Friday, February 17, 2017

Called to Serve: Governance Through the Prism of the Agenda


Note: This is No. 6 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. (Click on the title to order the book for every board member.)


Whew! This book is packed with meat and potatoes! Today’s meal is from page 23—and we haven’t even tasted 75 percent of the book yet.

Max De Pree says the best way to look at what a board does is “to see it through the prism of the agenda.” (I’ve never seen “prism” and “agenda” in the same sentence.) What an intriguing thought!

This former board chair of Fuller Seminary writes that the agenda ought to have a future orientation and the following areas should be given high priority on the agenda:
   • Strategic plans
   • Financial enabling and soundness
   • Facility needs
   • Governance
   • Succession plans

People who are task-oriented and get-it-done “Type A” movers and shakers may not (my opinion) have the wiring, or the gifting, to be effective board members. De Pree cautions, “The board is not an instrument for doing.”

He adds, “Of course, it does some important things—but primarily the board exists for other purposes. To reflect the mission and vision and strategy of the organization, the board is responsible for determining the philosophy, the values, and the policies of the organization.”

That’s a timely and insightful reminder—especially to nominating committees. As you create the criteria and a matrix for future board members, the job description of the board member must be established before you consider any nominees. What the board does will determine the profile for board members. What competencies do you need?

Does Karen have prior experience in spiritually discerning issues of mission, vision, and strategy? Does Alberto understand (and does he believe) that board members are recruited to wear governance hats—not volunteer hats? Will Tashawna add value when the board annually reviews the emergency and long term succession plans? (Who has that competency?)

As we pray and spiritually discern who should be in our board prospect pipelines, Max De Pree is calling us to see governance work from a unique viewpoint—“through the prism of the agenda.” And he quotes Walter Wright: “A board holds the future and mission in trust.”

Will Karen, Alberto and Tashawna make great board members? Are they future-oriented? Hold up your recent agendas to the light—and discern if their experience and wisdom would help your board address those critical fork-in-the-road agenda items and policy decisions about the future.

BOARDROOM EXERCISE: Do our board agendas align with our philosophy and theology of governance? Do they “hold the future and mission in trust” by focusing on priorities that are future-oriented? Do we nominate people who have demonstrated competence in hearing God’s voice about our future?

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, February 10, 2017

Called to Serve: How to “Table” a Thank You

Note: This is No. 5 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. (Click on the title to order the book for every board member.)

I quote this Max De Pree insight at least once a week: 
“The first responsibility of a leader
is to define reality.” 


But do you know the rest of the story? He adds, “The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

So after highlighting 10 marks of an effective board in Called to Serve (the previous two blogs), De Pree throws in a bonus measurement of board effectiveness:

#11. “An effective board says ‘thanks.’”

Imagine the ripple effect if board members were thanked as creatively as Kareem Abdul Jabbar was once thanked. (NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving have called him the greatest basketball player of all time.)

Max De Pree writes about Kareem’s last season, 1989, with the Los Angeles Lakers:

“Seven feet two inches tall and on his last circuit of all the towns the Lakers played in, he was honored in every city because of who he was and what he had done for basketball. 

In Dallas, a businessman presented a gift to Kareem and had obviously thought about saying thank you. He had a special table built, higher than usual, on which to place the gift for Kareem. The businessman observed that you shouldn't ever make a person stoop to receive a gift. Now I think that is a marvelous lesson, isn't it?”

BOARDROOM EXERCISE: How does your board thank people? Do you consider the recipient's “love language?” Read how one board honored a retiring board chair—and why the thoughtful gift still brings tears to his eyes.

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).