Monday, May 21, 2012

The Perfect Board Member (PBM)

Jim Brown’s quick-reading board novel, The Imperfect Board Member, poignantly captures the reality of governance. There is no perfect board member.

Over the last several months, I’ve been listening to the whining, complaining and sighing of nonprofit ministry CEOs (and a few senior pastors).  For the most part, the positive comments about their board members outweigh the negatives—but they would agree that we all have our share of imperfect board members.

Yet if we could create a perfect board member, what would he or she look like?
Here’s my draft list:

#1. The Perfect Board Member (PBM) has an impeccable sense of timing.  Whether in board meetings or via phone calls or emails, a PBM knows when to bring up issues and when not to. (“This is our CEO’s busiest month of the year—I think my ‘helpful’ comments could backfire. I’ll wait until she is fully rested up.”)

#2. The Perfect Board Member is a student of the CEO.  A PBM knows and leverages the 3 Powerful S’s (strengths, spiritual gifts and social style) of the CEO. A PBM focuses on the CEO’s strengths, not his or her weaknesses.

#3. The Perfect Board Member is a student of fellow board members.  A PBM ensures that committee and task force assignments are based on gifts and competencies—so members serve out of joy, not duty or obligation. A PBM also knows his own unique gifting and strengths—and graciously says no to assignments that do not align with how God wired him.

#4. The Perfect Board Member has memorized the ministry’s mission statement, core values and the Big Holy Audacious Goal—and is constantly asking the question, “Is everything we’re doing in alignment?”  A PBM calibrates all agenda items against the mission, the strategy, the strategic plan, three to five annual S.M.A.R.T. Goals, and the Board Policies Manual.

#5. The Perfect Board Member affirms Ram Charan’s counsel in his book, Owning Up: “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.”

#6. The Perfect Board Member, per Jim Brown, keeps his nose in the business and his fingers out. A PBM doesn’t have time to micro-manage because she is deeply engaged in more important work: governance.

#7. The Perfect Board Member of a Christ-centered ministry rejects the old formula of sandwiching board work between a beginning and ending prayer—and instead—engages year-round in a spiritual discernment process to ensure that the board is hearing from God and not just asking God to rubber-stamp human endeavors.

QUESTION: What would you add when creating the Perfect Board Member?

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