Thursday, August 31, 2017

Called to Serve: The Error of Leadership Indifference


Note:
This is No. 26 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree: “Trust doesn’t arrive in our possession easily or cheaply, nor does it guarantee to stay around.”

Commenting on what the board owes the CEO, De Pree packs a page with his plain-spoken color commentary on the elements of trust. New CEOs, he reminds us, don’t show up with a built-in trust factor. Ditto board members. Board members owe their CEO full trust—but board members must earn that trust by keeping promises.

I’ve endured endless committee reports over the years and occasionally—when pressed—committee chairs bend the truth to protect their reputations.
   • “Luis was late on his report.” (He wasn’t.)
   • “We’ll have that done by next Friday.” (Not going to happen.)
   • “Oh. I misunderstood.” (She understood completely.)

“Trust requires respect,” adds De Pree. “Trust multiples with truth—without adjectives and not subject to redefinition by cornered leaders.”

The author references an entire chapter on trust in his book, Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community. It’s worth the read—especially the baseball story of the distracted second baseman who allowed a runner to steal second, resulting in two errors on one play.

“After a few minutes the official scorer, not knowing exactly how to score such a play, announced over the public address system that he had decided to write off the second error to ‘defensive indifference.’”

De Pree then asks, “How many errors in organizations are due to leadership indifference?"

Every board member should read the trust chapter in Leading Without Power. De Pree: “To tell capable people how to do their job, even innocently or with the best intentions, erodes trust. Such ‘advice’ becomes a sign of disrespect for followers. How can I trust you if you believe you are better at my job than I am?”

Whew! That hits home! None of us board members have ever implied we could do the CEO’s job better. Yikes.

Read Matthew 10 and then note this: after Jesus gave the Twelve their assignments, he didn’t pack a bag and go with them. He trusted them, on their own and in their own styles, to proclaim the Good News. Powerful! 

BOARD EXERCISE: Click here to visit the “Quotable Quotes” on trust and download and distribute the stunning list of 101 quotations on trust from Dan Busby’s book, TRUST: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness. Ask each board member to read their favorite quotation—and explain why.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, August 21, 2017

Called to Serve: What the Board Owes the CEO


Note: This is No. 25 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Wow! I must apologize now to blog readers—because in a few years, should I venture backwards and read these 25 or more blogs, I’ll grimace with angst. “Yikes! What possessed me to think that Max De Pree’s succinct 91 pages needed any more color commentary? Yikes, again.”

Case in point: his brilliant summary (pages 82 and 83) on “Mandate”—one of four categories of things the board owes the president (“or the conductor, or the pastor, or the manager”): Mandate, Trust, Space, and Care.

On Mandate, he writes, “Remember, we are committed to communicate lavishly.” And then this:
   • “Our mandate should always include a mission statement and a strategy, both of which derive clearly from who we intend to be.”
   • “Some folks like the idea of a job outline. For leaders, I much prefer a statement of expectations. A job outline can become a kind of box that tends to limit the leader’s imagination. We surely don’t want that.”

De Pree cautions that there be no ambiguity between “the statement of expectations to the promise of what will be measured.” You’ll recall from the last blog, that De Pree warns, “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”  

In working with nonprofit ministries and churches, I find that mission statements are often noble, sometimes breath-taking, even enduring and endearing. Yet…strategy? Shoddily articulated. Often written and quickly filed away. Rarely—derived from a fork-in-the-road holy moment on our knees.

If I could rewind the videotape for my own leadership and my consulting work with clients, I would invest less time on the mission statement—and more time on the strategy.

In their important book, Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, co-authors A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin write, “Every industry has tools and practices that become widespread and generic. Some organizations define strategy as benchmarking against competition and then doing the same set of activities but more effectively. Sameness isn’t strategy. It is a recipe for mediocrity.

So…to Max De Pree’s wisdom urging leaders to connect mission with strategy, I would humbly add “and sameness isn’t strategy.” My opinion—“sameness” is one of the Top-5 Sins of Strategy Development in ministry organizations—which is strange, because God has designed leaders and team members with very unique spiritual gifts, strengths, social styles and passion. Thus, it would lead us to discern that our unique organizations and unique people would also have unique strategies. Amen?

