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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

LESSON 19 - Never Throw Red Meat on the Board Table

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. David Wills is our guest blogger this week for the first of three lessons in "Part 6: Boardroom Time-Wasters, Troublemakers, and Truth-Tellers.”


LESSON 19 OF 40 - 
Never Throw Red Meat on the Board Table
Boards need advance preparation to fully address complex issues.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 19, we are reminded that healthy boards are well-prepared boards.

Max De Pree in Leadership Is an Art says, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”  When board members walk into the board room they should well understand the reality of what they are about to experience. If they don’t, they will each walk in with their own reality and this creates “time-wasters and troublemakers.”

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 19, pages 94-98: 
•  “If a board must create its own starting point, it can be a very painful process that ultimately diminishes productivity.”
• “[…some] issues are so complex that they require wisdom and discernment to decide how to properly prepare them for the board.”  

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
Discernment or Dynamite? When decision-making precedes discernment—you are in the danger zone.

There is a continuum that, if broken, will lead to poor outcomes. It goes like this: Discernment leading to Decisions leading to Direction which results in a Destination.  Of course, abiding in Christ and leveraging the gifts and experiences He gives us will determine how well we discern things…the sagacity factor.

The currency of great boards is great discernment.

Throwing red meat on the table often undermines discernment. This leads to poor decisions and an unfulfilled board. Board members will be uncomfortable coming back if this happens often. In addition, it will create an unhealthy meeting environment. Sort of like what is described in Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 (NIV):

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.”

Red meat creates many words. Sometimes an explosion of words.

Additionally, healthy boards are very good at taking complexity and moving it toward simplicity. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Red meat creates complexity. This is not what an organization’s leader needs from the board. 

That is not to say we don’t put complexity before a board. Quite the contrary. Boards thrive on generative conversations that lead to simplicity, good decisions, and sound direction.  

Let’s shoot for the “no surprises” standard. The organizational leader and the board chair should have a roadmap several weeks before the next meeting. This will allow for content to be delivered in such manner that the discernment process begins well before the meeting. Let the board know in advance what decisions are required so they are prepared to make wise ones. Point them to the critical sections of the board material.  In some circumstances, calls and meetings may be needed to prepare the board for maximum discernment.

Red meat is raw meat. The meat you serve your board should be well done…in advance! 

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY DAVID WILLS:


David Wills serves as President Emeritus of the National Christian Foundation and has been with NCF for the last 20 years.  As an organizational leader, David has served on dozens of boards and has both served (ugh!) and received more raw meat than he cares to remember.

 TO-DO TODAY: 
• Engage the board chair early.
• Develop a road map for the meeting and the outcomes that are required.
• Engage board members as needed prior to the meeting—to set the meeting up for success.




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On April 4, 2018, watch for Rich Stearns' commentary on Lesson 20, "Apply for a Staff Position and You Can Deal With That Issue! Help board members not to cross the line into operational details."

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, March 21, 2018

LESSON 18 - Do Not Interrupt!

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. Holly Duncan is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of four lessons in "Part 5: Boardroom Bloopers.”


LESSON 18 OF 40 - Do Not Interrupt!
Don’t assume board members know how to listen.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 18, we are reminded of the importance of listening well—a seemingly simple skill that requires self-discipline and practice. Dan and John wisely point out the direct correlation between the listening skills of the board members and the culture of the boardroom. Ultimately, the board’s willingness to listen to one another is closely connected to the ability to hear God. Effective boardrooms have members who listen well. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 18, pages 88-92: 
•  “It takes great skill and insight—a deep understanding of the pluses and minuses of the four social styles—to consistently create a boardroom culture that is respectful and God-honoring.”
Ruth Haley Barton: “We live in a culture where people are much more skilled at trying to get their point across and arguing their position than they are at engaging in mutually influencing relationships.”
Ruth Haley Barton: “Hold your desires and opinions—even your convictions—lightly. Be willing to be influenced by others whom you respect.” 

