Let me wade into the discussion that was raised by a recent article in the North Star (ParrySound.com) concerning changes made at the Park-to-Park Trail (P2P) board of directors. I may have a useful perspective. I served on the board for a couple of years and continue to volunteer with the organization as webmaster for their website (parktoparktrail.org). I have also attended a few board meetings since I left about five years ago. As recently as a year ago I was involved with the P2P strategic plan.
Changes at the P2P Board Level
There is no question that changes were required at the board level. As was noted in the article there was a lack of direction and focus that required improvement. Whether this came through ‘shaking up the board’ or more fundamental help from the municipalities, it is not clear. Too often the thought is to fire the coach or the general manager when the team isn’t winning or at least meeting expectations. How has that worked for you Leaf fans? Sometimes the problem is with ownership.
An issue with the board certainly was alpha male syndrome. Skills that are valuable in one area of business or life don’t necessarily translate to board oversight. A related issue was the use of experience in the ‘field’ to push forward and support pet initiatives. Years of experience and a loud voice too often drowned out other ideas. It was not particularly overt, but it had an impact.
About Andrew Ryland
I have worked with Andrew on a couple of boards, P2P and the Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce. We see each other occasionally at one of the grocery stores but do not socialize.
I would suggest that if changes were required on the P2P board that Andrew would have been one of the very last people I would have suggested be asked to leave. He has a wealth of business experience and a certain ‘savoir faire’ that is very useful in business and on the board. We worked together, along with other board members, on the turnaround of the Chamber when it hit financial difficulty. Yes, he was part of the board as the Chamber wandered into problems, and he was also part of the solution. Andrew has the type of ‘smarts’ you want and need on a board.
The Need for Savoir Faire
The term savoir faire is defined as “capacity for appropriate action; especially: a polished sureness in social behavior”. This is something I am not seeing much of from some municipalities. This is evidenced in this situation by the treatment that Andrew received in what seemed to be a hostile takeover, if not a coup. He suggested that a tap on the shoulder and a few words would have been enough to let him exit the organization appropriately with a relationship that would have allowed P2P to reach out to him for advice and help if necessary. Knowing Andrew, there is no question in my mind that he would have respected the heads up and done the right thing. I am not convinced that would have been the right solution, but perhaps it would have been done the right way.
There is expediency and there is common decency. I hope that people are learning the lessons. It will be hard to recruit board members and volunteers if they are poorly treated.