BOARD EXERCISE: Take out a blank piece of paper. Question 1: What is our ministry’s strategy? Question 2: Is our strategy crystal clear to our CEO (Yes or No)? You have five minutes. Go.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Called to Serve: Max’s Most Memorable Message (1924–2017)


Note: This is No. 24 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Raving fans of Max De Pree were saddened this week to learn of his homegoing on August 8, but so grateful for this Christian business leader’s heart for God and passion for good governance. Here’s a link to the tribute from Fuller Seminary, where he served 40 years as a board member, retiring in 2005. The school honored him by establishing the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and noted:

“In his four popular leadership books—Leadership Is an Art, Leadership Jazz, Leading Without Power, and Called to Serve—Max, in a gentle storytelling style, shared his vast knowledge and wisdom about leadership and management, always emphasizing putting people first.” Fuller also shared a favorite quotation by De Pree:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.
The second is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.”

For me, the most memorable message delivered by Max De Pree is about measurements. Throughout his writings, he gently pounds away on the importance of staff and boards weighing in on what to measure. (I mentioned this in my introduction to this blog series, “What Will You Measure in 2017?”) De Pree writes:

   • “In my experience a failure to make a conscious decision about what it is we’re going to measure often causes discombobulation and a lack of effectiveness and a lack of achievement.”
   • “The task of stating just exactly what to measure falls to the leaders in organizations. It’s not an easy job, and finding what to measure won’t happen automatically.”
   • “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”  

As your board considers what to measure each year (perhaps you’ve already done it), invest time also in spiritually discerning God’s direction for the ministry. As John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

BOARD DISCUSSION: Ask your CEO, “What do you want to be remembered for? And what should we measure?”

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, July 31, 2017

Called to Serve: Board Meddling on Management’s Turf


Note: This is No. 23 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “Another tension arises when board members try to move onto management’s turf. Sometimes good members do this without intending to.”

It is the rare board that effectively governs at high levels without dipping into operational arenas. De Pree addresses this boardroom tension in just half a page—but the frequent problem deserves a full chapter (or maybe a book!).

There are many reasons why board members cross the line into management:

1. They don’t trust the CEO and the senior team. Some board members assume they are smarter and more competent than the staff—and so their “wisdom” in operational matters is needed. 

Solution: If your CEO is not competent, the board must address that issue, not work around the CEO’s lack of leadership.

2. They inappropriately wear their volunteer hats in board meetings. Board members, who are also volunteers in the organization, frequently raise volunteer issues during board meetings and then drag the board into the operational weeds. 

Solution: Once a year, screen the short video from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Understanding the 3 Board Hats: Governance, Volunteer, Participant.

3. They have not personally experienced the impact of effective God-honoring governance. In the absence of healthy board experiences on other boards—or governance training, helpful resources, and board retreats with an enrichment component—board members tend to repeat mediocre boardroom practices: the same old/same old drill. They focus on operations because the big picture (vision, mission, strategy, spiritual discernment, outcomes, etc.) are absent.  

Solution: Inspire your governance committee to keep enrichment and lifelong learning on the front burner with books, blogs, resources, consultants, and an on-going call for board members to be stewards of their sacred trust. 

De Pree notes that “it’s up to the chairperson” to ensure that boards don’t meddle on management’s turf. If your board chair needs a refresher course in the calling and art of chairing, encourage him or her to read the new ECFAPress book, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, by David L. McKenna.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Think back to your last board meeting. Did your board chair halt discussion that spiraled down into management and operational items?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Called to Serve: The Ten-Foot Pole Tension

Note: This is No. 22 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “In the letter on the role of trustees, I reviewed some ideas on the matter of evaluating a board member’s performance. This is guaranteed to produce tension. Most boards and committees I know won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

In another “dire warning” on living with tensions in the boardroom, De Pree challenges and inspires healthy boards to look in the mirror—but he acknowledges this is tough duty. He adds:

“Suggesting that a volunteer be evaluated seems a little crass, and it probably is—
   • unless we’re serious about our mission, 
   • unless we truly believe members want to grow and reach their potential and serve society, 
   • unless we take our clients seriously, 
   • unless we respect our donors.”

