Saturday, January 28, 2012

Is There a Retirement Age for Board Members?

In a board governance workshop last year, a ministry CEO in the back row asked how he could gently help an elderly board member exit from the board.  He wondered if a governance consultant could be of help.
Yet as he described his situation (the board member was elderly, but also one of those dig-your-feet-in types), I suggested that he didn’t need a consultant, he needed a pastor.

In the ECFA 2011 Governance survey of ECFA accredited members, 54 percent of board members were age 60 or over (16 percent were 71 or over).  Among board chairs, 62 percent were age 60 or over (23 percent were 71 or over). Is that good or bad? No one really knows.

Why did I recommend pastoral help to the ministry CEO?  In my consulting work and board service experience of more than 40 years, I’ve observed that the greater problem is not aging, it’s sinning. Are board members—no matter the age—hearing from God about their board service?

I’m in the age bracket mentioned above—and I’ve become more intentional about urging my wife, my son and my close friends to speak the truth into my life when it’s time for me to exit a board.  Yet I’ve watched extraordinary men and women, who some would describe as “elderly,” bring wisdom and experience into the boardroom and humbly help others discern strategic forks-in-the-road. 

I’ve also seen the opposite—aging board members concerned more with their own agendas and self-worth. I don’t hear them speaking about a holy calling or having passion to spiritually discern God’s voice. 
Question: Who speaks the truth into your life?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Drains Your Board Members?

This subject arrested my attention when a good friend, Jim Galvin, asked in a recent eNewsletter, “What’s Your Kryptonite?”

“Superman could do many things well,” my organizational consultant colleague wrote, “but he became powerless around Kryptonite.”

He added, “So what is your Kryptonite? What drains you? What situations and tasks suck the life right out of you? We all have unique strengths and weaknesses. When we are operating in our strengths we are energized. When we are operating in areas of weakness we tend to feel drained.”

Effective board chairs and nonprofit ministry CEOs and senior pastors are students of their colleagues in what I call the “3 Powerful S’s” – Strengths, Spiritual Gifts and Social Styles (Driving, Analytical, Amiable and Expressive; or some prefer using the Myers-Briggs or DiSC systems).

An effective leader will understand how God has wired and gifted each individual board member and will ensure that committee assignments, for example, align with each individual’s strengths.  (For help, many boards are now using the Gallup Organization’s StrengthsFinder assessment.)

Caution! Governance work will drain the very life and passion out of unsuspecting board members who say yes to assignments out of loyalty, not out of competence.

It’s interesting that in Galvin’s list of seven items that drain him, including “traveling with people who talk incessantly,” he includes “recruiting new board members.”  So—even people who get paid to help boards get drained by certain segments of governance work.  Jim’s candor is refreshing and is a model for all of us.

The good news: Galvin also listed five solutions for addressing issues that drain you.

Question for Your Board Members: What part of your governance work drains you—and how can we better leverage your 3 Powerful S’s?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Bad Boards Happen to Good People

Do CEOs get the boards they deserve?  Here are two scenarios to consider:

Scenario #1. Intentional Coaching and Encouragement.  In this scenario, the CEO (or senior pastor) helps the board recruit the right people onto the board bus.  Throughout the year, the board chair and/or the CEO provide board members with a steady flow of governance enrichment opportunities (articles, books, webinars, workshops, consultants, etc.).

Recognizing that every board member brings a certain amount of dysfunction (from prior board experiences) into their current board roles, astute board chairs and CEOs are disciplined at creating a symphony out of one-time soloists.

The problem: this is really hard work. It takes an enormous amount of relational time with schedules that are already overloaded.

The payoff: intentionality is worth the investment. Healthy boards are God-honoring. Joy and grace abound!

Scenario #2: Hopeful Neglect and Frequent Firefighting.  This second scenario is more common to all of us.  Because we don’t have the time to build a great board, we hope and pray (probably—more hoping) that everything will just work out.

Yet, without intentionality, we often settle for second tier board members whose greatest credentials are availability. So they stumble onto the board bus with inferior experience levels and often mixed motives.

Because we haven’t discerned God’s direction in recruiting board talent (an outcome of Scenario #1), we accept “good,” when “better” or “best” could be realized. When the people around the board table don’t have a deep sense of “Holy Ground” in their decision-making, the inevitable verbal fist fights break out—and frequent firefighting becomes the norm.

The problem: in search of solutions, we focus on symptoms.  “If Hank just had more data. If Julie would just attend all the meetings. If Ernesto would just stop micro-managing.”

The payoff: ultimately, this scenario has no payoff. Ultimately, when you eliminate board development opportunities, there is no time or money saved.

“Bad boards” happen to good people frequently, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Choose Scenario #1!

Question: How much does it cost a ministry (time, money, reputation and morale) when the board operates in Scenario #2?