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!


  1. From the leaders perspective, it really helps to hear back from board members...however, as some of my own board have reminded me "we'll let you know if we have a question or suggestion so assume no news is good news. We don't want to unnecessarily bombard you with more emails!" Best practice: communicate with one another about hopes and expectations so that none of the key leaders are living in the geography of disappointment! Blessings to all who serve on boards these days...each is making a sacrifice for "the cause" and as a leader of a non-profit I'm profoundly grateful for the volunteer service of my faithful board!
    Steve Macchia, Leadership Transformations

  2. John, this is a great insight (as usual!). It's always encouraging to get a response from board members, even it's just "Thanks!" Building rapport with the board is part of the CEO's job and your idea about knowing how they best respond to communication is very helpful. Thanks!