Monday, July 29, 2013

The 6 D's: Diligent and Faithful Participant

How many board prospects are in your pipeline—and who is tracking their volunteer work? That's the big idea behind one of the “6 D's” criteria from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members

No. 4: Diligent and Faithful Participant
Documented history of fulfilling our volunteer assignments on schedule and under budget. Keeps promises and keeps confidences. Inspires others.

Let's suppose your nominating committee is adding one new person to your board: Mike or Michelle.  As you look at the 6 D's, consider which person has a stellar track record in volunteer assignments.

Perhaps in your “dating” strategy over the last 18 to 36 months, you gave both Mike and Michelle opportunities to move towards the center in the circles of involvement.

Mike was named chairman of the Vision 2020 Task Force—yet while he recruited an excellent committee, Mike's weak spot was procrastination. People loved him (the life of the party type), but meeting notices were always late, reports were spotty, and eventually others bad-mouthed his leadership. He also divulged proprietary information. Yikes!

Michelle, however, under-promised and over-delivered.  In her volunteer assignment she recruited a trendspotters team of 10 to assess the ministry's assumptions for the Year 2020. She inspired the group to research and write an environmental scan and delivered the report (typo-free) a week before the deadline.

Consider the contrast. 
Mike began his meetings with a perfunctory prayer and an “inspirational thought” downloaded from the Internet a few minutes before the meeting. Besides the core work, Michelle also recruited an auxiliary prayer team, led the team members in a spiritual discernment exercise, and inspired them to read Ruth Haley Barton's book, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

What's the point? Some boards skip the “dating” and due diligence phase and recruit for personality. So the Mike-types (the life of the party people) are invited to join the board and it's only when the board sees Mike's character and competence that buyer's remorse sets in—but then it's too late. He's already on the board—and creating morale problems and more.

Other boards, as part of a God-honoring discernment process, observe potential board members as they serve in the volunteer circle. Then when they find a stunning candidate like Michelle, there is greater confidence that she will fit the DNA of the board and would have high competence as a board member. And when a crisis comes (and it will), the board knows Michelle will approach the problem with spiritual maturity.

QUESTION: How many board prospects are you currently dating and who is observing them, up close, to discern if they meet Criteria No. 4: Diligent and Faithful Participant?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The 6 D's: Documented Team Player

The most effective boards recruit team players. That's the big idea behind one of the “6 D's” criteria from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members

No. 3: Documented Team Player
Competent in group process skills, effective listener; leverages own spiritual gifts and those of others (Rom. 12, Eph. 4, I Cor. 12).

Imagine a basketball player who never passes the ball. Or a quarterback on a football team who executes the quarterback sneak every play. Absurd.

So before you invite the next person to serve on your board—conduct some important due diligence:

  • Who will affirm that your board candidate is an effective team player?
  • Does your prospect know and leverage his or her spiritual gifts? Do they discover and leverage the gifts of people around them?
  • On other boards, or in other group situations, does this person listen to others or hog the discussion?
  • Would this person be an effective committee chair—capable in bringing the best out of others or does he or she relish the spotlight?
  • When the task is accomplished, does the team get the credit? Is God honored?

And one more caution! Before you pack your board with entrepreneurs, remember that while people with entrepreneurial gifts are often amazing idea machines, sometimes they have inadequate group process skills. Check references. You need the whole package—so don't propose marriage until you've “dated” this board prospect and observed if they share or hog the ball. (See No. 2: Demonstrated Passion.)

I know. It's a big challenge to find the right board members. 
You need people competent in board governance 
and competent in people skills.  
You need people with Christ-like character. You need men and women who have documented lives of both faithfulness and fruitfulness.

Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us (in The Message), “But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.  We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.”

QUESTION: How will we conduct our due diligence on future board members to ensure that they are competent team players and not Lone Rangers?

Friday, July 12, 2013

The 6 D's: Demonstrated Passion

When recruiting board members, you must look under the surface--because that's where you'll discern a candidate's true passion.  I'll explain why as we discuss the second “D” in our six-week series on the “6 D's” criteria from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members

No. 2: Demonstrated Passion
Gives high priority to and cares deeply about our cause. (Limits board service to one or two boards at a time.)

If you're married, you probably didn't propose on your first date. Ditto board service!  So how do you discern if a board candidate has passion for your cause?

