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.

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