Friday, December 29, 2017

The Top 10 Most Read Blogs in 2017

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable,”
noted Mark Twain. So this last blog of the year highlights some statistics (the Top 10 Most Read Blogs in 2017) and delivers, maybe, a few facts.

I’ve never focused on big numbers when preaching good governance. Most of the last 12 years, I’ve enjoyed immense satisfaction in working with one board, or one CEO, or one board member at a time. Thus, to write a blog that will be read (sometimes) by members of more than one board—priceless! And a privilege.

In 2017, you may recall, I milked one book for 30 blogs. Max De Pree’s 91-page gem, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, featured meat on virtually every page. So it’s interesting (at least to me) that nine of the 10 most-read blogs in 2017 emanated from the De Pree book. 

The Top 10 Most Read Blogs in 2017

#1. Called to Serve: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension 
Max De Pree: “In the letter on the role of trustees, I reviewed some ideas on the matter of evaluating a board member’s performance. This is guaranteed to produce tension. Most boards and committees I know won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.” Read more.

#2. Called to Serve: Board Member Self-Measurements 
Max De Pree: “Like other forms of leadership, [board service is] not a position or an honor, but rather a demanding responsibility, a meddling in other people’s lives, and hard work that requires continuous learning.” Read more.

#3. Called to Serve: Governance Through the Prism of the Agenda 
People who are task-oriented and get-it-done “Type A” movers and shakers may not (my opinion) have the wiring, or the gifting, to be effective board members. Max De Pree cautions, “The board is not an instrument for doing.” Read more.

#4. Called to Serve: The Phone-Book-Size Board Packet Syndrome 
Max De Pree: “A friend told me recently that when he gets his agenda package only a day or two before the meeting, he knows he is not being taken seriously.” Read more.

#5. Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference 
The author references an entire chapter on trust in his book, Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community. It’s worth the read—especially the baseball story of the distracted second baseman who allowed a runner to steal second, resulting in two errors on one play. “After a few minutes the official scorer, not knowing exactly how to score such a play, announced over the public address system that he had decided to write off the second error to ‘defensive indifference.’” Read more.

#6. Seven Ways to Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome 
Sometimes (let’s be honest!), board members skip meetings because they are not needed. The CEO and staff do all the talking. Next steps are all buttoned down. Read more.

#7. Called to Serve: Coherence With Corrals
The board sets the fences to the corral—thereby giving the CEO and senior team clarity on what needs, or does not need, board approval or even reporting. CEOs, however, must report when policy has been violated. “You should know that last Friday, I had to operate outside the corral due to the following extenuating circumstances.” Read more.

#8. Called to Serve: Don’t Neglect Your CEO’s Growth 
Frequently, budget cuts begin by slashing opportunities for CEO and senior team enrichment—which is short sighted. It reminds me of this poignant comment traversing the Internet:
   --CFO to CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?
   --CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and then they stay?” Read more.

#9. Called to Serve: Challenged With Measurable Work
De Pree cautions boards not to play down what you expect of board members. “Misleading expectations result in nothing but grief. To tell you the truth, good people don’t want to be part of something that requires little of them.” Read more.

#10. Called to Serve: There Are No Committee Statues!
   --Max De Pree: “Always keep in mind…that people, not structures, change the world.”
   --G.K. Chesterton famously said: “I've searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” Read more.

Thanks for reading in 2017 and inspiring your board toward greater God-honoring effectiveness. And for more resources, follow the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on the new book by Dan Busby and yours truly, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. Click here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Baiting the Board Hook for Maximum Engagement

About now, 12 days before Christmas, a few CEOs (and more likely, their executive assistants) are scrambling to find meaningful gifts for their board members.

Here’s a gift idea that will keep on giving and giving and giving. What if…your CEO pledged to wear board member shoes all year?

I recently came across the following insightful metaphor from Bill Hoyt in his book, Effectiveness by the Numbers: Counting What Counts in the Church: 
“It is not according to the taste of the angler,
but according to the taste of the fish
that one baits the hook.”

When your CEO and senior team members (and CFOs especially) step into the virtual shoes of board members, I’m guessing several things will happen:

#1. BOARD PREFERENCES. CEOs will support the board according to the board’s taste (preferences, learning styles, meeting times, etc.) and not the CEO’s taste.
·            Example: Your CEO’s learning style might be listening, but the learning style of her board members might be reading. (Click here to listen to The Flourishing Culture Podcast on learning styles, and much more.)

