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? 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Does Your CEO or Pastor Need a Coach?

Social media lit up yesterday with the sad news of a top ministry leader being terminated. According to the official announcement from the board, “historical patterns of sin” prompted the decision.

It was a wake-up call for one pastor/blogger who suggested that maybe all pastors should have a back-up plan (another job in mind to support their families) in case they lose their livelihood from their clergy careers.

My suggestion: find a coach.

It’s ironic that superstar athletes all have coaches—but few ministry leaders think it necessary. For some, it’s almost a sign of weakness.

Yet pro golfers have niche coaches (swing coach, putting coach, etc.). Amazingly, Kobe Bryant scored 60 points to punctuate his last NBA game with the Lakers this week. He played in the NBA All-Stars game 18 of 20 seasons. Hmmmm. Kobe’s had a coach since junior high basketball.

So why do boards wait until crisis time to bring in outside help? What if—as part of a normal, healthy, biblically-functioning church or ministry—boards invested in their CEOs and pastors and helped them grow now? Helped them leverage their God-given spiritual gifts, strengths and passions?

Bill McCartney, former head football coach of the University of Colorado, and founder and chairman emeritus of Promise Keepers, has a great coaching definition:

“Coaching is taking a player 

where he can’t take himself.”

I’ve talked about blind spots before. But sometimes board members miss the golden opportunity—right in front of them: this month encourage your CEO to find a coach. (And this reminder from last month: board members need coaching too!)

My gut: every CEO and pastor I know would benefit immensely by engaging an experienced, God-honoring coach. 
   • Tenures would be extended. 
   • Encouragement would be enhanced. 
   • Spiritual sensitivity and Christ-like character would be enriched. 
   • Vision would sky-rocket.

The old Fram oil filter line is applicable:
“You can pay me now
or pay me later

Pay Me Now: Boards can invest time and resources up front—and grow their leaders.

Or Pay Me Later: Boards can wait for the crisis, the verbal fist fights, the closed door meetings, the Hatfields and the McCoys side-taking, the late night phone calls, the messy termination, the drop in morale and money, and worse.
Steve Brown, president of Arrow Leadership, says “leading me” is a Christian leader’s most important assignment. Your decision! Does your CEO or senior pastor need a coach?

QUESTION: Is there a former athlete in your organization or donor circle who has benefitted from a coach—and could share with your board and CEO why coaching might be the next step in leadership development?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just Do 1 Thing a Month!

In the hallway, board members often grimace and admit to me, “I don’t think I’m doing enough as a board member—but I’m not sure how I can be of more help. I don’t want to micro-manage, or assume a staff position. I just wish there was more clarity about the expectations of my role on the board
in between meetings.”

Good news! A board member recently shared a brilliant solution to this dilemma.

I was consulting with a ministry board at their annual weekend retreat, and a new board member made a presentation based on his expertise in his day job—he’s the senior vice president of advancement for a major state university. In addition to sharing the latest trends in giving, what motivates givers, and how to grow giving, he shared this insight with his new board colleagues:

Every month, he said, he contacts the institution's board of directors and reminds them:
“Just do one thing a month 
for our university!”

University board members have the grocery list of ways they can inspire, influence and impact other people for the university’s important mission. 

Your ministry’s list of “Just Do 1 Thing” will be unique to your cause—but it might include these ideas:

Just Do 1 Thing a Month: The List
[  ] Set up a lunch meeting with a prospective giver and the CEO.
[  ] Invite a colleague to a ministry event.
[  ] Open a door at a family foundation.
[  ] Host a prayer gathering for our ministry.
[  ] Pray and then send a sacrificial gift.
[  ] Call current major givers to say thanks for their faithfulness.
[  ] Other: ___________________________________
[  ] _________________________________________

Imagine the clarity and confidence you’ll create when your board members know that if they do just one thing a month for your ministry—on the development side—they will have a sense of “I’m being faithful.”

And speaking of clarity, be sure that you distinguish between the board member’s three hats (Governance, Volunteer, Participant) when establishing “Just Do 1 Thing a Month” expectations. (For help, order the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles.)

Matthew 25:23 reads, “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” (NLT)

QUESTION: Are your expectations for board members crystal clear—so everyone knows when to celebrate a board member’s faithfulness?