He closes with, “Maybe we ought to be ready to deal with this tension.”

I’ve observed several ways that healthy, God-honoring boards assess their own performance:

#1. Annual Self-Assessment Survey. The ECFA Knowledge Center has three sample board self-evaluation forms (for the board, for an individual board member, and for feedback on a board colleague). Click here to download the forms

#2. Board Meeting Quick Assessment. Much like Ken Blanchard’s advice in The One Minute Manager (one-minute praisings and one-minute reprimands), healthy boards don’t wait until year-end to address inappropriate board member conduct.  So, some boards use a paper or verbal feedback tool at the end of every board meeting. (See “Quick Fix Tools for Board Self-Assessments.”)

#3. Third Party Assessment. True, most boards wait until the crisis to call in the cavalry. But healthy boards--when times are good--invite a third party (a consultant or another experienced CEO or board chair) to conduct a “healthy boards assessment” with one-on-one phone calls, an online survey, and then a report and recommendation. This often follows the consultant’s observation of a board meeting—where the true culture and Christ-centeredness of the board is best revealed.

Peter Drucker wrote, “Self-assessment is the first action requirement of leadership: the constant resharpening, constant refocusing, never really being satisfied.” That aspiration, in my theology, is beautifully biblical!

BOARD DISCUSSION: Has your board addressed this common tension—board member evaluation and assessment? How long is your board’s pole?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, July 10, 2017

Called to Serve: When Your Organization Is Bleeding and Boring Board Members


Note:
This is No. 21 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree: “Any diligent board suffers certain tensions. Perhaps this letter should be labeled ‘dire warnings.’”

Dire warnings! Mention those words and you’ll scare off all the recruits you have in your board prospect pipeline. But—think about this—the very candidates you want to invite onto the board are those who drink deeply from the reality cup and understand, like Max De Pree, that there are numerous tensions that spoil a healthy boardroom and a deeply satisfying board experience.

De Pree mentions several tensions:
   • “Good people disagree,
   • Do a little politicking,
   • Try to make decisions in the bathroom (the worst form of exclusion),
   • And come to meetings totally unprepared.”

Add your own dozen or more bullet points here…

I was struck, mostly, by his insightful acknowledgement that money is never the problem—or the solution to living with tensions. (My gut: most boards and CEO don’t yet believe this.)

De Pree notes that one of the “certain tensions” is that boards “need to deal constructively with constraints.” He adds:

“Often people think that with a few more resources, their problems will disappear. Of course this is not true. Few of us ever have all the resources we wish for. Our job is to help board members see that constraints are a fact of life. They are—believe me—along with reasoned restraint, one of the secrets to outstanding performance. Constraints perceived and understood are especially valuable to the creative processes that feed our strategic thinking. In fact, Charles Eames, perhaps the most famous industrial designer of this century, often said that constraints are liberating.

Huh? Our boards must think about this—deeply, strategically, discerningly, spiritually.

De Pree mentions other tensions—and his brief page on tensions created by a crisis is a must-read. Almost as a throw-away line, he notes this: “Sometimes tensions develop into a crisis…the organization is bleeding and boring board members.” That’s another PowerPoint-worthy slide. Is your board bleeding or boring board members—or both?

Perhaps the secret to living with tensions in the boardroom is to first understand that sin exists, yet grace abounds. (Romans 5:20)

BOARD DISCUSSION: Do we address governance tensions appropriately? Are we bleeding and boring board members? Discuss!

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Called to Serve: Use White Space to Practice Hospitality


Note:
This is No. 20 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree: “Hospitality has to do with equity for each member.”

Honest…my plan for this thin, quick-reading book was to crank out five, maybe seven or eight blogs—and then move on. Not! De Pree’s wisdom is so rich—so convicting. At least we’re 75 percent on our way to page 91, so stay tuned. The end is near.

I’ve never read a governance book, blog, or paragraph that said the practice of hospitality was a key ingredient of a board chair’s effectiveness.

