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?”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Your Leader’s ONE Thing

I’ve started collecting the wise and pithy proverbs from management and leadership gurus who pontificate on “The Number One Thing/Most Important Task of a Leader.” They’re all good—but can they all be the most important?  Examples:

Max De Pree: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

Peter Drucker to Bob Buford: “The first job is to make top management effective.”

Jim Collins: “The first task for leaders is to create an environment and a process that enable people to safely identify and eliminate misalignments.”

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld: “Perhaps the most common—and the most dangerous—failure is the tendency of leaders at all levels to overlook opportunities for feedback.”

Drucker (again): “The most important do is to build the organization around information and communication instead of around hierarchy.”

Frances Hesselbein: “Leadership in these times means scanning the environment for those few trends that will have the greatest impact on the enterprise.”

Drucker (again): “The task of the nonprofit leader is to try to convert the organization’s mission statement into specifics.”

Jeffrey A. Krames: “Getting high energy people into the company is only the first step—the organizational equivalent of setting the table. The next, and bigger, task is to create an organization that converts energy into results.”

Deepak Sethi: “The toughest thing for leaders is letting go of something that has served them well for a long time.”

Ruth Haley Barton: “It is also important to involve the right people. One very common leadership mistake is to think that we can take a group of undiscerning individuals and expect them to show up in a leadership setting and all of a sudden become discerning!”

Robert L. Daft:
“Leadership is often described as getting the best out of other people, but the first job of leadership is often getting the best out of yourself.”

Stephen R. Covey:
“Both management and leadership are vital and either one without the other is insufficient.”

Ram Charan:
“There is nothing more important for a CEO than having the right strategy and right choice of goals, and for the board, the right strategy is second only to having the right CEO.”

King Solomon:
 "There is one thing worse than a fool, and that is a man who is conceited." (Proverbs 26:12, TLB)

King David:
"This one thing I know: God is for me!" (Psalms 56:9, TLB)

What are your favorite “one things?” Stay tuned for my favorite “one thing” book in my next blog.

At your next board meeting, what discerning counsel should your board give your CEO regarding his or her “Most Important Thing” this year?

Monday, May 16, 2016

The 5-Tool Hall of Fame Board Member

Major League Baseball has a term that caught my attention last week: the five-tool baseball player.  According to most baseball experts, the five-tool player is the ideal position player (non-pitcher) who excels at:

   • hitting for average
   • hitting for power
   • base running skills and speed
   • throwing ability
   • fielding abilities

According to one source, past MLB players considered five-tool players have included Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Mickey Mantle, and Ken Griffey, Jr. (just named to the 2016 Hall of Fame). Active players include Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, Carlos Beltran, Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun, Yoenis Cespedes and Lorenzo Cain. 

So what powerful competencies would a five-tool board member demonstrate? You may have other thoughts, but here’s my list:

The number one responsibility of a board member is to ask often (and at least annually), “Do we have the right CEO?” Sometimes an annual CEO assessment will prompt a recommendation for coaching and professional growth. Other times, it’s an appropriate exit plan.

Ram Charan asks, “Does our board really own the [organization’s] strategy?” He notes, “Strategy should always be in the back of directors’ minds. It helps to have the strategy brief or a two-page sheet of bullet points in the binder for every meeting.”  Then Charan cautions, “If the board and the CEO have lasting substantive differences, they have a choice: stay with the strategy or replace the CEO. Consider that management has a shelf life too, just like the strategy.”

Perhaps the most important body part needed by Christ-centered organization board members would be knee strength. Every fork-in-the-road, every people decision, every financial challenge or opportunity must be soaked in a prayerful spiritual discernment process. Ruth Haley Barton has the audacity to write, “Just because something is strategic does not necessarily mean it is God’s will for us right now.”

In the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey, 94.3 percent of board members agreed or strongly agreed that “there are important distinctives between how a ‘secular’ board governs and how a ‘Christ-centered’ board governs.” As one board member noted, “We interpret current information with the question, ‘What is God doing?’”

