Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Happy Birthday! (When Is It?)

Pop quiz for board chairs and all board members:
  1. When is your CEO’s birthday?
  2. When is your CEO’s employment anniversary at your ministry? How many years?
  3. Is your CEO a reader or a listener?
  4. What are your CEO’s Top 5 strengths from the Gallup Organization’s StrengthsFinder assessment?
  5. What are your CEO’s most dominant spiritual gifts?
  6. On the social styles chart, is your CEO a Driver, Analytical, Amiable, or Expressive?
  7. What is your CEO’s love language?
  8. What is one thing on your CEO’s bucket list?
  9. What is your CEO’s favorite Bible verse?
  10. What are three of your CEO’s measurable goals for this fiscal year?
  11. Describe how God led your CEO to accept the leadership post at your organization.
  12. In honoring your CEO for achieving a key annual goal, would he or she prefer a plaque on the wall, or a cash bonus?

How well do you know your CEO?  (Stay tuned for “Lessons Learned” in the next blog post.)

QUESTION: How well do you know your CEO—and why might that be important?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monitoring (Not Micro-managing) Programs and Services

Here’s a common question from board members: “How do we appropriately monitor programs, products and services without becoming micro-managers?”

According to BoardSource’s Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards, the fifth responsibility is to monitor and strengthen programs and services. “The board’s fundamental responsibilities begin with ensuring that current and proposed programs and services align with the organization’s stated mission and purposes.”

Richard T. Ingram adds, “What the organization actually does, and how well it does it, should be at the heart of board curiosity.”

So how do you discern “how well it does it” without getting into the weeds?  I tilt toward customer/client survey information to keep the board at a high level.  In assessing organizational activities, Ingram lists four bullet points including this:
   • “Studying both the cost-benefit ratio of major undertakings and user satisfaction data (hearing from users of certain programs and services) to facilitate an exchange of information and learning.”

I’ve observed ministry boards use a variety of user satisfaction data including:
• Conducting focus groups with their “primary customers” (per Peter Drucker’s definition)
• Assessing their Net Promoter Score (one ministry I work with has improved their score from 52, to 56, to 58 in the last three years)
• Using inexpensive online survey tools, like SurveyMonkey

Excellent boards inspire their CEOs and senior team members to set annual customer satisfaction goals—and then report on them (quarterly is helpful, annually is essential). Multi-year benchmarking trends will help the board discern program directions and the allocation of resources to where the results are most promising.

Excellent boards balance cost-benefit ratios with Henry Blackaby’s classic aspiration, “Find out what God is doing and then join Him.”

When CEOs and board chairs observe that their board members are micro-managing, they stop and ask if it’s because the board has failed to affirm three to five annual “S.M.A.R.T.” goals for the CEO (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related). Or, if the goals are in writing (and in the minutes), perhaps the CEO is not reporting goal progress in monthly or quarterly reports.

For the Christ-centered board, a focus on S.M.A.R.T. goals and dashboard reports (including one for customer satisfaction) also becomes a focus on prayer. An occasional email from a board member to the CEO (“How can I pray more effectively about your five annual goals this month?”) will bless the socks off any CEO!

QUESTION: Facilitate an around-the-board-table quick response exercise to this question, “Are we appropriately affirming, monitoring, and assessing our ministry’s programs, products, and services? If not, what should we change in the next 30 days?"

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Gold Standard Question for Board Members

This week I’m conducting one-on-one phone interviews with nine board members who serve together on a ministry board. Here’s my favorite question:

“You’re driving away from a ‘typical’ board meeting (or sharing the experience with a friend or family member), and you say, ‘THAT WAS A GREAT BOARD MEETING TODAY!’ Tell me, what happened at the board meeting to provoke that positive response?

I call this my Gold Standard Question because the responses are always immediately indicative of a board member’s satisfaction level with his or her board experience.

Over the years, when I ask this question, board members with unsatisfactory experiences often respond:
• “No one asked me for advice, wisdom, counsel or ideas.”
• “The staff read the reports that all of us had read in advance.”
• “Boring. Routine. Pure agony.”
• “Clearly, I’m not needed at the board table. The CEO did all the talking.”
• “There was no sense of the holy, except the perfunctory bookend prayers.”

Conversely—here’s what highly committed, deeply engaged, thrilled-to-be-serving board members tell me:
• “Everyone’s prepared. Everyone participates. Everyone prays. It’s the best board I have ever served on!”
• “It happens all the time! We’ve deleted the petty stuff and focus on the important agenda items only. And…we’re on target financially.”

One board member outlined four primary ingredients of memorable board meetings:
1. There is deep joy—consistently in every meeting.
2. The board is focused on strategic issues.
3. Energetic discussions abound! “We’re not looking for agreement—we’re looking for insight. Spiritual insight.”
4. There is solidarity. “We foster a board culture that eliminates the unhealthy giving up of personal beliefs for the sake of unity. Instead, we wait for the Spirit of God to speak.”

Wow! I pray that your board has frequent moments of the above and that when board members drive or fly home, their post-meeting evaluation is joy-filled!

QUESTION FOR YOUR NEXT BOARD MEETING: “Before we start this meeting, we’ll ask every board member to think back and tell us about a GREAT board meeting you attended—and why it was so memorable.”