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
Though the qualities of a good listener are usually taught at an early age, we likely need to be reminded of those qualities quite often. The best listeners have good eye contact, they don’t interrupt, they put their cell phones and any other distractions away, they aren’t thinking about what they will say next and they aren’t jumping to conclusions or formulating their own opinions while the other person is talking. In general, we know these things—yet we often need to be reminded.

Effective listeners ask good questions—not to second guess, but to clarify. They diligently seek to understand what is being said and they also pay attention to their own posture and body language. Let’s face it—we can usually tell if someone is listening or not. Just think what could be avoided by listening closely the first time: lost time, conflict, misunderstandings, and confusion.

Strong leaders are good listeners. They understand the importance of listening, even if it’s hard information to hear. They don’t stop listening or tune out the speaker as soon as they become offended or disagree. Good listeners are comfortable in silence—they don’t rush to fill in the blanks or interrupt the quiet.

The best leaders are the best listeners.
They listen closely and they also notice what is not being said. Listening demonstrates care, respect, and a teachable spirit—all qualities of an effective leader and an effective board member. There is a direct correlation between one’s willingness to listen to others and one’s willingness to listen to God. Jesus was the perfect example of when to speak and when to listen. May we all strive to be wise, quick-to-hear and slow-to-speak listeners.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY HOLLY DUNCAN:


HOLLY M. DUNCAN is the founding CEO of Parkridge, a non-profit pregnancy medical clinic. She has served in that capacity for 25 years. Holly earned her Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education, with specializations in English and Sociology, and she earned her Master’s degree in Counseling. A Licensed Professional Counselor, and a charter member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, Holly also served as a national consultant for Focus on the Family for six years. She is the author of “Now What?”—a relational booklet for parents and teens published by Focus on the Family. Her 25 years of experience in leadership, consulting and speaking make her a sought-out speaker for women’s and business leadership events. Holly’s most cherished roles are wife and mom. 

 TO-DO TODAY: 
• Become a better listener by effectively relating to all four social styles and thereby increasing your “interpersonal versatility.”  (See “The People Bucket” in Chapter 7 of Mastering the Management Buckets by John Pearson.) 
• Diligently and prayerfully seek to be a more effective listener—both in the boardroom and in the family room. 




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On March 28, 2018, watch for David Wills' commentary on Lesson 19, "Never Throw Red Meat on the Board Table. Boards need advance preparation to fully address complex issues."

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, March 14, 2018

LESSON 17: Sidetrack Harebrained Ideas

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. Tami Heim is our guest blogger this week for the third of four lessons in "Part 5: Boardroom Bloopers.”
LESSON 17 OF 40 - Sidetrack Harebrained Ideas
Some motions should never gain unmerited oxygen!

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 17, we take a closer look at what happens when someone on the board derails a board meeting with one of those ideas that appear out of nowhere—and we learn how to gracefully bring the meeting back on track. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 17, pages 84-87: 
•  Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem: “Dysfunctional directors have their own modus operandi. Some see themselves as the smartest person in the room, others seek recognition and still others are frustrated would-be CEOs. Whatever their personal motives, they tend to micromanage or take boardroom discussions down dark alleys.” 
Bottom line: “The sooner any off-the-wall motion is appropriately sidetracked, the sooner board members will be saved from needless agony and wasted time. They will be grateful!”
Prayer: “Lord give us the courage and wisdom to recognize potential board actions that should never get traction and then to handle them gracefully. Amen.”

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
If you’ve ever served on a board, then more than likely you have experienced how painful it is to be sidetracked by a harebrained idea that shows up out of nowhere. You know how it plays out in a meeting. You are doing good work and then all of a sudden, someone throws a grenade that implodes your progress. Sometimes the idea or motion is so outlandish it takes a minute for your mind to regain balance. If you haven’t experienced it, brace yourself, because it’s coming your way.

I wholeheartedly agree with the perspective of the authors that it requires a bold and experienced board chair to take charge and regain focus. Based on my observations, it always works best when the chair is the first responder. Authority acting quickly brings more immediate resolve. 

