Wednesday, August 24, 2016

10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat: Part 2


In my last blog, I noted that BoardSource has just released a jam-packed treasure chest of ideas and insight, Board Book Essentials: Checklists + Infographics + Topic Papers + Guides+ Tools + Templates

The 136-page PDF (free to BoardSource members only) includes six “how-to” pages for your next board retreat. So my here’s the second installment of my “Top-10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat.”

#5. Reporting. All talk—with no note-taking—will challenge even the best brains on your board. For at least half of your retreat sessions, divide the board into small groups of three or four people each. Appoint a recorder and reporter.  While the reporter shares verbally, the all-important reporter summarizes the wisdom of each small group session and delivers the written findings to a designated person. All notes are then summarized in one document and shared at the next board meeting for a consensus/prioritization exercise. Avoid all talk and no note-taking!

#4. Reflecting. The best boards pull the best thinking out of each participant—and bullet point the good stuff on flip charts. But…wait! There’s no need to rush into decision-making mode. Let the ideas simmer. Pray. Reflect. Discern. If possible, wait for your next board meeting to move ahead on the big ideas—so everyone has had a chance to think and reflect. (The Analyticals on your board will appreciate having time to think.) Avoid jumping to conclusions—before you’ve had time to reflect.

#3. Reversing. Need new ideas for an old program? According to Army intelligence, there are nine principal ways to change a subject. A 56-card creativity tool, Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, uses the acronym, S.C.A.M.P.E.R., to describe the nine approaches:
    • Substitute something.
    • Combine it with something else.
    • Adapt something to it.
    • Modify or Magnify it.
    • Put it to some other use.
    • Eliminate something.
    • Reverse or Rearrange it.
Avoid the tendency to operate in the same old/same old mode. Maybe God is calling you to something new.

#2. Relating. Perhaps the greatest value of getting your board away from the wired rat race is to give them time to build relationships. Many board retreats include spouses, with selected sessions for both board members and spouses. (I frequently facilitate a StrengthsFinder exercise and encourage the board to leverage each person’s “3 Powerful S’s: Strengths, Spiritual Gifts, and Social Styles.”)

According to the Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes Great Boards Great,” the author says, “It’s not rules and regulations. It’s the way people work together.” And you can only learn to work together when you spend time with each other. Avoid those jam-packed schedules and tight meal times that leave little room for growing relationships.

#1. Renewing. At board retreats, I frequently hear these typical responses from board members who agreed to participate, but with great reluctance:
    • “Oh, my. That last half-hour of quiet time for us to reflect and discern was golden. That never happens in our board meetings.”
    • “This has been so helpful. Reviewing the job description of a board member was a great reminder (and a wake-up call)! And I will step up my giving—this month!”
    • “I need to interrupt—and ask you to pray for me. Right now, I’m sensing that the Lord is speaking to me about perhaps applying for that open staff position. Whew! I’m overwhelmed and need your prayer.”
Avoid low expectations! When you build in time for prayer and reflection—expect God to meet your need, often in surprising and exhilarating ways!

QUESTION: Who needs to review these 10 board retreat mistakes—as part of the planning process for your next retreat?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat: Part 1


BoardSource has just released a jam-packed treasure chest of ideas and insights, Board Book Essentials: Checklists + Infographics + Topic Papers + Guides + Tools + Templates

The 136-page PDF (available only to BoardSource members) includes boardroom “discussion starters,” dozens of board topics and helpful reference materials, including two glossaries (14 pages) of governance terms, board leadership terms, and financial terms.

If you’re planning a board retreat this year, you’ll appreciate the six “how-to” pages covering:
   • Why have a retreat?
   • What topics should we address?
   • Where should we host our retreat?
   • When should we host our retreat?
   • Who should be involved in our retreat?
   • And 11 tips on what to do, and what not to do at a board retreat.

I’ve enjoyed (and endured) my fair share of board retreats over the years. In reflecting on the best and the worst, the BoardSource resource prompted me to write this board retreat list for Christ-centered organizations:

Top-10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat

#10. Preaching. As Christ-followers, we all share one common methodology—the weekly sermon. Board retreats, however, do not need sermons. Instead, use the away-from-the-routine setting to engage every board member in reflection, spiritual discernment, and discussion. Skip the talking heads and ask your facilitator to bring out the best in each board member.

