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).