Thursday, January 29, 2015

The 20% Board Member

During my years at Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association, I recall that both elders and church board members practiced a very high level of commitment to excellence. And for many, excellence could only be accomplished with a high commitment of time.

One elder intentionally limited her “day job” work week to four days, so she could have elder office hours at the church one day a week. Imagine that! She voluntarily gave up 20 percent of her salary so she could serve Christ and the church a full day every week (plus elder meetings and much more).

I was contrasting that commitment to a ministry board I heard about recently.  With just two formal meetings a year, and very minimal time in those meetings, I wondered how the full expression of Christ-centered governance could enfold in just two hours every six months.

Fortunately, the Bible (and ECFA) does not define how many hours are required for stewards to pray, discern, conduct due diligence, affirm the vision, encourage and evaluate the top leader, and all the other essentials of good governance. 

But…how long should a board meeting be? Two hours? Four, six or eight hours? A weekend? I asked this question in a blog in 2013, “No Bad Board Meeting Is Too Short!” I quoted Roger Ebert, the movie critic who died that year, who famously said, “No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” Ditto our board meetings! (That blog, by the way, was the most read blog in the last three years--by far!)

I mentioned to the CEO of the “short board meetings” mentality that I could not, in good faith, join a board that met so infrequently and so briefly. While he assured me the board members interact often outside of meetings, I wasn’t sold.

One ingredient of healthy marriages—and all relationships—is time. Board relationships are no exception. Read the Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes Great Boards Great.” And take a cue from Gen. McChrystal, who recommends whitewater rafting as a team-building (or board-building) event. He’s serious!

How often have you heard: “Eduardo, I hope you’ll say yes to serving on our board. It won’t take much of your time.”

Contrast that with this poignant thought from Jeremy Taylor, the 17th century cleric in the Church of England:  
“God hath given to man a short time here upon earth,
and yet upon this short time eternity depends.”

Or this from John Wesley:
 “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

I prefer board colleagues that take their steward roles quite seriously; devote generous amounts of prayer time together, and as long as I’m preaching here—turn their cell phones off during meetings.

QUESTION: With eternity in mind, how will you inspire your board members to discern the appropriate amount of time to invest in God’s work, as stewards of the ministry?

Monday, January 19, 2015

What If…Every Board Member Wrote 5 Thank You Notes?

On a coaching call with a leader recently, he astounded me with his teachable spirit—and his pedal-to-the-metal approach to my recommendations.

I had suggested he read the powerful and convicting book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break, by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter. 

He’s reading it! But…he stopped on page 159. “Why?” I asked.

He responded, “because the author suggests we think about the people who are most responsible for our success.” Then the author adds, ‘Write down the first 25 names that come to mind.’ And then ask, ‘Have I ever told them how grateful I am for their help?’”

The author’s command: Before turning the page and reading the next chapter, start writing those 25 thank you notes!

I was on the phone with this leader, but if I’d been in the same office with him, I would have whipped out a Starbucks gift card—with warm affirmation for his heart and his actions. And just imagine—the heartfelt response he’ll receive in the days ahead from the 25 people who receive those notes.

I know you know what’s coming next!

At your next board meeting, bring notecards, envelopes and stamps—and ask every board member to write five or more thank you notes—on the spot—to the people that are responsible for the success of your ministry. (Your CEO can have names and addresses ready, if needed.) Who are the people that should be thanked?
   • Former board members
   • Former CEOs and staff
   • Donors (both major donors and faithful month-every-month donors)
   • Volunteers
   • Your friends in the media
   • Government officials who care about your work
   • Pastors and supporting churches
   • Who else?

Goldsmith adds, “This isn’t just an exercise in making yourself and other people feel good (although that’s a worthwhile therapeutic). Writing a thank you note forces you to confront the humbling fact that you have not achieved your success alone. You had help along the way.”

Richard Kriegbaum writes in Leadership Prayers that “the board of the organization is not just the ultimate legal entity; it is also the ultimate means of God’s grace and blessing on the organization.” And I would add, when the board, in turn, blesses your organization’s stakeholders, it will have profound meaning and Kingdom impact!

QUESTION: Is expressing gratitude and appreciation part of your board’s culture? Would this exercise help or enhance that heart?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Forget the Plaques!

It’s time to honor your board chair who is stepping down after weathering six years at the head of the table. What gift will you give him or her?

   • A plaque
   • A Starbucks gift card
   • Flowers
   • All of the above
   • None of the above

I have a new idea!  

This week I enjoyed lunch with a fellow board member. I had never been to his office, and so I arrived early to get a tour of the architectural firm he founded. I love visiting the interesting offices of executives. The tour is often an insight into a leader’s values, passions and soul. This was no exception.

When we arrived in Tom’s own office, he pointed to a stunning commemorative salute to his six years as board chair of an international ministry, JAARS, the center of training and support operation for Wycliffe Bible Translators

Beautifully framed with exquisite calligraphy, the large testimonial to God’s faithfulness listed over 125 people groups, in five regions around the world, who had received God’s Word in their own language. At the bottom of this Kingdom artwork was this memorable statement:

“During the years that Tom Matlock served as chair of the JAARS Board,
these New Testaments were completed around the world.
Thank you, Tom and Judi. May God bless you!"

Forget the plaques, gift cards and the gold watches. The best acknowledgement of a board chair’s work is to salute the Kingdom work that resulted from his or her faithful stewardship of the ministry.   

It’s been several years since Tom termed off the JAARS board, but he still got teary-eyed as he pointed to that wall and told me stories of God’s faithfulness. (Me, too.)

QUESTION: When you honor your next departing board member or board chair, how will you meaningfully connect the dots between faithfulness and Kingdom impact?