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).

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