#2. BOARD REPORTS. Board reports will be delivered on time (or even early!) so board members have adequate time to pray, discern, and reflect on board meeting agendas, reports, and recommendations.
·            Insight: “What kind of CEO waits until the night before the board meeting to dump on the directors a phone-book-size report…Surely not a CEO who trusts his or her board.” (Read the HBR article, “What Makes Great Boards Great.”)

#3. BOARD TIME. When CEOs wear board member shoes, there will be greater sensitivity to the limited time board members actually have for board work.
·             Idea. Urge your CEO to serve on another nonprofit board—to experience the boardroom from the other end of the table. It will be a wake-up call!

#4. BOARD STRENGTHS. There’s a humorous story in Lesson 25 of Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, “Align Board Member Strengths With Committee Assignments.” The big idea: CEOs and board chairs must leverage the “3 Powerful S’s” of every board member: Strengths, Spiritual Gifts, and Social Styles. That would be a huge gift to every person.
·            Example: When you assign me to committees that don’t leverage my strengths, I’m likely to skip the meeting. But when you invite me to serve in an area that aligns and exercises my 3 Powerful S’swhew!—that’s an instant holy calling!

If you still need a gift—in addition to a Christmas card with the above pledge—then (you guessed it) give every board member a copy of Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. Merry Christmas!

BOARDROOM ASSIGNMENT: Take five minutes at your next board meeting and ask every board member to share how God has wired them: spiritual gifts, social style (analytical, driving, amiable, or expressive), strengths, learning style, etc.

MORE RESOURCES: Follow the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. Click here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Would You Have 60 Minutes of God-honoring Governance?

If you enjoy college football (I do) and you live on the West Coast (I do), then you’re probably a fan of the Football in 60 TV broadcast for the Pac-12 conference.

The promo: “It’s a no-time out, no-huddle offense—just the game in condensed form. Each week Pac-12 Networks broadcasts each of the previous week’s games, cut down to an action-packed hour. Each episode includes enhanced footage not seen in the live game broadcast. Football in 60 is the ideal football fix in a fast and furious format for the busy fan.”

This got me thinking. What if we videoed your last (perhaps tedious) board meeting that went on and on and on… And then cut it down to just one action-packed hour: 60 minutes of God-honoring governance!

Would you have 60 minutes of God-honoring governance?

What would the replay reveal?
• Holy moments when your board faced a fork-in-the-road decision with confident prayer and discernment?
• Or, a wide camera shot of opposing sides rehashing the rehash of the last meeting’s rehash of the issue that won’t go away?
• Perhaps…a board chair with wisdom and grace—moving toward the end zone, but with sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s nudges to go slower and invite every board member to participate?

Try this at your next meeting. Mention the Football in 60 concept and ask one board member to observe and take notes. Then at the end of the meeting, ask that board member to share the meeting’s highlights and lowlights. Might be interesting!

BOARDROOM ASSIGNMENT: For a helpful resource, order the new governance book by Dan Busby and yours truly, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. (Read my book summary here.) We’ve invited 40 guest bloggers (40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.) to add their color commentary to the book’s 40 short lessons. To download a sample chapter and/or order the book, visit the book’s webpage here. It’s the perfect year-end gift for every board member. Check out the bulk pricing for 10 or more copies.
Order direct from Amazon

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Agenda Clutter

I picked up a new term today—agenda clutter!

Ralph Enlow, president of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, used that descriptive malady in the Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog—which launched today. He writes: 

“…I find that the fatal combination of passivity and agenda clutter conspires to crowd out efforts to walk the talk of continuous board development.”

Enlow is one of 40 guest bloggers (40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.) for the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and yours truly. Visit the blog here. Visit the book’s webpage here.

Enlow did not define agenda clutter—because we all know it when we see it, right? It looks like this:
   • Too many agenda items in too little time.
   • Too many staff members reporting on too many topics that have already been reported on in too many emails.
   • No prioritization of topics. Equal time allocated to A, B, and C priorities.
   • No “heavy lifting” on one key topic that engages the board—prayerfully and strategically. (See Lesson 36 in our new book, “Decrease Staff Reporting and Increase Heavy Lifting.”)
   • No time limits for agenda items.
   • No “meeting before the meeting” consultation between the CEO and the board chair. (See Lesson 5: “Before the Board Meeting: Collaborate, then wisely build the board meeting agenda.”)
   • No coaching of report givers—board, staff and consultants. (See the book recommended in Lesson 36, 15 Minutes Including Q&A: A Plan to Save the World From Lousy Presentations, by Joey Asher.)

