Wednesday, August 21, 2013

6 Board Dysfunctions

I call them “delightful dysfunctions.” We all bring them into the boardroom. Some are eyebrow raising, others are so nuanced that—like the proverbial frog in the kettle—we learn to live with the dysfunction and it often takes a new board member's whispered question in the hallway to call it out. You've heard this one before:
“If it looks like a duck, 
swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, 
then it probably is a duck.”

We could add, 
“If you think that a particular 
board behavior is dysfunctional, 
and it quacks like it's dysfunctional, 
then it probably is dysfunctional.”

Here are six boardroom dysfunctions:
1) Board members arrive late and leave early—and no one says anything in the meeting or one-on-one with the offending board members.

2) “Spiritual discernment” is a foreign concept. The “spiritual” part of the board meeting is an opening prayer, a prayer at a meal, and a closing prayer (“Make it short—we're running late!”).

3) The board chair thinks she is the CEO's boss—and takes it upon herself to address all her pet peeves (few ever discussed at the board level).

4) New board members are welcomed to the board without vetting and with little if any due diligence and reference checking we would expect the CEO to exercise for new hires.

5) There is no written protocol that prevents staff members from going around the CEO to a board member—to either campaign or vent about an issue. Ditto on no protocol preventing board members from doing that in reverse.

6) “Policy governance” (or pick your board model flavor-of-the-year) becomes more important than mission achievement.  The i's are dotted. The t's are crossed. But no one has dusted off the mission statement in years and asked if your ministry is making a Kingdom impact.

Max De Pree, former chairman and CEO of Herman Miller, and former seminary board chair, said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”  So...Step 1: Define reality for your board.  Step 2: Deal with it!

QUESTION: What delightful dysfunctions are your board members bringing to your board process? 

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