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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

LESSON 2 – Ask the Gold Standard Question

Welcome to Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Tim McDermott is our guest blogger this week.

LESSON 2 OF 40 - Ask the Gold Standard Question 

A “Pruning Moment” Can Improve Your Board Meetings

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 2, we are challenged to see if our board is engaged at board meetings. If they own the ministry’s vision, and are engaged, they will want to make the board meeting time more productive. This process is called pruning.

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 2, pages 6-9: 
• The authors’ favorite engagement question: What causes you to reflect, “That was a great board meeting today!”?
• “Imagine if your board had frequent moments characterized by deep joy, strategic issues, spiritual insight and waiting for God to speak?”
• Stop doing the things that don’t engage your board.  Henry Cloud says “If we own it, we have to prune.  If we don’t, we have decided to own the other vision, the one we called average.” 

Several years ago, we noticed we were having a difficult time getting board members to attend committee meetings. Don’t get me wrong. We had a great board—they just weren’t coming and had great “reasons” why they couldn’t. Through some anonymous surveys of the board, we learned that they felt they weren’t contributing at the meetings. They were coming just to hear reports and vote yes (or unlikely no).  

The only meeting that was well attended was the Strategy Committee, because that is where they could contribute and they felt valued.  So we changed our committee and board agenda to be more issue-based. Rather than reading a report, we presented issues we were facing, ups and downs, and challenges.  The end result—the board is more engaged and attendance is up! 


Tim McDermott is the President/General Manager of KSBJ in Houston, Texas and NGEN Radio. The radio stations reach over one million people a week in Houston making it the largest non-commercial radio station in the world.  The station has been honored with many Station of the Year Awards from NRB and CMB and has been named a Best Christian Workplace. Besides reaching the local community of Houston through music, a large prayer ministry and events, KSBJ also actively mentors Christian music radio stations around the world so they can actively reach their communities for Christ.  Tim has served on many national broadcasting boards and is also a CPA and has served as a Field Reviewer for ECFA for several years.  

• In addition to the board, ask my senior leaders how we can prune our staff meetings.
• Follow up with board members individually to make sure their voices are being heard.
• Ask other CEOs if they have learned successful ways to better engage their boards.

Subscribe to this blog by submitting your email (just above the date/day). Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra copies for your board members.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

LESSON 1 - Wanted: Lifelong Learners

Welcome to Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Ralph Enlow is our guest blogger this week.

LESSON 1 OF 40 - Wanted: Lifelong Learners 
Would you trust a surgeon who stopped learning?

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 1, we learn that board improvement flows from intentionality and falters through passivity. Boards—and board members—that take a passive disposition toward their performance are in danger of defaulting on their biblical stewardship calling. 

The good news is that plenty of sources and stimuli for improvement are available to boards that take stewardship seriously. Among those referenced in this lesson are excellent books like Ram Charan’s Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask, and assessment tools like BoardSource’s 85 questions for board members (in The Nonprofit Board Answer Book) and ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 1, pages 2-5: 
• Gut check question: “Is your board adding or subtracting value? How do you know?” (p. 3)
• “The role of the board has unmistakably transitioned from passive governance to active leadership with a delicate balance of avoiding micromanaging.” [Charan, Owning Up]

I have consistently taught and written that lifelong learning is essential to long term leadership effectiveness. Bobby Clinton, Leadership Emergence Theory expert, has documented that a lifelong learning posture is consistently apparent of leaders who finish well. Even so, I find that the fatal combination of passivity and agenda clutter conspires to crowd out efforts to walk the talk of continuous board development. 

That’s where this book makes a great contribution. The simple list of Board Action Steps at the end of every chapter and the Study Guide’s “five ways to leverage the insights of this book” (p. 207) offer handles of hope for those of us who often know better than we do. My resolve to make board development integral to my board’s culture has been richly renewed and resourced. 


Ralph Enlow serves as president of the Association for Biblical Higher Education. ABHE colleges engage students in postsecondary education that emphasizes deep Bible engagement and spiritual development in community that helps them answer God's call to live life on mission with Him whether in the marketplace or the ministry. Ralph has authored The Leader’s Palette: Seven Primary Colors and Jesus on Greatness: There’s More to It Than You Think (coming in 2018), and blogs regularly about biblical higher education, biblical leadership, and cultural issues at 4ThoughtLeaders.

• Assign a member of the board development committee to facilitate review and discussion of a chapter from this book at every board meeting. 
• Challenge the board to select and implement one simple action step recommended in the chapter.

On Nov. 29, 2017, watch for Tim McDermott’s color commentary on Lesson 2, “Ask the Gold Standard Question: A ‘pruning moment’ can improve your board meetings.”

Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra copies for your board members.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Welcome to...

JOIN US! You're invited to join us here for the next 40 Wednesdays in 2017-2018, when 40 guest bloggers will add their insights to the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson.


Watch for a new post every Wednesday. Don’t miss the first two blogs:

   Nov. 22, 2017 – Lesson 1
   Wanted: Lifelong Learners

   Would you trust a surgeon who stopped learning?

   Guest Blogger: Ralph Enlow, President, Association for Biblical Higher Education
   Nov. 29, 2017 – Lesson 2
   Ask the Gold Standard Question
   A “pruning moment” can improve your board meetings.
   Guest Blogger: Tim McDermott, President and General Manager, KSBJ

LESSONS FROM THE NONPROFIT BOARDROOM is the perfect book to give to your board members and will inspire them in God-honoring governance. With 40 short chapters in 11 memorable categories, you’ll appreciate lessons on: The Powerful Impact of Highly Engaged Boards, Boardroom Tools, Templates, and Typos, Nominees for the Boardroom Hall of Fame, Epiphanies in the Boardroom, Boardroom Time-Wasters, Trouble-Makers, and Truth-Tellers, Boardroom Best and Worst Practices, Holy Ground and Other Locations, Building a 24/7 Board Culture, and Boards That Lead and Boards That Read.

LISTEN AND LEARN. If you’re more of a listener than a reader, check out the 35-minute Flourishing Culture Podcast released on Oct. 9, 2017. Co-authors Dan Busby and John Pearson were interviewed by Al Lopus, president and co-founder of the Best Christian Workplaces Institute. (Listen here.) Dan and John shared their favorite insights from the book, including the imperative importance of prayer and discernment—and what to do when a board member doesn’t live your values.

Visit the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom webpage and order extra copies for your board members.