Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Benchmarks for the Perfect Board Member!

I’ve been hanging out with board members for more than 40 years, including 30 years as a nonprofit CEO, so what I’m blogging today is remarkable. I’m stunned. You’ll be stunned.

Last month I met
the Perfect Board Member!

We spent 48 hours together, including the three-hour trip from the airport to the board retreat center (just the two of us), and ditto for the return trip. 

Connor (not his real name) left me speechless. He is truly my new benchmark for the Perfect Board Member.

I’ve always resonated with Jim Brown’s practical book, The Imperfect Board Member: Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence. But now, perhaps I could write the sequel, The Perfect Board Member

At the board retreat that weekend, I heard Connor share what I’m calling “7 Stunning Commitments.” I’ve wordsmithed them a bit, but the core idea came from Connor, a young entrepreneur with a generous passion for the organization’s mission—and a savvy understanding of God-honoring governance. Here are my new benchmarks:

“Connor’s Commitments”

1) “I only serve on one board at a time—so I can give high priority to leveraging my time, talent and treasure—and my passion and spiritual gifts—for this wonderful ministry.”

2) “My spouse and family are enthusiastically ‘all in.’ God has called each of us to give high priority to this ministry, as volunteers and ambassadors. In fact, my wife wants me to cut back my hours at work—so I have more volunteer time.”

3) “I usually respond to our CEO’s emails and phone calls on the same day, but never more than 24 hours later. I guess others don’t do that—because she thanks me every time!”

4) “I read board and committee reports, financial reports, and all supplementary materials prior to board meetings. I jot down comments and questions—and email those to the CEO at least two days before the meeting. I don’t want to surprise her or play ‘The Gotcha Game’ in a board session.”

5) “I honor our board policy protocols and never bring my ‘Volunteer Hat’ questions or concerns to a board meeting. I bring those to the staff person overseeing my volunteer role.”

6) “I send birthday cards to our CEO and last year several of us treated the CEO to lunch on her employment anniversary.”

7) “Prayer changes things, so recently I’ve been encouraging the board to move from decision-making to discernment. We are trying to build spiritual discernment into all of our thinking and planning. Prayer is changing my life (and my day job) too!”

So how did this CEO recruit the Perfect Board Member? She didn’t. (Today is April Fools’ Day.)

QUESTION: But seriously, when your board members are driving home from a board meeting or board retreat, do they have benchmarks for self-assessing their effectiveness as board members?

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