#9. Protocol. When senior team members are invited to participate in the board retreat, ensure that the protocol is clear between the staff, the CEO, and board members. Insist that direct reports to the CEO do not conduct “end runs” around the CEO—and share information and opinions that have not been shared first with the CEO. Ditto for board members: they should avoid inappropriate conversations with senior team members about the CEO. Use your annual 360 for that fact-finding process.

#8. Prayer. In an unhurried, relaxed environment of a retreat setting, don’t miss the opportunity to invest significant amounts of time in prayer together. Praying only when scheduled to pray: Big Mistake. Instead, pray as a group. Pray in small groups. Pray in groups of two. Pray when you sense the Holy Spirit’s nudge. Pray without ceasing. 

Corrie ten Boom once asked,

“Is prayer your steering wheel
or your spare tire?” 


#7. Planning. While not every board retreat must involve strategic planning, a retreat is the perfect time for the annual look back and bold look forward. The most common mistake, however, is the expectation from less experienced board members that an entire strategic planning process can be completed in one board retreat. When you fast track the agenda, and minimize the spiritual discernment process, you’ll get what you paid for.

#6. Popcorn! While you’ll want to steward your time well, don’t forget to have fun food and fun times. (I call it hoopla!) Invite board members to complete the online StrengthsFinder assessment—and ask your facilitator to plan a session on leveraging board member strengths. You'll have fun comparing those with "Harmony" strengths to those with "Activator" strengths.

If working on your strategic plan, divide into teams and role play a preferred ministry outcome that could happen five years from now. Put some of your more expressive board members on stage (Expressives love the stage!) and they’ll create many funny and memorable moments.

Stay tuned for five more board retreat mistakes in the next blog.

QUESTION: Could a well-executed board retreat help enrich our relationships, our planning, our dependence on God, and our trust factor with the senior team?

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Widow’s Mite Is NOT the Gold Standard of Giving!


Last year I wrote two blogs on “10 Fundraising Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix” with a follow-up post on “Board Giving and the Generosity Circle.” This issue keeps popping up in board meetings—so here’s a summer re-run on this important topic.

Fred Smith, Jr., president of The Gathering, has noted that there are at least seven models of giving in the Bible—and his insights will help you think biblically about your giving.

He writes, “A few years ago I heard an earnest, well-intentioned speaker present a message on the topic of the Biblical model of giving. It was the story of the widow’s mite and, as you might guess, the conclusion was we should be willing to give everything we have.

“I started thinking about that because I had heard almost my whole life that this story was the Biblical model for giving and, ideally, the gold standard. However, as I started looking at the different stories about giving in Scripture I realized there is a wide diversity of giving styles in Scripture—not just one.”

Smith lists seven examples: 
   • David (a leadership gift)
   • Solomon (the extravagant giver)
   • Elisha (gift of an opportunity)
   • The Wise Men (team givers)
   • Zacchaeus (exuberance and precision)
   • The Widow (giving even to a flawed institution!)
   • and Barnabas (powerful return on investment).

So how would you respond to Fred Smith’s question? “I hope you ask yourself which of these individuals would be most like your own style of giving, and in doing so, you begin to recognize how your giving is a part of God’s workmanship in your life.”

To read the entire blog from Dec. 28, 2015, click here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Before You Get Your Point Across—Listen!

Of the four social styles gathered around your boardroom table (Drivers, Analyticals, Amiables and Expressives), at least two of the styles prefer to talk than listen.  There’s help! Ruth Haley Barton lists 10 listening guidelines in her important book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

She writes, “Don’t take it for granted that people know how to listen. 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. The following are a few guidelines for entering into and maintaining a listening posture that helps us hear and interact in ways that are most fruitful.”

Guideline #5 is the most challenging for me:
“Do not formulate what you want to say
while someone else is speaking.”

(Note: This is one of several “summer re-run” blogs. To read all 10 listening guidelines, click here for the entire blog from May 24, 2014. In a board meeting this week, I’m sharing a copy of the guidelines with each board member—and I’ll try to model it myself. Not easy!)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Aggressiveness Wins—But the Board Loses


At a debrief session with the board chair and the CEO, following a half-day board retreat, the board chair (gratefully) was elated:


“I don’t know how you did it, but one board member
engaged more deeply at this meeting—and spoke so insightfully—than
he’s done in a whole year of board meetings.”