De Pree explains with a few reminders:
   • “Asking people to sit in a circle with no table is surely a distracting and ineffective way to work…”
   • “…as is putting people at a long, narrow table where they can have contact with only those adjacent to them.”

He also reminds us about the tools of hospitality: pens, writing pads, agendas, minutes, records, reports—and how they’re organized. He notes that hospitality includes attention to social needs. “Things go better with snacks, drinks, timely breaks, and no anxiety as to where the toilets are—small matters that should never become distractions.”

The spiritual gift of hospitality, according to author Bruce Bugbee, is “the divine enablement to care for people by providing fellowship, food, and shelter.” If you were not blessed with that spiritual gift, however, it doesn’t let you off the hook. As board chair, discern who on your board or staff is specially enabled by God to practice hospitality—and invite that person to help you create a warm and inviting board meeting environment.

In the tremendously helpful new book from ECFAPress, Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, David McKenna, reminds board chairs to sense the need “for the white space of coffee and bathroom breaks,” and “pauses for prayer before casting votes.” (Read my book review here and watch for future blogs on the board chair’s role.)

By the way, practicing hospitality is not limited to the board chair. Board members will practice God-honoring hospitality by arriving on time (with homework done), pocketing all devices, listening, engaging, speaking thoughtfully—and not leaving early. And most important—every board member (and the CEO) will learn the spiritual gifts of colleagues around the board table—and encourage each person to leverage their spiritual gifts, their strengths, and their passions.

BOARD DISCUSSION: Do we practice God-honoring hospitality before, during, and after our board meetings? How could we be more hospitable? Why does this matter?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Called to Serve: The Phone-Book-Size Board Packet Syndrome


Note: This is No. 19 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree: “A friend told me recently that when he gets his agenda package only a day or two before the meeting, he knows he is not being taken seriously.”

In his two-page section on “Be a Good Communicator,” De Pree touches a raw nerve—one that board members whine about frequently. He notes that effective communication between the CEO, the board chair, and all board members involves:
   • Agenda packets arriving well in advance of the meeting
   • “Producing usable minutes of the meeting in a short time.”
   • Being a "lavish" communicator.

I was reminded of the helpful Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes Great Boards Great,” by Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld. He, too, whines about late-arriving board meeting materials:


“What kind of CEO waits until the night before the board meeting to dump on the directors a phone-book-size report, that includes buried in a thicket of subclauses and footnotes, the news that earnings are off for the second consecutive quarter? Surely not a CEO who trusts his or her board. Yet this destructive, dangerous pattern happens all the time.”

I know. I know. It’s very, very challenging to gather all the materials and documents and get them out the door to board members on a timely basis. Solution? Some boards memorialize the frequency of board reports (and arrival dates for board meeting pre-reading materials) in their board policies manual. (See Fred Laughlin’s and Bob Andringa’s excellent resource on BPMs here.)

Effective communication is fueled by trust. As Dan Busby writes in Trust: The Firm Foundation for Kingdom Fruitfulness, there are eight teamwork examples from the Old and New Testaments, noting that trust starts at the top. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever given a board devotional talk using Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 3.) 

Busby also writes, “The largest penalty paid by Christ-centered ministries is the ‘low-trust’ penalty.” Have you ever connected the dots between effective board communication and God-honoring trust?

BOARD DISCUSSION: Does trust fuel our motivation for effective communication? Do we communicate lavishly? Do pre-meeting materials, reports, and minutes arrive with adequate time to reflect and discern next steps? Are board members being taken seriously?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Called to Serve: If No Progress—Skip the “Progress Report!”

Note: This is No. 18 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “…one of the great time wasters for any group is the routine of giving progress reports when there’s been no progress.”

In his excellent chapter on “A Chairperson’s Guide,” De Pree continues to dispense governance wisdom in chunky nuggets and tongue-in-cheek witticisms. It’s the chair’s role, he says, to check with subcommittee chairpersons “to ensure there will be substance to their reports. If not, don’t risk frustrating the commitment of good people.”

Perhaps your executive committee could invest two minutes per committee (and I hope that’s not more than 10 minutes total!) to review the committee reports presented at your last meeting. Were they fruitful or frustrating?

