Thursday, August 31, 2017

Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference


Note:
This is No. 26 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.


Max De Pree: “Trust doesn’t arrive in our possession easily or cheaply, nor does it guarantee to stay around.”

Commenting on what the board owes the CEO, De Pree packs a page with his plain-spoken color commentary on the elements of trust. New CEOs, he reminds us, don’t show up with a built-in trust factor. Ditto board members. Board members owe their CEO full trust—but board members must earn that trust by keeping promises.

I’ve endured endless committee reports over the years and occasionally—when pressed—committee chairs bend the truth to protect their reputations.
   • “Luis was late on his report.” (He wasn’t.)
   • “We’ll have that done by next Friday.” (Not going to happen.)
   • “Oh. I misunderstood.” (She understood completely.)

“Trust requires respect,” adds De Pree. “Trust multiples with truth—without adjectives and not subject to redefinition by cornered leaders.”

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.’”

De Pree then asks, “How many errors in organizations are due to leadership indifference?"

Every board member should read the trust chapter in Leading Without Power. De Pree: “To tell capable people how to do their job, even innocently or with the best intentions, erodes trust. Such ‘advice’ becomes a sign of disrespect for followers. How can I trust you if you believe you are better at my job than I am?”

Whew! That hits home! None of us board members have ever implied we could do the CEO’s job better. Yikes.

Read Matthew 10 and then note this: after Jesus gave the Twelve their assignments, he didn’t pack a bag and go with them. He trusted them, on their own and in their own styles, to proclaim the Good News. Powerful! 

BOARD EXERCISE: Click here to visit the “Quotable Quotes” on trust and download and distribute the stunning list of 101 quotations on trust from Dan Busby’s book, TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness. Ask each board member to read their favorite quotation—and explain why.

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).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Called to Serve: What the Board Owes the CEO


Note: This is No. 25 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.

Wow! I must apologize now to blog readers—because in a few years, should I venture backwards and read these 25 or more blogs, I’ll grimace with angst. “Yikes! What possessed me to think that Max De Pree’s succinct 91 pages needed any more color commentary? Yikes, again.”

Case in point: his brilliant summary (pages 82 and 83) on “Mandate”—one of four categories of things the board owes the president (“or the conductor, or the pastor, or the manager”): Mandate, Trust, Space, and Care.

On Mandate, he writes, “Remember, we are committed to communicate lavishly.” And then this:
   • “Our mandate should always include a mission statement and a strategy, both of which derive clearly from who we intend to be.”
   • “Some folks like the idea of a job outline. For leaders, I much prefer a statement of expectations. A job outline can become a kind of box that tends to limit the leader’s imagination. We surely don’t want that.”

De Pree cautions that there be no ambiguity between “the statement of expectations to the promise of what will be measured.” You’ll recall from the last blog, that De Pree warns, “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”  

In working with nonprofit ministries and churches, I find that mission statements are often noble, sometimes breath-taking, even enduring and endearing. Yet…strategy? Shoddily articulated. Often written and quickly filed away. Rarely—derived from a fork-in-the-road holy moment on our knees.

If I could rewind the videotape for my own leadership and my consulting work with clients, I would invest less time on the mission statement—and more time on the strategy.

In their important book, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, co-authors A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin write, “Every industry has tools and practices that become widespread and generic. Some organizations define strategy as benchmarking against competition and then doing the same set of activities but more effectively. Sameness isn’t strategy. It is a recipe for mediocrity.

So…to Max De Pree’s wisdom urging leaders to connect mission with strategy, I would humbly add “and sameness isn’t strategy.” My opinion—“sameness” is one of the Top-5 Sins of Strategy Development in ministry organizations—which is strange, because God has designed leaders and team members with very unique spiritual gifts, strengths, social styles and passion. Thus, it would lead us to discern that our unique organizations and unique people would also have unique strategies. Amen?

BOARD EXERCISE: Take out a blank piece of paper. Question 1: What is our ministry’s strategy? Question 2: Is our strategy crystal clear to our CEO (Yes or No)? You have five minutes. Go.

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).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

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


Note: This is No. 24 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.

