Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Nothingness Syndrome

Recently, a CEO looked down the hallway both ways, and then whispered and whined to me, “So every month. Month after month after month.  I faithfully email my board report to board members—but I get nothing back. No response. Nada.”

He added—as his voice got louder—“I actually wouldn’t care if they told me they didn’t like my report, or they liked it. I’d just like to hear something! Anything!”

“Did they get my email? Do they care? Is anyone reading my reports? Is it worth the effort?”

“The Nothingness Syndrome,” he added, “is the tendency of board members to not respond to communiques from the CEO.”

That launched us into what I hope was an empathetic dialogue on the best tools and templates for board reports.  But more importantly, I hinted, you may need to do some fact-finding to determine if some of your board members are “listeners” instead of “readers.”

“Listeners” prefer to get their board reports—if truth be told—via a recorded message (with an audio link sent via email perhaps).  Listeners comprehend and remember verbal messages more effectively than written messages. Others might prefer a 10-minute telephone conference call to get an update. (You can also record the call and email the link to those who missed the call.)

The big idea here, from our friend Einstein is this: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In my next blog, I’ll mention a terrific tool, “The 5/15 Monthly Report to the Board.” It takes just 5 minutes to read—and just 15 minutes to write.

Question: Are you guilty of receiving (and even reading) emailed board reports—but not hitting “REPLY” with a short encouraging note to the CEO?  "Tom...thanks! I'm praying for you." Try it and you’ll bless the socks off your leader!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Eight Best Practices for Recruiting New Board Members

Have you ever served on a board when a prospect was nominated for board service because he was a friend of a friend of someone’s Cousin Eddie? Not prudent. Not smart. Not God-honoring!

You can avoid board room mismatches by reflecting on these eight best practices in the Recruitment Phase, one of four phases in recruiting and engaging new board members. Can you give an unqualified “YES” to each statement below?

#1. We have board-approved written criteria and qualifications for board nominees.
#2. Compared to the due diligence our senior leaders exercise when hiring staff, our board also exercises a high level of due diligence when discerning a board prospect’s suitability for board service.
#3. We have an up-to-date “Board Nominee Orientation Notebook” that is used in preliminary briefing meetings with board prospects.
#4. We have a “Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement” (or similar document) that summarizes the roles and responsibilities of board members, including future board meeting dates—and the board member’s affirmation that he or she will be in attendance.
#5. With crystal clarity, we explain the three distinct hats of board service: 1) The Governance Hat, 2) The Volunteer Hat (optional and based on strengths and spiritual gifts; unrelated to the governance hat), and 3) The Participant Hat (board member attendance requirements at events, fundraising dinners, etc.).
#6. We are also crystal clear about a board member’s charitable giving expectations (if any).
#7. We go slow and rely on the 18- to 36-month cultivation process by encouraging potential prospects to serve in key volunteer roles to assess their diligence and faithfulness.
#8. We check references religiously, including a board prospect’s pastor, small group leader, employer and/or employees and friends.

Remember, in the Recruitment Phase we’re “dating” a board prospect—and we don’t propose marriage on the first date!

Question: What other statement would characterize a best practice in the Recruitment Phase of Christ-honoring board recruitment?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Seven Best Practices for Cultivating New Board Members

Recently, I’ve noticed that when I ask CEOs or board chairs about the soft spots in their governance practices, “Board Recruitment” keeps popping up. Recruiting the right people onto the board bus must be a high priority for boards. As the board goes, so goes the organization.

I suggest that boards think about the recruitment process in four phases: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement.

Here are seven best practices in the Cultivation Phase. Can you give an unqualified “YES” to each statement?

#1. We are crystal clear about who owns the responsibility for new board member recruitment.
#2. We don’t short-change the process. We may need to invest 18 to 36 months in cultivating and recruiting new board members—and we are proactive on this year-round.
#3. Focused prayer and spiritual discernment are at the heart of our cultivation and recruitment process.
#4. We follow the best practice of “dating” a board prospect—over an appropriate period of time—before “proposing marriage.”
#5. We value passion over position.  A prospect’s resume (or title) is not as important as his or her documented passion for our ministry.
#6. We have a written “pathway to the board” checklist that we follow which includes significant reference checks and due diligence.
#7. We ensure that a board prospect’s spouse, family (and sometimes employer) is aware of the “time, talent and treasure” requirements of board service.

Short-change the Cultivation Phase and you’ll short-change your governance.

Question: What other statement would characterize a best practice in the Cultivation Phase of Christ-honoring board recruitment?