Here are three reasons they might be frustrating:

#1. No SMART Goals. The best committees have three to five annual “SMART” Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related). Without crystal clear goals (recorded in the minutes), you risk wandering into the foggy wilderness.

#2. No Clarity Between Board and Staff Roles. Too many committees (let me say that again)…WAY too many committees…become a volunteer arm of the staff instead of a sleek, mission-driven committee that addresses fork-in-the-road policy issues.

#3. No Alignment With the Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan.  An astute committee chair will always introduce an agenda topic by connecting it to previous or future board action. Example: “As you know, our Rolling 3-Year Strategic Plan calls for us to introduce XYZ by the second quarter of next year—so our committee has been reviewing the staff recommendation on how this program might impact our Board Policies Manual section on outside audits of programs over X dollars.”

Bonus Reason #4. The BHAG is Just a BAG!  Maybe…the reason that committee meetings (and their lack-of-progress progress reports) are so frustrating is because board members (or staff) pull trustees into the weeds—rather than into the heavens.  If your BHAG (Big HOLY Audacious Goal) lacks the HOLY, then slow down and assess your “called to serve” core values and commitments. Do you experience holy ground moments—even in committee meetings?

Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV): “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 

BOARD EXERCISE: At your next board meeting, present a gift card to the first committee chair who courageously announces, “We have no progress to report, but we are working on our three to five annual SMART Goals that the board approved at the last meeting. Thus ends our report!” 

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Called to Serve: Be a Frantic Learner!


Note: This is No. 17 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “Be a frantic learner. Feel a strong obligation to learn everything you can about your organization’s history, about its vision, its mission, its present circumstances, and the people in it.”

But wait…be a frantic learner about what? And what else?

Here are four more topics where “frantic learning” will pay rich dividends:

#1. Be a frantic learner about Governance 101. Many highly competent people enter board service through the volunteer door and—no surprise—inappropriately wear their volunteer hats in the boardroom and—without thinking—wear their governance hats when volunteering. Be a frantic learner and view the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles—Understanding the 3 Board Hats: Governance, Volunteer, Participant.   

#2. Be a frantic learner about policy governance. Some boards claim they operate with a “Policy Governance®” model, but in my experience, few do. (And not every board should.) I encourage boards to understand the continuum between “Policy Governance®” and hands-on/in-the-weeds board governance. At least one person on your board should be a frantic learner and read Boards That Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations, by John Carver.
    
#3. Be a frantic learner about dating board prospects. Inviting a friend-of-a-friend-of-Cousin Eddie to serve on your board (“He is wealthy!”) might fill a slot at the last minute, but the best boards take 18 to 36 months to “date” board prospects before proposing marriage. Be a frantic learner and view the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members—Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement.

#4. Be a frantic learner about spiritually discerning God’s voice. It’s possible that your board is skilled at decision-making, but not discernment. Bill Hybels notes, “…I meet many people who claim to have never heard the promptings or whispers of God. Not even once. Sometimes when I probe a little deeper, I discover that their lives are so full of noise that they can’t possibly hear the Holy Spirit when he speaks.”

So when your board is faced with that critical fork-in-the-road decision when you must spiritually discern God’s voice—what if your board is made up of individuals, who in their own lives “have never heard the promptings or whispers of God?” Big problem! Be a frantic learner and read The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God. Having the Guts to Respond, by Bill Hybels.

BOARD EXERCISE: Before you order your next “everyone read this book before the board retreat,” take time to discern where frantic learning is needed. Seek God’s voice—not the hype from the bestsellers list.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Called to Serve: Board Member Self-Measurements


Note: This is No. 16 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree: “How will I know if I am doing a good job?”

I gotta say…“What Does a Trustee Promise?” (pages 53-60) is a powerful summary of a board member’s role and responsibilities. I could milk this chapter for at least five blogs, but I won’t.

Chew on these morsels:
    • “The opportunity to be a member of a non-profit board is a special gift to us as persons seeking to serve and grow.”
   • “Like other forms of leadership, it’s not a position or an honor, but rather a demanding responsibility, a meddling in other people’s lives, and hard work that requires continuous learning.”