Those are the first seven that popped into my mind, and like you, I can name more encumbrances that contribute to agenda clutter. 

But perhaps there is a deeper issue at play:
The same old/same old agenda template:
it’s faster to replicate last quarter’s agenda than to take time for prayer and allow the Holy Spirit to breathe new insights into this board gathering
on what-should-be holy ground.

In Bill Hybels’ book, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, he notes: “When we eradicate clutter from our lives, we create a vacuum that aches to be filled.” What might happen in your boardroom when you eliminate clutter?

BOARDROOM ASSIGNMENT: Invite an outside observer, or a board coach, to observe your next board meeting—and assess the level of agenda clutter. Ask: do our boardroom deliberations and decision-making/discernment practices align with our mission and the most effective stewardship of God’s work here?

Order: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson (Download a sample chapter here.)

Read the Blog: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog

Monday, November 13, 2017

Board Member Giving Commitments That Stick

Most boards have the expectation that every board member be a “donor of record” to the organization every year. Fewer boards have learned how to spiritually inspire all board members to be generous givers. (I’ll define “generous” in this blog.)

So during a coaching session with a ministry’s governance committee recently, a board member shared how he reminds himself—every day—about his giving commitment.

In my last blog, “7 Ways to Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome,” I mentioned a helpful template, the “Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement,” which details a board member’s roles and responsibilities for the three board hats: governance, volunteer, and (event) participant. The template also communicates the board’s expectation (and preferably its written policy) on board member giving—and that expectation is communicated and affirmed by board prospects during the “dating” phase of recruitment. 

In the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members, the materials note that “board nominees must meet our 6 Ds criteria” which include: Discerning Decision-Maker, Demonstrated Passion, Documented Team Player, Diligent and Faithful Participant, Doer (walks the talk!), and Donor. Here’s the Donor detail:

DONOR: Because Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,’ this nominee is already a generous giver to our ministry. (Note: Many organizations define ‘generous’ as prioritizing your organization in the Top-3 of a person’s annual giving. Board members at all income levels can be generous.)”

So with that commitment—to be a generous giver to the ministry—here’s what this board member told us: “I taped that commitment form to the wall—right by my desk at work. It reminds me every day about my annual giving commitment.” Brilliant!

For more resources on inspiring board members to be generous givers, read “The Role of the Board in Development” (chapter 3) in Development 101: Building a Comprehensive Development Program on Biblical Values, by John R. Frank and R. Scott Rodin. That chapter lists four keys and four cautions to help board members be successful development partners.

BOARDROOM DISCUSSION: If we truly believe that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” then why would we not seek to inspire every board member to prioritize their giving so our organization is in their Top-3 each year? And…if we concur, how will we make this expectation clear to prospects and nominees to our board? 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

7 Ways to Address Absentee Board Member Syndrome

Which statement below best characterizes your board’s response to absentee board members?

HO HUM. Certain board members frequently miss board meetings, but there is no board policy addressing absenteeism, so nothing is said.

HINT. When board members miss a meeting, the board chair (or CEO) gently “hints” that their participation was missed, but nothing further is said. Expectations on board meeting attendance are not clear and are not in writing.

HARASS. If there is a written policy, one willing soul on the board agrees to remind the absentee board member of the policy (usually with a strongly-worded email), but there is no follow-through or personal meeting with the person. 

Maybe your board responds more appropriately. If not, here’s my list of seven ways to address Absentee Board Member Syndrome:

1) Reference Checks. Recruit board members who have a track record of excellent board meeting attendance. Just as you expect your CEO to check references when hiring staff, so the board must check references of board nominees. How faithful was this person when serving on other boards?

2) Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement. Leverage a re-commitment time each year with an annual affirmation statement (download the template from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1 and/or No. 2). That form should list board meeting dates and locations for the next 12 to 18 months—and annually give board members the option of exiting off the board if their schedules don’t align with the board’s schedule. (Or, change the board meeting schedule to accommodate all board members.)

3) Engage the Board With an Engaging Agenda. Sometimes (let’s be honest!), board members skip meetings because they are not needed. The CEO and staff do all the talking. Next steps are all buttoned down. There’s no room for generative thinking by the board. No heavy lifting. What’s the point of participating? This is easy to fix by engaging the board.

