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US Servas Board Retreat

October 22, 2022 12:43 PM | Richard Weaver (Administrator)

Richard Weaver

The Board of US Servas is made up of volunteers who spend many hours each week in meetings and doing the work of the organization. In this world that seems to operate more and more virtually, it is good to periodically get together face-to-face and have longer conversations than is possible in a business meeting. The US Servas Board gathered for a retreat on October 13th in Salt Lake City, just before the Annual Conference.  All current active board members and two of the newly elected board members were present, either in the room or via Zoom.

In addition to seeing each other, often for the first time in person, the agenda was two-fold: 1) foster excellent communication and relationships, and 2) evaluate the new branch structure that was formally adopted in April.

Richard Weaver, a board member, led the first discussion.  He provided a different way to look at communication. He provided new vocabulary for board members to think about in their efforts to communicate effectively with each other and with Servas members. He then turned to conflict, which he defined as “expressions of differences.” The board wishes to foster a variety of ideas and opinions about the key issues and opportunities facing US Servas. Expressing these differences is critical to the board being successful in its responsibility. Effectively managing these conflicts can be a challenge but leads to much richer outcomes for US Servas. The morning concluded with a discussion about trust. Richard presented a model of trust that includes different types of trust and how to recognize the type of trust issue that might arise. Such awareness allows for specific action steps rather than simply saying, “We have a trust issue here!” The overall outcome for the morning was helping board members have new ways of thinking about communication, conflict, and trust plus tools for moving forward more effectively.

After lunch, Shyla Esko Bare, a board member, led a discussion about our new branch structure.  This structure was formally adopted in April and was a significant restructuring of how US Servas operates.  The new structure, dividing the organization into five functional branches, reflected many lessons learned from the first year (2021) operating as an all-volunteer organization. It was proposed in January and went through many refinements before being adopted. The board was pleased with the new approach but did not believe it had gotten it perfectly on the first try. This afternoon was the chance to make a six-month progress report.

The basic idea of the branch structure was to associate a variety of related teams, formerly known as committees, within particular branches.  Each branch would have one to three board members providing oversight and coordination with other branches. Everyone, at all levels, would be volunteers.

Shyla led the board in identifying successes in each branch. The oversight board members provided their thoughts first for their branch and then other board members added their positive evaluations. There were many successes for each of the branches. The basic tasks are getting done much more efficiently and completely than in the previous year. The flip charts created for this task were shared with the participants in the Salt Lake City Conference. Then attention was shifted to identifying areas where improvements can be made.  Fortunately, these were shorter lists than in the first task but several areas of importance were identified. Some action steps were identified to address them.  Since this was a retreat rather than a formal board meeting, no official action could be taken. The suggestions will be considered by the board and the other issues placed on the agenda for future board meetings.

The board agreed to keep examining the new branch structure and continue to take action to refine it. Feedback from members is important to this process. We all want a structure that fully supports the mission of Servas and provides meaningful and rewarding volunteer experiences for Servas members.

We concluded the retreat after 8 intense hours with a sense of being on the same page and feeling very positive about working together. We are proud to be board members of US Servas and all want to do our best for the membership.

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