  • Don't short-change the cultivation process. 
  • Invest 18 to 36 months in cultivating and recruiting new board members (Go slow--and employ a spiritual discernment process.) Look under the surface. Think iceberg!
  • Keep an eye on the “passion” question: 

“Of all the ministries that this person cares about, 
does he or she demonstrate 
the most passion for our ministry?”

  • Assign higher value to passion than to position. A prospect's resume (or title) is not as important as heart-felt enthusiasm and appreciation for your cause. (Of course, passion alone is not the only criteria—there are at least six criteria.)
  • Take time to check the passion level of your board prospect's spouse, family (and sometimes employer). Are they aware of the “time, talent and treasure” requirements of board service?

Bottom line: Do you really want someone on your board (even a well-known, well-connected person) who has greater passion for another ministry? Would you propose marriage to someone who has greater love for someone else?

And note this:

While it's not in the Bible that board members should limit board service to just one or two boards at a time, it's good wisdom. There are exceptions, of course. Some retirees might have time for more than two boards, if there are no calendar conflicts between the numerous board meeting dates.

In Stewards of a Sacred Trust: CEO Selection, Transition and Development for Boards of Christ-Centered Organizations, David L. McKenna writes, “Christ-centered organizations are God-ordained ministries. That means if our faith-based ministries did not exist, they would have to be invented.” 

The bar is set high for board member recruitment—you're selecting people for your God-ordained ministry. Wow!

QUESTION: How will we discern and document that our board candidates have passion for our cause?

Friday, July 5, 2013

The 6 D's: Discerning Decision-Maker

Let's say you have four new board member prospects. What criteria do you use to differentiate the good ones from the best ones? How do you ensure you'll welcome board candidates who truly honor God?

I recommend "The 6 D's” criteria as described in the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members.  Here's the first D:

No. 1. Discerning Decision-Maker
Prior experience in making wise policy, financial, strategy and personnel decisions. (Is this nominee competent in both hiring and firing situations?)

Of the three board hats, Governance, Volunteer and Participant (see the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles), the Governance hat is the most critical.

Look over your board decisions for the last 24 months, and then ask your board prospects to discuss their level of experience and expertise with those board issues.  Future decisions will likely involve:

  • Financial Competencies. Will she ask probing questions about the monthly or quarterly financial statements—and understand them? Is she knowledgeable about the nuances of nonprofit accounting?
  • Tolerance for Risk. Does he expect money in the bank before a new program or building campaign is launched? Any experience in balancing trust in God with cash flow realities? Does his view mesh with your culture and your theology?
  • Cash Cows and Sacred Cows.  Is your board prospect gutsy enough to pull the plug on a sacred cow—a program that should have been eliminated years ago?  Does he understand nonprofit sustainability—and the role of “cash cows” or “money trees” that often subsidize higher priority programs?
  • Transparency and Accountability.  Has she ever raised a ruckus, when serving on another board, when the CEO, CFO or executive committee was being less than transparent with money, politics and/or playing favorites? Would she be comfortable addressing lackluster results or the absence of CEO annual goals?
  • Strategic Thinking.  Ram Charan (one of my favorite board gurus) asks, “Does the board own the strategy?”  Ask your prospect to describe their experience with strategy and strategic planning. (For more, read my review of the Harvard Business Review classic, “What Is Strategy?”)

You get the idea.  Board service is not for the weak-hearted.  But when you find the right board member—called by God to serve on your board—the Kingdom impact can be stunning!

In the theological-poke-in-the-ribs book, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Ruth Haley Barton suggests that every board designate one person as the “discernmentarian”-- someone who reminds the board that God's work requires more than decision-making.  She says that while most of us want to do the will of God, few of us are willing to invest the time to learn, practice and facilitate a spiritual discernment process. 
Decision-making, without discernment, 
is an unhealthy shortcut. 

So ask your board candidate:

  • How do you discern God's voice in your own life? Give us some recent examples.
  • Share how as part of a board, a team, or a small group, you have discerned God's will together—through a spiritual discernment process.

What's the downside of going slow on board recruitment until you have the right people? Not much. What's the upside of finding God's choices for your board? Kingdom impact!

QUESTION: What are 10 questions we should be asking our board prospects?