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? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Your Ministry’s Most Precious Commodity?


Yesterday I heard a political consultant note that the primary role of a U.S. presidential campaign manager is to leverage the candidate’s very limited time.

It made me wonder—should more boards focus on how CEOs steward their time? Who’s watching and weighing in to ensure that the CEO does ONLY what the CEO should do (not tasks/roles others could do)? 

My opinion: I agree with board members who often whisper to me in the boardroom hallway, “Our CEO doesn’t delegate enough.”

Warren Buffet famously said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘NO’ to almost everything.”

(Sorry for the side alleys and meandering paths I’m taking today, but—stick with me—and I’ll get us to the destination.)

The authors of The Presidents Club would also agree. They write, “The most precious commodity of the United States of America is neither the gold bullion in Fort Knox nor the launch codes in its ballistic missiles. It is the time of the commander in chief: there is only so much of it, and how it is spent shapes pretty much everything else.”

So what is the appropriate role of the board in staying high enough to govern effectively (and not micro-managing), but savvy enough to discern how their CEO is stewarding her time? A good place to start: get board agreement on the topics, metrics, and S.M.A.R.T. goals that should be addressed in the CEO’s monthly report to the board.

Next, inspire your CEO to have a hands-open posture (high transparency) and regularly seek the counsel and wisdom of the board.

As a young CEO in my first year of what is now called Christian Camp and Conference Association, I asked my board this: “I can’t visit every camp and conference center in all 50 states, should I visit any in my first year?” 

Their answer surprised, but also blessed me: “No! Unless the visit involved board or committee meetings or regional gatherings.” That counsel removed a huge burden. In my 11 years at CCCA, I ultimately did visit dozens and dozens of member camps—but my wisdom-filled board gave me permission to focus first on our agreed-upon highest priorities.

One more idea: In What You Do Best in the Body of Christ: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, Personal Style and God-Given Passion, Bruce Bugbee, shares a convicting question from a colleague:
“Why are you doing what others can do,
when you are leaving undone
what only you can do?”

Psalm 90:12 reminds us, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

QUESTION: How effective is your CEO at numbering his or her days—and how best could you be helpful, without micro-managing?  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Your Board’s ONE Thing


In their bestselling book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan have a question that could change your board’s effectiveness—immediately. They ask:

"What's the ONE Thing
you can do this week such that by doing it
everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"

In my last blog, I listed statements from 13 leadership gurus about “The Leader’s ONE Thing”—and noted that 13 different ideas can’t all be right.

So today, we’re simplifying the question: “What’s your board’s ONE thing at your next meeting?”

If I were a guest at your next board meeting, I’d create four teams and send them to four flip charts in the four corners of the boardroom with one simple assignment: answer the ONE thing question. You’d have 18 minutes for prayer, discernment and agreement—and three minutes for each group to report back. (I’d also ask three people to give mini-reviews of this powerful book.)

QUESTION: “What's the ONE Thing you can do in this meeting such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"

The answers, I’m guessing, would cover the waterfront:

• “Schedule a day of prayer to discern God’s voice on the XYZ Initiative.”

• “Rather than continuing to committee-the-project-to-death, meet again in two weeks and let’s finalize the Board Policies Manual—so all of our policies are in one place and we can easily edit/adjust our policies at every future board meeting.”

• “In the next seven days, let’s commit to the online board self-assessment process that our board coach asked us to do a year ago!”

• “Finally, finally agree on criteria for future board members—and begin the process of ‘dating a board prospect’ before inviting anyone onto the board.”

 “Let’s get serious about a rolling three-year strategic plan that moves us from surviving to thriving—and agreeing on the board’s role in this process.”

Most boards will have different “ONE thing” recommendations—because all boards (and board cultures) are unique. A one-size solution doesn’t fit all. That’s why you must ask the question at every board meeting.

The authors suggest that one of the four thieves of productivity is the “inability to say ‘no’.” Keller writes, “Someone once told me that one ‘yes’ must be defended over time by 1,000 ‘no’s’.”

Great boards know the importance of the ONE thing and saying “no” is foundational to the ONE thing. You must say “no” to:
   • limping along without written policies
   • bringing new members onto the board without appropriate due diligence
   • stewarding a Christ-centered ministry without Christ-centered board practices
   • assessing CEO performance without self-assessing the board’s performance.

Add your list here!

QUESTION: So…“What’s your board’s ONE Thing?”