Raving fans of Max De Pree were saddened this week to learn of his homegoing on August 8, but so grateful for this Christian business leader’s heart for God and passion for good governance. Here’s a link to the tribute from Fuller Seminary, where he served 40 years as a board member, retiring in 2005. The school honored him by establishing the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and noted:

“In his four popular leadership books—Leadership Is an Art, Leadership Jazz, Leading Without Power, and Called to Serve—Max, in a gentle storytelling style, shared his vast knowledge and wisdom about leadership and management, always emphasizing putting people first.” Fuller also shared a favorite quotation by De Pree:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.
The second is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”

For me, the most memorable message delivered by Max De Pree is about measurements. Throughout his writings, he gently pounds away on the importance of staff and boards weighing in on what to measure. (I mentioned this in my introduction to this blog series, “What Will You Measure in 2017?”) De Pree writes:

   • “In my experience a failure to make a conscious decision about what it is we’re going to measure often causes discombobulation and a lack of effectiveness and a lack of achievement.”
   • “The task of stating just exactly what to measure falls to the leaders in organizations. It’s not an easy job, and finding what to measure won’t happen automatically.”
   • “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”  

As your board considers what to measure each year (perhaps you’ve already done it), invest time also in spiritually discerning God’s direction for the ministry. As John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

BOARD DISCUSSION: Ask your CEO, “What do you want to be remembered for? And what should we measure?”

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).

Monday, July 31, 2017

Called to Serve: Board Meddling on Management’s Turf


Note: This is No. 23 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.

Max De Pree: “Another tension arises when board members try to move onto management’s turf. Sometimes good members do this without intending to.”

It is the rare board that effectively governs at high levels without dipping into operational arenas. De Pree addresses this boardroom tension in just half a page—but the frequent problem deserves a full chapter (or maybe a book!).

There are many reasons why board members cross the line into management:

1. They don’t trust the CEO and the senior team. Some board members assume they are smarter and more competent than the staff—and so their “wisdom” in operational matters is needed. 

Solution: If your CEO is not competent, the board must address that issue, not work around the CEO’s lack of leadership.

2. They inappropriately wear their volunteer hats in board meetings. Board members, who are also volunteers in the organization, frequently raise volunteer issues during board meetings and then drag the board into the operational weeds. 

Solution: Once a year, screen the short video from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Understanding the 3 Board Hats: Governance, Volunteer, Participant.

3. They have not personally experienced the impact of effective God-honoring governance. In the absence of healthy board experiences on other boards—or governance training, helpful resources, and board retreats with an enrichment component—board members tend to repeat mediocre boardroom practices: the same old/same old drill. They focus on operations because the big picture (vision, mission, strategy, spiritual discernment, outcomes, etc.) are absent.  

Solution: Inspire your governance committee to keep enrichment and lifelong learning on the front burner with books, blogs, resources, consultants, and an on-going call for board members to be stewards of their sacred trust. 

De Pree notes that “it’s up to the chairperson” to ensure that boards don’t meddle on management’s turf. If your board chair needs a refresher course in the calling and art of chairing, encourage him or her to read the new ECFAPress book, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, by David L. McKenna.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Think back to your last board meeting. Did your board chair halt discussion that spiraled down into management and operational items?

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).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Called to Serve: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension

Note: This is No. 22 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.

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.

In another “dire warning” on living with tensions in the boardroom, De Pree challenges and inspires healthy boards to look in the mirror—but he acknowledges this is tough duty. He adds:

“Suggesting that a volunteer be evaluated seems a little crass, and it probably is—
   • unless we’re serious about our mission, 
   • unless we truly believe members want to grow and reach their potential and serve society, 
   • unless we take our clients seriously, 
   • unless we respect our donors.”

He closes with, “Maybe we ought to be ready to deal with this tension.”

I’ve observed several ways that healthy, God-honoring boards assess their own performance:

#1. Annual Self-Assessment Survey. The ECFA Knowledge Center has three sample board self-evaluation forms (for the board, for an individual board member, and for feedback on a board colleague). Click here to download the forms

#2. Board Meeting Quick Assessment. Much like Ken Blanchard’s advice in The One Minute Manager (one-minute praisings and one-minute reprimands), healthy boards don’t wait until year-end to address inappropriate board member conduct.  So, some boards use a paper or verbal feedback tool at the end of every board meeting. (See “Quick Fix Tools for Board Self-Assessments.”)

#3. Third Party Assessment. True, most boards wait until the crisis to call in the cavalry. But healthy boards--when times are good--invite a third party (a consultant or another experienced CEO or board chair) to conduct a “healthy boards assessment” with one-on-one phone calls, an online survey, and then a report and recommendation. This often follows the consultant’s observation of a board meeting—where the true culture and Christ-centeredness of the board is best revealed.