So…how should board members discern if they are doing a good job—if they are effective? Max De Pree says “a trustee should work to establish pertinent and compassionate ways to measure what matters.” It might look like this:

#1. Courtesy. Do I prepare for meetings, arrive early for meetings, and pocket my iPhone during meetings?

#2. Commitment. Do I affirm the mission and advocate for it—and do I know, affirm and practice our organization’s core values? (Can I recite them right now?)

#3. Context. De Pree asks, “Who am I in this context?” and “What is my purpose?” and what unique gifts do I bring to this context?

#4. Covenant. De Pree again on covenantal relationships: “It means that we spend reflective time together; that we’re vulnerable to each other; that we can challenge each other in love and deal with conflicts as mature adults.”

#5. Critique. “…evaluation is such a ticklish matter with volunteers that I have come to be a great believer in the need for written reflections as a way of gauging service and contribution.”

Imagine…if twice-a-year, every board member self-assessed their courtesy, commitment, context, and covenant—in writing—to discern if they were doing a good job. Imagine!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24, Living Bible)

BOARD EXERCISE: Before your next meeting, ask board members to read De Pree’s chapter, “What Does a Trustee Promise?” and then write a confidential, self-assessment, “How will I know if I’m doing a good job?” Discuss.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Called to Serve: SILENCE!


Note: This is No. 15 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “Bob Greenleaf…taught me the advantages of a chairperson’s occasionally declaring periods of silence in meetings for reflection, for absorbing conflicting opinions, for respecting an entirely new idea. I highly recommend it.”

When is the last time your board chair called for a period of silence?

In his succinct chapter, “The Role of the Chairperson,” De Pree summarizes the duties, responsibilities, and competencies that good boards should expect of their chairpersons.

“One way to think about this,” notes De Pree, “is to see the chairperson’s role as a needs-meeting job. Just as the organization and its clients have needs to be met, so does the board itself.” And occasionally, a board needs time for silence—to hear from God.

David McKenna’s new book, Call of the Chair, echoes the silence theme. His book brilliantly expands on the board chair’s role and devotes nine short chapters to nine specific roles: 
   • Missionary
   • Model
   • Mentor
   • Manager
   • Moderator
   • Mediator
   • Monitor
   • Master
   • Maestro

McKenna, author of numerous books including Stewards of a Sacred Trust, defines “Mediator” as “guiding the board through the threats of internal and external conflict into the opportunities for resolution, management, and transformation as witness of reconciliation in the Body of Christ.”

In McKenna’s seven-step process for leading through conflict in the “Mediator” chapter, the fifth step is to contemplate. “Every intense discussion comes to a moment when members of a Christ-centered board need to exercise the spiritual discipline of stepping away from the issue and seeking the mind of God. At the call of the chair, a time of silence, a period of prayer, or a recess for solitude give board members the perspective they need.” 

Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry is a powerful book (just 119 pages, plus notes) and should be required reading, along with Max De Pree’s book, for every CEO and board chair. (Watch for my review of McKenna’s book in a future blog.)

BOARD EXERCISE: Before (way before!) you entrust the board chair position to the next “likely suspect,” discuss the high bar that both De Pree and McKenna set for the “call” of the chair.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Friday, April 28, 2017

Called to Serve: There Are No Committee Statues!

Note: This is No. 14 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: “Always keep in mind…that people, not structures, change the world.”

G.K. Chesterton famously said: “I've searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.”

In your search for the best governance structure or board model (should we be a policy-making board or a more hands-on board?), Max De Pree reminds us—it’s not about the structure. It’s about the people. And Chesterton adds (my words)—it’s not about the committees, it’s about leadership.

Dick Daniels says it’s not about the structure, it’s about the strategy. In his book, Leadership Briefs: Shaping Organizational Culture to Stretch Leadership Capacity (my 2015 “book-of-the-year”), he starts with four foundational building blocks: vision, mission, values…and one more we often minimize: leadership. Then in less than a page, he outlines the four sides of organizational framing: strategy, structure, staffing, and systems. 

