Friday, September 20, 2013

Micromanaging Board Members: Ego Satisfaction?


Have you ever considered that a board member's temptation to micromanage might be related to ego satisfaction? At the heart of Christ-centered governance is the heart—not policies, organizational charts, strategic plans or cool logos. Let me explain. 

A week doesn't fly by without a CEO or board member calling or emailing me: “How do I inspire board members to focus on policy and the big stuff versus micromanaging the operational stuff?”

William Bowen, former Princeton University president says, 
“Finding the appropriate balance 
between executive authority and board oversight 
is more likely to require strengthening the hand of the CEO 
than building up the powers of the board.”  

I recently discovered that insight and other savvy one-liners in a helpful book, Policy vs. Paper Clips: How Using the Corporate Model Makes a Nonprofit Board More Efficient & Effective (3rd Edition), by Eugene H. Fram with Vicki Brown. (Click on the title for my full  review.)

Much of what happens in the boardroom (nonprofit and corporate) is highly dysfunctional (perhaps even sinful?). In my opinion, 
most governance fuzziness 
emanates from unvoiced assumptions 
about the board's role and the CEO's role
—and perhaps, competing egos.

Role clarity should always prompt a discussion about governance models: the Hands-on model, John Carver's Policy Governance model, the Board Policies Manual tool, and other options.  

Fram's book—with a very unique writing style—will help clarify board roles and responsibilities. The author begins with the key question: what's Job #1 for a board? 

He says the most important job of the board is “to find the best possible person to manage the organization, then stand back and let that person manage.” Fram has more wisdom:

“Volunteer directors who micromanage their agencies are, in blunt terms, cost centers for nonprofits, since they affect staff time so dramatically.” (Preach it!)

“Good governance helps eliminate the many hidden costs associated with pursuing activities that have nothing to do with the organization's purpose.” (Amen!)


“Your board should not be primarily focused on outcomes 
(e.g. success of specific programs) but concerned more 
about assessing the 'impacts' of those outcomes.”

Fram adds, “Separating operational and policy issues is more complicated than it sounds.” 

He mentions two board sins, analysis paralysis and rubber-stamping. His solution? Use the “Corporate Model” to focus the board on policy, not operations.  The book's format: a quick-reading email dialogue between two friends eliminates the typical boring governance book rhetoric (yada, yada, yada) and replaces the blue sky stuff with in-the-trenches, to-the-point conversation and thoughtful next steps.  

In one email exchange, the rookie board member asks, “We also need more information about how to keep board members truly involved without the ego satisfaction that often comes from dealing with operational issues.”  

So...here's my question again: Have you ever considered that a board member's temptation to micromanage might be related to ego satisfaction? 

In the powerful book, Master Leaders: Revealing Conversations With 30 Leadership Greats, by George Barna with Bill Dallas, they quote Miles McPherson: “One way to get a healthy culture is to hire healthy people.” We would add, 
“One way to get a healthy board 
is to recruit healthy people.” 

The Four Spiritual Laws describe this fork-in-the-road issue: “self is on the throne” versus “Christ is on the throne” of your life. You want the latter on your board.

QUESTION: What drives your board's actions: ego satisfaction from micromanaging or ensuring that Christ is on the throne for each board member—and then, as a group, spiritually discerning his voice?




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