As Rick Warren writes in the first line of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” My five-tool board member would model a team orientation with Christ-centered core values.
   • Not “my way or the highway.” 
   • Not lobbying in the hallway.
   • Not mutual back-scratching.
Instead—a theology from Romans 12 that leverages the spiritual gifts around the boardroom, and a deep understanding of the God-given passions, strengths, and the unique social styles (driver, analytical, amiable, or expressive) of each board member and staff member. King David wrote, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Consider this my first draft of a five-tool Hall of Fame board member.

QUESTION: What tools are on your list?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"I'll Write the Check. You Do the Work!"

This week in a two-day training session with board members and CEOs from 12 nonprofit boards, participants were hammering out their unique governance philosophies. It's not an easy task because the options in the governance library are numerous and often contradictory:

   • Some boards prefer John Carver's Policy Governance® approach
   • Other boards are very hands-on (CEOs often label it, “micro-managing”)
   • A few are "boards" in name only
   • Organizations led by founders tend to have cheerleader boards
   • Far too few boards practice generative thinking-type governance

And interestingly, a significant swath of supposedly faith-based boards will lean on the language and literature of secular philosophies of leadership and governance. Their processes and practices (when closely examined) borrow heavily from earthly-oriented philosophies about people, money, and outcomes—versus an eternity-oriented understanding of leadership, sin,  salvation, generosity, prayer, and discerning God's voice and direction.

So I was not surprised on Wednesday, when a ministry CEO told us he once had a board member describe his role this way:
"I'll write the check. You do the work."

Wow! Sounds tempting—especially if the check has lots of zeros. Imagine—a board member who is willing to write big checks and won't micro-manage the CEO.

What's the downside? Where do I start?
First, as Peter Drucker cautioned leaders: "Never subordinate the mission in order to get money."

Your governance philosophy, if thoughtfully and prayerfully crafted, will shine a bright light on any and all inappropriate rationales for inviting "governance pretenders" onto your board.

I know. I know.  It's tempting to make an exception.  But when someone confesses—up front—that they will give money, but not DO the hard and deliberative work of a board member, run the other direction. Fast.

Counterfeit money and counterfeit board members have the same value.

I was blessed that our CEO colleague immediately knew that this checkbook-wielding board member was out of alignment with best governance practices.  Imagine someone saying—more literally—“I’ll write the check. You’re not accountable to your board.”

For more on this important subject, read “Chapter Two: The Lies of the Enemy—Three Temptations We All Face,” in The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, by Gary G. Hoag, R. Scott Rodin, and Wesley K. Willmer.

: Does your governance philosophy illuminate inappropriate approaches to Christ-centered governance?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Yikes! Motivation Doesn’t Last!

Zig Ziglar:
“People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

So what motivates the men and women who serve on your board? And is your on-going motivation adequate? (Is it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or never?) 

Three ideas:

Motivation Idea #1: Check Motivation Temperatures Often! Perhaps Jennifer joined your board for one reason, but three years later that original motivation is inadequate to keep your ministry on the front burner of her heart and passions. So keep taking the motivation temperatures of each board member. One size doesn’t fit all—and you’ll need to creatively assess how to inspire and bless each individual board member. How? Ask!

Motivation Idea #2: Motivation Is About Serving God—Not You! According to Al Newell, co-founder of High Impact Volunteer Ministry Development: 

“Sustaining motivation is better understood as a by-product as opposed to a goal of itself. It is my experience that if you pursue discipleship with volunteers, motivation will follow. If volunteers see the fulfillment of their role as ‘obeying and serving God’ rather than serving you or your organization, it will cause motivation to swell.”

Just today in a phone conversation about what motivates board members, Terry Stokesbary, senior program director at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, shared this truth with me:
“Souls must be nurtured.” 

Motivation Idea #3: Share Good News Generously. If your board meets just two to four times a year, don’t rely on those meetings alone for motivation to swell. Instead, many CEOs send their boards a monthly update. The “CEO’s 5/15 Monthly Update to the Board” is an easy-to-use template that takes about 15 minutes to write and about five minutes for a board member to read. The template includes space for an encouraging and motivating ministry story. (Pat Clements, president of Church Extension Plan, when chairing the board of what is now Christian Leadership Alliance, shared this brilliant concept with me.)

Honest! Just today, another CEO began using this 5/15 template and he emailed the good news to me. That motivated me!

QUESTION: What should our board chair, our executive committee members, and our CEO do, religiously, to sustain the healthy motivation of all board members?