Monday, January 14, 2019

Best Board Books #15: Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (Second Edition)


Would you trust a surgeon who stopped learning? How about a board member who stopped learning? What’s the “Gold Standard Question” to ask after every board meeting? These questions and more are answered in the just published second edition of my pick for Book #15.


Book #15: 
Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, Second Edition (Dec. 2018), by Dan Busby and John Pearson
(Order from Amazon)

I confess. Recommending a book I co-authored might seem a tad promotional—but only half-promotional, maybe? Since Dan Busby wrote 20 lessons and I wrote 20 lessons, I can guarantee that at least half of the book (Dan’s half) will serve you well.

The updated Second Edition of the book is now available—with new material and fewer typos. If you missed the first edition, read my review here.

The second edition is subtitled, “40 Insights for Better Board Meetings,” and we’re confident that the format—short lessons with three action steps per lesson—will enrich your board meetings and your God-honoring governance experiences.

Lesson 3, “Break Bread, Not Relationships” (added to this second edition), reminds boards to slow down and focus on three characteristics of healthy boards:

#1. EATING With Intentionality. “Breaking bread together as a board takes time, yes, but meals also slow the pace of board meetings (a good thing) and provide time for relationship building.” We remind you that “food fuels fellowship and fellowship fuels deeper relationships.”

#2. ENJOYING deeper relationships. We quote the poignant line from Jerry and Mary White’s book, To Be a Friend: “A friend is one who walks in when others walk out.” We add, “Pray and work for that level of relationship authenticity on your board.”

And then this caveat: “While we don’t recommend stocking a board with close friends of the CEO—here’s the dilemma: healthy boards ultimately enrich relationships and thus board members do become close friends many times. That should be expected and enjoyed.”

#3. ELIMINATING all distractions. Here we address how devices (iPhones, etc.) exacerbate boardroom dysfunctions—and why some boards commit to device-free zones to keep attention focused on God’s work. We quote Dr. John J. Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of the bestseller Brain Rules, who notes: “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth.”
That’s the three-point sermon in just one of the 40 lessons in the new second edition of
Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom. We pray it will inspire your board!

BOARD DISCUSSION: In his classic book, Leadership Is an Art, Max De Pree warned leaders “to recognize the signals of impending deterioration.” Has your board sprinted to the agenda—and bypassed eating together and enjoying deeper relationships? Has that accelerated God’s work—or is a warning sign of impending deterioration? 

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 29, by guest blogger David Curry, “Think and Pray Outside the Box—and the County.”

Monday, December 31, 2018

Best Board Books #14: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 2


In Part 1 of this two-part blog, I quoted R. Buckminster Fuller who said, “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”


That insight is on page one of Scaling Up, a brilliant book that oozes with helpful tools. My recommendation: buy the book and download the “One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP)” tool—and it will revolutionize how your board thinks about mission alignment. (And...inspire several board members to also read Breakthrough.)

Book #14: 
Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t – Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0, by Verne Harnish
(Order on Amazon)


The helpful tool in Nonprofit Sustainability (my Part 1 blog) was on page 25. Today’s featured tool in Scaling Up is on page 125. Easy to remember, right?

As you look ahead to the new year, you’ll appreciate Verne Harnish’s “One-Page Strategic Plan” template (11” x 17”) and his detailed color commentary. He writes, “Many people have dreams. However, a vision is a dream with a plan: a One-Page Strategic Plan.” He adds:

“To flesh out the vision, you need to answer seven basic questions: who, what, when, where, how, why, and the often challenging question, “But should we or shouldn’t we?” These questions anchor the seven columns of the OPSP. If you ever feel confused by the terminology that comes with strategic planning, always come back to these seven simple questions.

I mentioned in Part 1 that all you need to read is page 25 of Nonprofit Sustainability. But when someone on your team or board reads page 125 in Scaling Up—you will be unable to resist reading the entire book! I’ve named it my 2018 Book-of-the-Year (read my review). 

The author suggests that managers work on the SWOT analysis, but senior teams (and I would add board members) should focus energies on SWT (Strengths, Weaknesses, and Trends). 


    

Before your next board retreat (perhaps focused on your strategic plan), inspire board members to pre-read the “One-Page Strategic Plan” chapter in Scaling Up, plus the insightful strategic planning book, Breakthrough: Unleashing the Power of a Proven Plan, by Randon A. Samelson (read my review).
Using the six-step "strategic plan" in 1 Chronicles 28-29, Samelson also shares his insights on King David’s baton pass to his son, Solomon. This is one succession plan that actually worked! The temple was completed. Solomon thrived. Outgoing CEO David did not whine in the background.

BOARD DISCUSSION: If your CEO, senior team, and board could summarize your strategic plan on one page (11” x 17”), what kind of clarity and alignment would that then bring to your entire staff, key volunteers, and major donors? What’s your next step?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 28, “Slow Down and Wait on God” by guest blogger Jerry White.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Best Board Books #13: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 1


R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), the designer, inventor, and futurist, said, “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”


So in this blog and the next blog, I’m featuring two tools from two books that will enrich thinking and planning at the senior team level and at the board level. (Neither books are “governance books” per se, but a list of best board books would be incomplete without them.)

