Saturday, February 8, 2014

Embracing the Loyal Opposition!

Here’s the fourth “board member temptation” on my list:

“To rely on my past board and organizational experiences—and rest on my laurels—versus becoming an active life-long learner in board governance best practices.”

This week I attended a CEO/Board Chair Symposium. I was not a presenter, I was a learner.

I was reminded again how important it is to not rest on our laurels (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt).  Over four days of presentations, I picked up at least a dozen take-aways that inspired me to be a more effective board chair. I walked away with empathy, insights and practical tools.

For example, at the next board meeting I chair, I will mention that our best ideas will be more rigorously vetted when we give permission for board members to play one of four roles:
   • Mover—the person who presents the idea.
   • Followers—the board members who support the action.
   • Loyal Opposition—those analytical and discerning few who ask the tough questions and challenge the mover and followers to think about a wider range of issues and, perhaps, unintended consequences that might result.
   • Framers (or Re-framers)—those insightful board members who take a good idea and make it better, or re-frame it (or customize it) so it fits better with your unique mission and strategy.

The presenter one morning, Nilofer Merchant, also challenged us about the importance of listening to the questions that are being asked. (During an exercise at our workshop table, most of us confessed that we were very ineffective listeners. It was embarrassing!)

Now, rather than the majority of board members grimacing at the nay-sayers, I hope we’ll create a culture of embracing and encouraging them—and blessing them for being the Loyal Opposition. (And isn’t “Loyal” such a perfect word for the tone we’d like to create in our board meetings?)

That was just one of a dozen ideas and tools I picked up as part of my own commitment to life-long learning as a board member.

The Apostle Paul embraces life-long learning when he writes in 2 Timothy 2:2 (TLB), “For you must teach others those things you and many others have heard me speak about. Teach these great truths to trustworthy men who will, in turn, pass them on to others.”

QUESTION: How are you inspiring your board members to be life-long learners? Magazine subscriptions, BoardSource membership, webinars, books, articles, “Ten Minutes for Governance” at each of your meetings, or engaging your board with the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series?

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