Wednesday, July 18, 2018

LESSON 35 - Is Your Board Color-Blind?

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. Danny de Armas is our guest blogger this week for the second of seven lessons in "Part 11: Boards That Lead and Boards That Read.”

LESSON 35 OF 40 - Is Your Board Color-Blind?
What color is your boardroom flag?

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 35, we read about the different flags that fly during board meetings. The colors represent the atmosphere in the room. A red flag means no progress or advancement; a yellow flag means be careful because there is potential danger ahead; and a green flag means put the pedal to the floor and take advantage of the opportunity to make progress.  

It is important for board members to understand the various flags that fly so they can respond accordingly. Failure to understand that meetings vary in color constantly can be the cause of significant conflict between board members or between the board and management.  

Recognizing the current color and knowing the factors that led to that color can help board members address the issues that most often create hazardous or halting situations. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 35, pages 180-183: 
 “In every board meeting there are flags that fly.”
• “Boards that know the color of the flag are in a position to more readily address issues that may cause ‘hazardous conditions.’”

• “Yellow flags are on the income statement. Red flags are on the balance sheet.

The atmosphere in the room is often the most important factor in having an effective meeting.  When the green flag dominates a meeting, I leave the meeting with the “wind at my back.”  When the red or yellow flag are more dominate, I leave drained and weary.  

There are some obvious reasons we encounter yellow or red flags. Two common circumstances I’ve encountered—that negatively affect atmosphere—are when there’s existing conflict between board members or when any board member arrives at a meeting with an unstated but very purposeful agenda. We should be careful avoid these situations when possible.  

Sensitivity to the atmosphere is one of the most critical competencies for any board member. This competency is like emotional intelligence but with application more towards a room of people not just an individual. Some people feel a room easily and others have little or no sensitivity to the atmosphere. One who is more aware of atmosphere will be able to make a speedier adjustment as the atmosphere changes during a meeting. This can be very useful to move the meeting back to green quickly and appropriately.  

In time, we can all learn to avoid the natural red flag factors. Doing so will keep our meetings productive and pleasant—ensuring continued participation by high capacity leaders. 


Danny de Armas is the Senior Associate Pastor of First Baptist Orlando. He grew up in Orlando and was raised in the ministry where he now serves. As Senior Associate Pastor, he is responsible for the implementation of the vision as provided by the Senior Pastor and lay leaders. Danny serves on several local and national boards, including the North American Mission Board of the SBC and Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. In his spare time, Danny enjoys traveling with his wife, Betsy, spending time with his grandchildren, hunting, running marathons, and riding his Harley Davidson.  

• Evaluate your board members for sensitivity and awareness of atmosphere. Do you have any board members that are making matters worse by their insensitivity?
• Establish meeting agendas strategically to ensure green flags are flying most of the time.


On July 25, 2018, watch for the commentary by Bob King on Lesson 36, "Decrease Staff Reporting and Increase Heavy Lifting. Consider the good, the bad, and the ugly."

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