He notes, “Staffing follows structure. A change in strategy leads to a change in structure which impacts staffing.”

So as you discern where your board should invest its precious time (in and out of board meetings), here are three questions:

1) Do we have the right strategy—and the right leader who can execute that strategy?
2) Are we hyper-focused on policy and/or structure to the actual detriment of achieving our mission?
3) Are we achieving Kingdom results that align with our mission?

And this reminder from A.W. Tozer, “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”

BOARD EXERCISE: Dick Daniels writes: “Culture is evidenced in specific and measurable behaviors. People consistently perform according to what is measured.” Is our board monitoring CEO performance based on thoughtful Kingdom-oriented measurements?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Called to Serve: The Prospect Pipeline


Note: This is No. 13 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree lists six duties of the Governance Committee (sometimes labeled “Trustees Affairs Committee,” or “Board Development Committee”).

I summarize the Governance Committee duties similarly:
   1. Cultivating and recruiting board prospects
   2. Orientation and training of new board members
   3. Engagement of all board members (including committee work)
   4. Helping board members evaluate their own board service
   5. Honoring and recognizing board members for their service
   6. Reviewing the “vitality and effectiveness and appropriateness” of the board’s work

So on a scale of one to five (with five being “Extremely Effective”), how would you evaluate your board’s governance committee effectiveness on each of these six duties?

In my experience, the failure of a board to focus adequate time and energy on the “board prospect pipeline” often creates a cavalcading series of missteps. Those missteps include:
   • The board expecting the CEO to find suitable board candidates. (The literature says it’s not the CEO’s job—it’s the board’s responsibility. I agree.)
   • The board being satisfied with the status quo—and content with a lack of new blood and fresh thinking.
   • The board being too focused on the present—not the future.
   • And, frequently, the board not investing time in praying and spiritually discerning who God is preparing for board service.

If you don’t have a governance committee, you need one. If you do have a governance committee, ask for a “prospect pipeline” report at every board meeting. For more help, download the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members—Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement.

BOARD EXERCISE: Agree on how many names should be in the “board prospect pipeline” (at various stages in the “dating” process) at any given time. 

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Called to Serve: Coherence With Corrals


Note:
This is No. 12 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.


Max De Pree: "It is also important to formulate guidelines that bring coherence between the vision and mission of the organization and the way strategic planning is developed to reflect them.”

In a phone call this morning, a client and friend mentioned to me again how helpful the “corral” metaphor has been as he coaches CEOs and board members about the policy-making role of the board.

I began using the “corral” language after reading John Carver’s immense, 418-page treatise on Policy Governance®, Boards That Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations. (You may prefer his 26-page summary, Basic Principles of Policy Governance.) In his four-point approach to governance, Carver notes that “Board decisions should predominantly be policy decisions.” 

Max De Pree says boards must establish guidelines for the organization and the CEO. Carver labels them “executive limitations” (a corral). “The board establishes the boundaries of acceptability within which staff methods and activities can responsibly be left to staff. These limiting policies, therefore apply to staff means rather than to ends.”

You’ll find similar themes in another helpful resource, Good Governance for Nonprofits: Developing Principles and Policies for an Effective Board, by Frederic L. Laughlin and Robert C. Andringa. 

Whatever your view of Carver's approach, or other models of governance, you must agree that a “corral” is a brilliant way to describe policies, guidelines or boundaries.

The board sets the fences to the corral—thereby giving the CEO and senior team clarity on what needs, or does not need, board approval or even reporting. CEOs, however, must report when policy has been violated. “You should know that last Friday, I had to operate outside the corral due to the following extenuating circumstances.”  

When a board hears that, it has three options: 1) enlarge the corral and affirm the CEO for good judgment; or 2) caution the CEO that the fencing will remain intact and not to violate the policy again; or perhaps 3) make the corral smaller—tighten the policy.

De Pree says that board policies/guidelines must inspire fertility and fruitfulness. “While your board should insist on a high degree of focus, it should also be giving the kind of guidance that will result in the natural fecundity of a well-run operation.”