To explain what happened, let me paint the picture with two scenarios:

Scenario #1: Aggressiveness Wins—But the Board Loses

Scenario #2: Equal Opportunity Talkers

(Note: This is one of several “summer re-run” blogs. Click here for the entire blog posted on Dec. 30, 2013 to learn about the “2X2” approach. It works—and I’m using it again at a board retreat this weekend.)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Even Your Board Members Are Changing Their Thinking!


Judges 2:10 is a good wake-up call for boards:
“Eventually that entire generation died and was buried. Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel.”


Whether your board has term limits, or not, all boards struggle with passing the mission/vision/values/history/strategy/culture baton from one year—and one board meeting—to the next. Some members miss meetings. Other members are new. News flash: even some members forget!

I’ll be at a board planning retreat next month and all of us are reading Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, by Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell. (We’re also reading the headlines: Orlando, San Bernardino, Brexit, Supreme Court decisions…and a lot more.)

We’ll be drilling down on the book’s implications for our roles as board members—such as why moving from “complicated to complex” will require a “robust and resilient” response, per McChrystal. We’ll also address this year’s book within the context of the last two books we’ve read:
   • The Attacker's Advantage: Turning Uncertainty Into Breakthrough Opportunities, by Ram Charan
   • Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way, by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem.

I get it! Some of your board members might wince or whine at the thought of reading yet one more book. Team of Teams is not easy reading (300 pages), but if the title temps you, be assured that every chapter is compelling.

When’s the last time your board has read a book together? Trust me—as you steward your ministry’s future, one book a decade is not enough. Leaders are readers.

My friend and mentor, George Duff, served 27 years as president of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce—and he quoted to me (often!) this pithy rationale for lifelong learning—and the speed of change, "You're Leading a Parade!"

If your board has a reading culture—this reminder: Your new board members didn’t read the last book. Some of your board members have forgotten what the last book said. Perhaps several board members now disagree with what the last book said.

So…yes, keep reading to determine what the board should know and do—so you’re thinking, praying and reflecting to spiritually discern God’s direction for your important ministry.

QUESTION: What’s the next book our board should read together?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Criteria for the Nominating Committee’s Pipeline

Good news! I observed a board meeting recently—and the nominating committee invited board members to suggest names for their “prospect pipeline.” 

Bad news! I observed a board meeting recently—and the nominating committee invited board members to suggest names for their “prospect pipeline.” 

More bad news! In the absence of agreed-upon criteria, suggestions will quickly descend into the sub-basement of nominating dysfunction. “I’d like to nominate Jennifer. She’s a friend of a friend of my Cousin Eddie—and she’s wealthy.”

The solution? Before you begin “dating” a board prospect (plan on a 12-month to 36-month process), discern the criteria you’ll use to evaluate a prospect’s suitability as an effective steward of your ministry.

Begin with the “6Ds Criteria” listed in the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members—Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment. (Click here to order from ECFA.)

The 6 Ds include: 
   • Discerning Decision-Maker
   • Demonstrated Passion
   • Documented Team Player
   • Diligent and Faithful Participant
   • Doer (walks the talk)
   • Donor (see Matthew 6:21)

As you discern your board’s unique culture, you’ll want your pipeline criteria to reflect your unique DNA. For example, at a recent board meeting (the one board I serve on), I suggested we add three “virtues” to our list of board prospect criteria.

“Humble, Hungry, and People Smart” are the three attributes described in Patrick Lencioni’s latest business fable, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues. While the book is directed to teams in the workplace, the three virtues are no-brainer qualities we want in future board members.

Here are my “board edits” from Lencioni’s definitions:

HUMBLE: Great board members lack excessive ego or concerns about status. Humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a board member. (And I’d add several more lines from Andrew Murray’s book, Humility.)

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.”

“Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God,
and allows Him as God to do all.”

HUNGRY: Hungry board members almost never have to be pushed by the board chair to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent.

SMART: Smart simply refers to a board member's common sense about people (other board members, the CEO, staff, volunteers, donors, and our customers/clients).

So…how about generating some good news at your next board meeting? “Our nominating committee suggests the following criteria for future board members. To recommend a candidate, please complete the ‘Board Member Suggestion Form’ to discern if that person meets our agreed-upon criteria.”

QUESTIONS: What criteria should be added when suggesting names for your board prospect pipeline? Is “humble” on your list?