positions across a range of industries. They help me stay aware of external trends, risks, and opportunities that are harder to see in the midst of running an organization.
2) Challenges: What has been a big challenge when on-boarding new members?
We have new members rotate on once or twice a year, and it is incredibly helpful to have the new ideas and perspectives. At the same time, the new members have missed important discussion and processes that have helped to guide the board's thinking, so at times we need to rehash questions year over year. It is also always a challenge to find time to do a thorough on-boarding. We have used an online portal with current and historical documents that makes the process easier.
3) Learnings: What are the two lessons you would highlight?
I would say my two pieces of advice on board engagement are:
- Setting clear expectations on both sides. What does the executive expect from the board, and what does the board expect from the executive?
- Engaging board members as individuals. Each board member brings his/her own assets and needs to the board experience. If the Board Chair and executive can take the time to know what interests, excites, and concerns each board member, they can have a more fully engaged board.