I confess: I looked it up at dictionary.com! “Fecund and its synonyms ‘fruitful’ and ‘fertile’ all mean producing or capable of producing offspring or fruit—literally or figuratively…noun…the quality of being fecund; capacity, especially in female animals, of producing young in great numbers…fruitfulness or fertility, as of the earth…the capacity of abundant production: fecundity of imagination.”

CEOs and board members of Christ-centered organizations understand the power of guidelines. We affirm and live by the clarity of the 10 commandments (the boundaries are crystal clear!). Yet we also live by grace and we do want policies/corrals that unleash creativity and fruitfulness to Kingdom ends. Thus, in our personal lives and in our governance lives, we need discernment to operate ethically, spiritually, and fruitfully.

BOARD EXERCISE. Divide into three or four teams at your next board meeting and invest 20 minutes on these questions: Is our policy document (corral) current and crystal clear? Does it result in the natural fecundity of a God-honoring organization?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Monday, March 27, 2017

Called to Serve: Do Not Censor What the Board Receives



Note: This is No. 11 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree: "The administrative team should never see themselves as the censors of what the board receives. The administration should be especially careful not to screen out things that may bring pain to the board. Like a good leader, a good board doesn't inflict pain; it bears pain."

Many boards create a culture of trust with a "no surprises" core value. Rule No.1 for CEOs: Never surprise the board. Rule No. 2: Deliver bad news early and often.

De Pree reminds CEOs and senior team members that putting their best foot forward often means putting the bad news forward--not censoring what goes to the board.

Some years back, when coaching a young CEO, I helped his board affirm five annual SMART goals for their CEO (SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-related). Then we created a simple one-page monthly dashboard report with color-coded bullet points on each goal (green, yellow, red).

On the 15th of every month, the CEO emailed the dashboard to the board. One problem though. The CEO was very reluctant to color-code any "progress" report with yellow or red. (And trust me...most of his ambitious goals were not on target.)

It took several weeks, but I finally convinced this young CEO that his board loved him. They were cheering him on. And they wanted to help him.  "All green" sometimes unintentionally communicates to a board, "I have it all under control. I don't  need your help."

CEOs: what message (intentional or unintentional) are you broadcasting to your board?

Boards: do you respond appropriately to bad news--so you create a culture that affirms your CEO for delivering bad news early and often?

Recently, I awarded a Starbucks card to a board member who piped up, "You know...it's been a while since our board has heard some really good bad news!"

I love Proverbs 29:2 in The Message: When good people run things, everyone is glad, but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans." 

Perhaps a corollary might be, "When good leaders deliver bad news, everyone is glad, but when bad leaders pretend everything is good, everyone groans."

BOARD EXERCISE: How frequently does our CEO deliver bad news? How appropriately does our board respond to bad news?

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Called to Serve: What's More Important Than Structure?


Note: This is No. 10 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board

Max De Pree: "Structure is important, but what is much more important--in fact, critical--is the willingness and ability of the people involved to establish and maintain amiable and productive relationships."

Amen! Years back, I remember my shock (and that's not too strong of a word) when two long-serving members of a small board were chatting before the board meeting began. "Remind me again," one board member asked of the other board member, "what company do you work for?"

By then, this small board should have known each other intimately, and as often happens on great boards, they would have become great friends by this time. It wasn't happening.

At another board retreat, a too-busy board member pushed back (no subtlety), on the best practice that knowing the strengths, social style (driving, analytical, amiable, or expressive), and spiritual gifts of each board member would enhance the board's relationships and thereby its productivity.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld's excellent Harvard Business Review article, "What Makes Great Boards Great," will inspire your board. The author lists all the ill-informed views of board effectiveness and then says this:

“The key isn’t structural, it’s social.”

He adds, “The most involved diligent value-adding boards may or may not follow every recommendation in the good-governance handbook.  What distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems."

If your board chair and/or CEO are not relationally focused (the literature says only about half the population is), then appoint a board member who is--to help you ensure that structure doesn't trump relationships.

BOARDROOM EXERCISE: Discuss the theological values that undergird your ministry--and assess if the relational values of the Good News are alive and well in your boardroom and in your 24/7 year-round board culture.

To order from Amazon, click on the title for: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).