Thursday, July 17, 2014

Could I Fire You? No Problem!

I was in the last phase of what I call “dating a board prospect.” I had been cultivating Dan’s interest and engagement in the ministry I led for about 18 months.  Dan was also a good friend—but good friends don’t always make good board members.

So over dinner with Dan, and his wife, I’m ready to make the big ask—would he be open to serving on our board, if the Nominating Committee recommended him to the board?

Good news: Dan was willing to serve.

More good news: Dan’s wife affirmed his passion for the ministry.

“One last question, Dan.” I paused to be sure he would take time to think about it.

“We’re good friends. But it would be important to me that, if needed, in extenuating circumstances, the board had to fire me…”

Clearly, I was moving too slow for Dan and he didn’t even wait for me to finish my sentence, which would have been, “…if the board had to fire me, could you do that, irrespective of our friendship?”

As I said, Dan interrupted me half-way through my monologue: 
“Could I fire you, John?
No problem!”

I laughed. He laughed. And all was well.

One of more than 400 “
Rumsfeld Rules,” penned or borrowed by Donald Rumsfeld, reads:

“Never hire anyone
you can’t fire.”

Perhaps we need another rule: “Never recruit a friend to your board who values friendship more than doing the right thing.”

“Most of us are unknowingly selfish when it comes to friendship,” say Jerry and Mary White in their new book, To Be a Friend: Building Deep and Lasting Relationships. In their chapter on “Virtuous Friendship,” they pose an excellent discussion question: “[Discuss] the instances in which you have practiced virtuous friendship or been the recipient of a virtuous friendship.”

Should board members and CEOs invite close friends to serve with them on a ministry board?  I can’t answer that for you—but a virtuous, God-honoring friendship should be able to handle board work.  Certainly many acquaintances over the years have become close friends—as a result of the joys and turmoil of board service.

My response: No problem!

QUESTION: What are the upsides and downsides of inviting close friends to serve with you on a board of directors?

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