Recently in a board enrichment session, the CEO punctuated most topics with this question: “So, John, where is our board on the range of normalcy?”
I love that phrase—“the range of normalcy.”
Today I googled it and found more ammo for future enrichment sessions. Here are two definitions and more commentary:
“Normalcy: being within certain limits that define the range of normal functioning”
• A related word: “Averageness: the state of being that is average; indicates normality but with connotations of mediocrity”
“Normalcy: expectedness as a consequence of being usual or regular or common”
• A related word: “Expectedness: ordinariness as a consequence of being expected and not surprising”
#1. “Normal” Might Be a Low Bar. I certainly understand the desire for a board’s work to fall somewhere within the “range of normalcy.” Yet, if normalcy becomes averageness—and that carries a whiff of mediocrity—then normal could be a very low standard.
Example: In the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey, just under 31% of board members said “Yes” or “Probably Yes” that their boards were well prepared to name their next CEO. If you landed on the “normal side” with the other 69%, that’s not a good thing! The survey revealed that the majority of boards do NOT have an effective succession plan in place. It’s normal, but not wise.
#2. Watch for Signs of Mediocrity. Several years ago, a board member cornered me at every meal and coffee break at a board retreat. His comment/question: “I think we’re a pretty good board. But how would you evaluate us?”
He was fishing for compliments—and I resisted. Finally, at the last snack break I told him. “You are a pretty good board. Maybe in the top ten percent of all ministry boards—but this will shock you—you could be even more effective as a board. And if you’re diligent about moving forward, the improvements will surprise you. Don’t rest on your laurels. You’re not there yet.”
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and the Social Sectors, adds this: “The moment you think of yourself as great, your slide toward mediocrity will have already begun.”
#3. Know the Difference Between Human Standards and Heaven’s Standards. You already understand my third point and if you’re read the powerful book, The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, you know that our board work is measured by eternal metrics, not earthly metrics.
So…yes, it’s good to know the “range of normalcy,” but I really love the standard used by Holy Trinity Brompton, the London church that launched the Alpha course. Nicky Gumbel, Holy Trinity’s vicar, says they
“aim for perfection
but settle for excellence.”
but settle for excellence.”
QUESTION: How does your board measure its work and effectiveness?