Saturday, January 25, 2014

Battle-ready Boards

In my last blog, I mentioned my running list of what I call “board member temptations.”  Here’s another one:

“To confuse the three hats of a board member:
governance, volunteer and participant.”

Here are four snapshots of recent conversations:

1) A well-meaning board member prodded others at a board meeting, “But if we’re not volunteering in numerous areas of this ministry—how will we know if our ministry is doing a good job or not?”

2) A board chair whined to me that board members are bringing their “volunteer hat” concerns directly to the board meeting—and not addressing those items through the appropriate staff channels. “Those issues have no place on our board’s agenda,” he said.

3) A CEO grimaced that the board had established a task force to research a topic that is unrelated to the board’s agreed-upon policy governance operating model.

4) Another CEO shared that his board members are hopelessly divided on the governance role of the board. Three board members micro-manage, yet the other board members apparently don’t have the character or the courage to address this dysfunction. (The CEO is seeking to “pastor” them out of this hole, but he will likely hit a dead-end and resign.)

THE SOLUTION? Sooner or later, every board must define roles and responsibilities—for the board, the board chair and the CEO. Some boards are proactive and document their operating philosophy in advance—before trouble hits the fan. 

Other boards, sadly, wait for the crisis before clarifying board roles—but that’s a terrible time to do your best governance work. Peter Drucker said,
“Fortunately or unfortunately,
the one predictable thing in any organization
is the crisis.
That always comes.”  
He added that the job of the leader is to build an organization that is “battle-ready.”

The Christ-centered board knows that a board’s operating style is rooted in its theology, its philosophy and the God-given past experiences of every board member around the table. The confusion over board hats (the governance hat, the volunteer hat, and the participant hat) will only get worse if you ignore the signs (like the four snapshots above).

There’s help!  Order the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles (The 3 Hats) and view the 12-minute DVD at your next board meeting. Give the Read-and-Engage Viewing Guide to each board member and leverage the ideas in the Facilitator Guide.  Then pray and discern how your board will specifically eliminate the confusion between the three hats.

QUESTION: When a new board member prospect is interviewing three current board members about your board’s operating style, would all three agree on how you balance the three hats: Governance, Volunteer, and Participant?

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