I believe it is also helpful if the chair and CEO agree on how a situation like this will be managed, before it happens. Rehearsal has merit. But there must be high trust between the chair and CEO so the CEO can rest in the wisdom the chair exercises in the moment. That will reduce anxiety and lead to graceful redirection.

One other thought: I encourage intentional activities that help board members be more connected to one another. When trust and candor are high among board members, then these situations also have a greater chance of diffusing quickly. A connected board is more inclined to keep itself in check.  

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY TAMI HEIM:


Tami Heim is the president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance. Her senior executive experience and board service spans three decades with top leadership roles in Fortune 500 companies and Christian nonprofit ministries.  She was certified for board service from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Tami and her husband, Dale, are actively involved in their church, share a passion for discipleship training, and lead several mission teams to Haiti each year. 

 TO-DO TODAY: 
• Make an effort to get to know personally the individuals you are currently serving with on a board. Be a catalyst for building trust and strengthening board relationships. Go ahead—send a note or make a call today.
• If you are a CEO or executive director, make sure you are scheduling regular updates with your chair and work diligently to be aligned on board priorities and desired outcomes. There’s nothing like a new year to get these meetings on your calendar! 




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On March 21, 2018, watch for Holly Duncan's commentary on Lesson 18, "Do Not Interrupt! Don’t assume board members know how to listen."

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, March 7, 2018

LESSON 16 - Date Board Prospects Before You Propose Marriage

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. Terry Stokesbary is our guest blogger this week for the second of four lessons in "Part 5: Boardroom Bloopers.” 

LESSON 16 OF 40 - 
Date Board Prospects Before You Propose Marriage
He served the shortest board term in the history of the world!

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK:
 In Lesson 16, we read the humorous (but unfortunate) blooper about “Tom,” a board prospect, who was fast-tracked onto the board without the requisite due diligence. And even worse, he counted seven “cringe moments” in his first board meeting.

The good news: after his first board meeting, Tom exited the board. Hopefully, that was a wake-up call for the board to get their ducks in a row.

This lesson notes four key steps when “dating” and on-boarding a board prospect: cultivation, recruitment, orientation, and engagement.

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 16, pages 79-83: 
•  “If you’re married, it’s unlikely that you proposed marriage on your first date. Effective boards don’t invite candidates onto the board after just one steak lunch.”
“The ‘hire slower and fire faster’ axiom applies to board prospects also.”
• John Pellowe: “God’s individual call is normally in line with the gifts that you already have. If the ministry’s mission is not closely tied to your interests, your board service will be a draining experience.” 

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
In the Board Leadership & Development Program at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, we’ve been privileged to educate and inspire hundreds of CEOs and board members to be effective stewards of their governance roles and responsibilities.

We’ve observed that one commonality among nonprofit boards is the temptation to fill board slots with a “friend-of-a-friend of Cousin Eddie”—rather than taking time for discernment and the “dating” process. So when we talk about the four phases of board recruitment, it immediately makes sense to board members and the lights come on!

Consequently, we have provided each organization in the board program with the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members - Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation, and Engagement. This helpful resource is referenced in Lesson 16 and we’re grateful to ECFA for all of their excellent governance resources.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY TERRY STOKESBARY:



Terry Stokesbary is the Senior Program Director for Enrichment Initiatives at the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. He is responsible for overseeing the Trust’s work in the area of Enrichment Initiatives—including the Board Leadership & Development Program which he initiated and continues to lead. Prior to the Trust, Terry served nearly 25 years with Young Life where he held several leadership positions. There he invested time in both training and strategic growth initiatives. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science, and welcomes opportunities to work with individuals and organizations in a variety of areas, including organizational growth and leadership development.

 TO-DO TODAY: 
• Before you fast-track prospects onto your board, be sure your nominating committee views the “Recruiting Board Members” toolbox video from ECFA.
• Review the four phases of board recruitment (cultivation, recruitment, orientation, and engagement) and discern which phase needs work. Create an improvement plan today.




NEXT WEDNESDAY:

On March 14, 2018, watch for Tami Heim's commentary on Lesson 17, "Sidetrack Harebrained Ideas. Some motions should never gain unmerited oxygen."

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.