Saturday, February 28, 2015

What Color Is Christ-centered Governance?

Unless you’ve been on another planet this week, you’ve been inundated by reporters, commentators, and your Facebook friends—seeking to explain why some people saw a gold and white dress, while others saw a black and blue dress. (Feel free to skip this blog if you’re had it up to here on this topic.)

Even the Wall Street Journal weighed in today with an essay, “Science Can Tell You the Color of the Dress.” The subhead: “Science explains how people can look at an identical object and see it differently.”

Hmmm. I wonder if science can explain why the boardrooms of Christ-centered ministries and churches include so many board members who see governance from such diverse perspectives?

John Carver, the policy governance® guru, suggests that at each end of the board table are board members who lobby for these antithetical positions: 
   • More involvement
   • Less involvement
   • Board as watchdog
   • Board as cheerleader
   • Board as manager
   • Board as planner
   • Board as adviser
   • Board as fundraiser
   • Board as communicator

Just yesterday, a colleague shared his discouraging boardroom experience. The large ministry board wanted to micromanage department heads—with direct board involvement. My friend had to remind the board that they have just one employee to relate to—the president/CEO.  How does this happen in 2015?

In the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey (2014), CEOs, board members, and board chairs were asked to rate their boards on the governance continuum from “Micromanagement (1)” to “Healthy Governance (10).” The ratings by board chairs of ECFA-accredited ministries:
 • 62.7% said they were at “Healthy Governance” (8, 9 or 10)
 • 31.3% said they were at “Less Micro-Management” (5, 6 or 7)
 • 6.0% said they were in the “Micro-Management” zone (1, 2, 3 or 4)

So…what color is Christ-centered governance? All of us have different views of the board’s role. Our perspectives are colored by our experiences. Maybe Fred’s last board stint was colored by high trust and stunning Kingdom outcomes. Jennifer’s previous experience, perhaps, was colored by mediocre results, less-than-honest reporting, and infrequent board meetings. Maybe Fred and Jennifer could meet in the middle on board roles—but the middle approach may not be effective for their organization.

Max De Pree said “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” What’s reality for your board? Are you in agreement on what authentic Christ-centered governance looks like? If not, what’s your next step? Read a book? View a video? Invite a resource person to help? (Don’t say, “Appoint a committee!”)  

QUESTION: The gold/white or black/blue dress put color issues on the front page—and it was fun to read.  This question is far more important: Is your board on the same page on what Christ-centered governance looks like for you?

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