4) Establish a Written Policy on Board Meeting Attendance Requirements. If you have a Board Policies Manual, include board member attendance policies—and review them at least annually. Some boards have an automatic exit plan for board members who miss X meetings in any rolling 12-month period. 

5) Emphasize Calling Over Rule-Keeping. Al Newell, founder of High Impact Volunteer Ministry Development, writes: “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 [and board members], 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.”

6) Affirm. Affirm. Affirm. Take time to creatively affirm board members for their participation and their contribution as stewards of your ministry. Board discipline (news flash!) is the board’s responsibility—not the CEO’s responsibility. Ditto affirmation. When board colleagues affirm each other, then engagement will heighten and board service satisfaction will soar.

7) Address Issues Early. Don’t wait for the fifth missed meeting. Create the expectation that your board chair (and perhaps one other board member) will meet personally (if at all possible) with policy offenders. No one should be surprised that absenteeism will be addressed frequently and in a God-honoring way. Pray for a discerning spirit to know when you must show grace—and when you must show someone the door.*

*Note: Watch for the new book next month, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, and read “Lesson 31: Cut the Cord! Invite Board Members to Exit When They Don’t Live Your Values.”

BOARDROOM DISCUSSION: What person, or committee, is responsible for addressing absentee board members? What’s our current approach to missed meetings: Ho Hum, Hint, or Harass?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Called to Serve: No Board Detail Is Too Small (Index to 30 Blogs)

This is the final post, No. 30, in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board. (Watch for my new theme next week.)

Max De Pree: “…my experience has convinced me that no detail is too small to consider carefully when it comes to thinking about the important work of nonprofit boards and the people who serve on them.”

Perhaps, if you’re read a few of my color commentaries on this exquisite book, you may have wondered why I ended up in the weeds (the excruciatingly mundane details) so often. Blame Max De Pree: “…no detail is too small to consider carefully…”

But it’s time to wrap this up. I’ve enjoyed writing these 30 blogs and I trust they have inspired you to read Called to Serve—and you have inspired other board members, CEOs, and senior team members to also read the book.

Poignantly, during this series, Max De Pree was blessed with his heavenly reward. See No. 24, “Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017).”

Below are the titles and links to all 30 posts. It was challenging to pick my favorite topic, but maybe it was No. 14, “There Are No Committee Statues!” What was your favorite—or most helpful insight from Max De Pree?

1. Introduction: What Will You Measure in 2017?

2. Called to Serve: Violence and Committee Meetings!

3. Called to Serve: Loyalty Is Never Sufficient

4. Called to Serve: Challenged With Measurable Work

5. Called to Serve: How to “Table” a Thank You

6. Called to Serve: Governance Through the Prism of the Agenda

7. Called to Serve: The Bell Curve of a Board Meeting

8. Called to Serve: No Reading Allowed!

9. Called to Serve: Death by Committee

10. Called to Serve: What's More Important Than Structure?

11. Called to Serve: Do Not Censor What the Board Receives

12. Called to Serve: Coherence With Corrals

13. Called to Serve: The Prospect Pipeline

14. Called to Serve: There Are No Committee Statues!

15. Called to Serve: SILENCE!

16. Called to Serve: Board Member Self-Measurements

17. Called to Serve: Be a Frantic Learner!

18. Called to Serve: If No Progress—Skip the “Progress Report!”

19. Called to Serve: The Phone-Book-Size Board Packet Syndrome

20. Called to Serve: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality

21. Called to Serve: When Your Organization Is Bleeding and Boring Board Members

22. Called to Serve: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension

23. Called to Serve: Board Meddling on Management’s Turf

24. Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017)

25. Called to Serve: What the Board Owes the CEO

26. Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference

27. Called to Serve: Give Space…But Plan Sparingly

28. Called to Serve: Don’t Neglect Your CEO’s Growth

29. Called to Serve: Goal No. 1—Keep Your CEO Alive!

30. Called to Serve: No Board Detail Is Too Small (Index to 30 Blogs)

P.S. Click here to read my original review of Called to Serve.

BOARD EXERCISE: Invite three board members to each pick one of these 30 board topics and give three-minute reports at your next board meeting. Then, in groups of two or three, ask each group to suggest an important “board detail” that, perhaps, you’ve overlooked or neglected in your recent meetings. Then, pray for the board’s effectiveness in the months ahead.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).