Peter Drucker wrote, “Self-assessment is the first action requirement of leadership: the constant resharpening, constant refocusing, never really being satisfied.” That aspiration, in my theology, is beautifully biblical!

BOARD DISCUSSION: Has your board addressed this common tension—board member evaluation and assessment? How long is your board’s pole?

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).

Monday, July 10, 2017

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


Note:
This is No. 21 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.


Max De Pree: “Any diligent board suffers certain tensions. Perhaps this letter should be labeled ‘dire warnings.’”

Dire warnings! Mention those words and you’ll scare off all the recruits you have in your board prospect pipeline. But—think about this—the very candidates you want to invite onto the board are those who drink deeply from the reality cup and understand, like Max De Pree, that there are numerous tensions that spoil a healthy boardroom and a deeply satisfying board experience.

De Pree mentions several tensions:
   • “Good people disagree,
   • Do a little politicking,
   • Try to make decisions in the bathroom (the worst form of exclusion),
   • And come to meetings totally unprepared.”

Add your own dozen or more bullet points here…

I was struck, mostly, by his insightful acknowledgement that money is never the problem—or the solution to living with tensions. (My gut: most boards and CEO don’t yet believe this.)

De Pree notes that one of the “certain tensions” is that boards “need to deal constructively with constraints.” He adds:

“Often people think that with a few more resources, their problems will disappear. Of course this is not true. Few of us ever have all the resources we wish for. Our job is to help board members see that constraints are a fact of life. They are—believe me—along with reasoned restraint, one of the secrets to outstanding performance. Constraints perceived and understood are especially valuable to the creative processes that feed our strategic thinking. In fact, Charles Eames, perhaps the most famous industrial designer of this century, often said that constraints are liberating.

Huh? Our boards must think about this—deeply, strategically, discerningly, spiritually.

De Pree mentions other tensions—and his brief page on tensions created by a crisis is a must-read. Almost as a throw-away line, he notes this: “Sometimes tensions develop into a crisis…the organization is bleeding and boring board members.” That’s another PowerPoint-worthy slide. Is your board bleeding or boring board members—or both?

Perhaps the secret to living with tensions in the boardroom is to first understand that sin exists, yet grace abounds. (Romans 5:20)

BOARD DISCUSSION: Do we address governance tensions appropriately? Are we bleeding and boring board members? Discuss!

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).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Called to Serve: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality


Note:
This is No. 20 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.


Max De Pree: “Hospitality has to do with equity for each member.”

Honest…my plan for this thin, quick-reading book was to crank out five, maybe seven or eight blogs—and then move on. Not! De Pree’s wisdom is so rich—so convicting. At least we’re 75 percent on our way to page 91, so stay tuned. The end is near.

I’ve never read a governance book, blog, or paragraph that said the practice of hospitality was a key ingredient of a board chair’s effectiveness.

De Pree explains with a few reminders:
   • “Asking people to sit in a circle with no table is surely a distracting and ineffective way to work…”
   • “…as is putting people at a long, narrow table where they can have contact with only those adjacent to them.”

He also reminds us about the tools of hospitality: pens, writing pads, agendas, minutes, records, reports—and how they’re organized. He notes that hospitality includes attention to social needs. “Things go better with snacks, drinks, timely breaks, and no anxiety as to where the toilets are—small matters that should never become distractions.”

The spiritual gift of hospitality, according to author Bruce Bugbee, is “the divine enablement to care for people by providing fellowship, food, and shelter.” If you were not blessed with that spiritual gift, however, it doesn’t let you off the hook. As board chair, discern who on your board or staff is specially enabled by God to practice hospitality—and invite that person to help you create a warm and inviting board meeting environment.

In the tremendously helpful new book from ECFAPress, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, David McKenna, reminds board chairs to sense the need “for the white space of coffee and bathroom breaks,” and “pauses for prayer before casting votes.” (Read my book review here and watch for future blogs on the board chair’s role.)

By the way, practicing hospitality is not limited to the board chair. Board members will practice God-honoring hospitality by arriving on time (with homework done), pocketing all devices, listening, engaging, speaking thoughtfully—and not leaving early. And most important—every board member (and the CEO) will learn the spiritual gifts of colleagues around the board table—and encourage each person to leverage their spiritual gifts, their strengths, and their passions.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Do we practice God-honoring hospitality before, during, and after our board meetings? How could we be more hospitable? Why does this matter?

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).