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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.

 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.” 

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.


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. 

• 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. 


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."

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