Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Hottest Questions About Board Service

Peter Drucker (1909-2005), the father of modern management,
used to say, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” 

It’s a rare week I don’t receive a call, email, or text from a CEO or board member with the governance question-of-the-day. Most add something like this: “I assume you’ve been asked this before.”

Often. But not always.

So…one of my clients recently asked me to collect “The Top 20 Frequently Asked Questions About Board Service.”  It’s due in two weeks—but I need your help.  I don’t need answers this month, just questions!

What questions do you hear from new board members, long-serving board members, or staff members new to nonprofit ministry?

For starters, I’m reviewing the 85 questions (and answers) in the helpful book, The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives, published by BoardSource (click here for a sample of the questions).

These additional questions will likely be on my short list:
   • How does your Christ-centered board move from decision-making to discernment (actually hearing God’s voice about your future)?
   • What did your board’s annual self-assessment process reveal about the health of your board—and what are your 90-day action steps?
   • Does your board’s annual evaluation of your CEO balance affirmation with improvement suggestions?

I know. There are plenty of implications in these three questions—including the assumption that a board does annual assessments.

I also appreciate the powerful questions from Ram Charan’s helpful book, Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask.

In my preface, I’ll likely add this quotation from John Pellowe’s book, Serving as a Board Member:
“The only bad question is the one you had, 
but didn’t ask.”

And one more: I love Scott Rodin’s fork-in-the-road question from his book, The Steward Leader: Transforming People, Organizations and Communities.  As a board member are you an owner-leader or a steward-leader? 

Yikes. I need to email my client today: “How about a Top 40 list of FAQs?”

QUESTION: What is a frequently asked question in the minds of board members—that perhaps—is never really asked?


  1. What evidence should we collect to know we are achieving our mission?
    When should we appoint an interim CEO rather than start a search?
    Why do so many successful Christians become dysfunctional when they meet around a board table?
    How do we know when the right thing to do is close the doors on our ministry?
    What is required before a merger option makes sense?
    What does a board-oriented CEO look like?
    How do we not lose a great board member if we have term limits?

  2. always, great questions (packed with great insights). I made progress on my "FAQ" assignment--and I will integrate your questions into the list. Watch for a blog on this in the next few weeks.