Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Quick Fix Tools for Board Self-Assessments

At least once a year, the best boards conduct a board member self-assessment exercise. Yet some boards delay the process until they have engineered the perfect assessment tool. Bad idea!

Peter Drucker wrote, “Self-assessment is the first action requirement of leadership: the constant resharpening, constant refocusing, never really being satisfied.”

Jim Collins also chimes in: “To throw your hands up and say, ‘But we cannot measure performance in the social sectors the way you can in a business,’ is simply lack of discipline. All indicators are flawed, whether qualitative or quantitative.” (Read more in his 35-page gem, Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.)

Whether your self-assessment takes five minutes or 50 minutes—anything is better than nothing. So here are some quick fix tools and ideas:

Five Minutes.  At your next board meeting, ask each board member to rate their annual performance on a scale of one to five (5 = excellent); and share their rating (and why) with a 30-second comment.  (Some do this at every meeting—see the blog, “Fast Feedback Tool” and “We All Need Feedback.”)

Five Tools. Pick one:

1) BoardSource has several options for board self-evaluations and board self-assessments.

2) Ram Charan’s latest book, Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way, by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem, has excellent questions for board self-evaluation. Customize these questions for your unique use.

3) Use the one-page Self-Assessment in the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey (62 pages) published in 2014 by ECFA. You can download a PDF here.

4) Customize the annual ECFA governance survey for your own use and benchmark your responses against the average responses of other ECFA-accredited organizations. 

5) Adapt the 20 board self-assessment questions from the book, Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards (Second Edition), by Richard T. Ingram (90 pages, BoardSource, 2008). 

The first title of six in BoardSource’s “Governance Series” delivers the generally agreed-upon list of the 10 roles and responsibilities of nonprofit board members. (Christ-centered boards will likely add one or two more.) The book includes an excellent 20-point self-assessment for board members, with probing questions like:
   • “Are there ways in which your talents and interests can be more fully realized at or between board or committee meetings?”
   • “Have you and the board taken steps to deal with real or apparent conflicts of interest in your board service?”
   • “Which aspect of your service on the board has been the least satisfying and enjoyable?”

Click here for a link to four governance books (including the one above) I reviewed in 2014. Again—the goal is not to create the perfect tool. The goal is to improve our board stewardship of the ministries God has entrusted to our oversight.

God is faithful and He will give you grace and courage as you trust Him. May God bless you in 2015!

QUESTION: How will you inspire your board members to measure and monitor their own effectiveness in 2015?

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