Book #13: Nonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability, by Jeanne Bell, Jan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman
(Order on Amazon

The helpful tool is on page 25—and for some CEOs and board members, that’s all the reading you need to do. The “Dual Bottom Line: Mission Impact and Financial Sustainability” matrix map (four quadrants) addresses two key issues with four easy-to-remember icons:

STARS: High Mission Impact, High Sustainability
HEARTS: High Mission Impact, Low Sustainability

MONEY TREE: Low Mission Impact, High Sustainability
STOP SIGN: Low Mission Impact, Low Sustainability

Board Exercise: inspire your CEO and senior team to bring a first draft of all your products, programs, and services plotted in the appropriate quadrants—then facilitate a discussion to discern if your board agrees or not. Then move to a second draft.

Also—review how many programs are in the “Stop Sign” category—and ask about next steps. 

Reminder: Jesus taught us in Luke 14:28-30, “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’” (The Message)


Also—are we adequately feeding the “Stars?” Have we invested time in rethinking how to make our “Hearts” more sustainable? Is our mission still clear to all?

For more on this powerful one-page tool, read my review of Nonprofit Sustainability, and read Steve Moore’s guest blog here on Lesson 23, “Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability” in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings.

BOARD DISCUSSION: When is the last time we held up a “Stop Sign” to a program, product or service? If it were up to you, what would we stop doing immediately—and cut our mounting losses? (Resource: share the “dismount” worksheet from my Results Bucket webpage: “Dakota tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”)

NEXT BLOG: Two Tools in Two Books – Part 2 (One-Page Strategic Plan)

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 23, “Focus on Mission Impact and Sustainability” by guest blogger Steve Moore.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Best Board Books #12: Call of the Chair


David McKenna warns CEOs and boards—don’t speed-vote an unsuspecting person into the board chair! This esteemed governance guru writes that the board chair “has responsibility for the speed, spacing, and sequence” of the governing process. (That will preach!)


Book #12: 
Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry, by David L. McKenna
(Order from Amazon)

Before electing your board chair...STOP! If you’ve been around the nonprofit block for a few years, you’ve certainly experienced this scenario:

“Quick! While Jane is out of the room—I move that she be elected the new chairperson of the board, effective immediately.”

And presto! Without warning, Jane returns to the boardroom only to be handed the gavel—accompanied by the delightful dysfunctions of a nonprofit or church board of directors.

Stop the madness, says David McKenna. His book should be required reading for all ministry board chairs and CEOs. (Chairs of faith-based for-profit companies would also benefit.) Call of the Chair is jam-packed with 119 pages of wisdom, insights, and practical help for the board and their board chairs. Example:

McKenna writes that “The chair for a Christ-centered ministry must be called of God as well as elected by the board.” That would eliminate the speed-voting trick that landed Jane at the head of the board table.

“When the time comes for a board to elect a new chair,” McKenna adds, “all business should stop while the members reflect in silence and ask that the Spirit of God might give them discernment in their selection.”

Then this: “In the induction of the chair that follows, there should be the question, ‘Has God called you to this leadership position?’

“The prayer that follows should seal that call with the sacredness of the moment. If done in a consecration service for the board, its officers, and its members, the significance of the chair is communicated throughout the organization.”

McKenna cautions: “Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes with spiritual maturity. It may well be the gift that defines Christ-centered leadership.”

That defining moment—and that powerful question—will eliminate speed-voting and will weed out chair candidates who aspire to resume-building versus Kingdom-building. 

McKenna has more—and it’s convicting: 
   • 4 assessment questions for the board chair
   • 5 deficient ways that boards elect chairs: Successor, Exemplar, Rotator, Politician, and Dissenter
   • Commenting on the Rotator chair scenario, McKenna notes: “The idea is that the ministry can survive incompetence for a short period of time.”
   • 1 priority: why being board chair must be that person’s number-one priority
   • 9 board chair roles: Missionary, Model, Mentor, Manager, Moderator, Mediator, Monitor, Master, and Maestro
  • 3 results when the board chair fails to focus on the clarity of the mission: “mushy, muddled, and almost meaningless”
  • 60 words in 30 seconds: Jesus’ elevator speech!


McKenna, retired president of two universities and one seminary, is author of numerous books, including Best Book #4: Stewards of a Sacred Trust: CEO Selection, Transition and Development for Boards of Christ-centered Organizations. Read my review to learn how he helps boards segment CEOs into six descriptive categories (several are unsavory!).

In Call of the Chair, McKenna defines an important fork-in-the-road for boards: “A major difference between Christ-centered ministries and for-profit or nonprofit organizations is in the question, ‘Who gets the credit?’”

The Transcendent Moment

Trust me—this book is very, very convicting. But when I reached the last few pages of the book—ready to wrap it up and move on—I was blown away by “The Transcendent Moment” on pages 116-119.

Whew! I won’t spoil the drama and impact for you—but at a board meeting just after reading the book, I asked a board member (he has a great radio voice), to read those pages during the agenda segment, “10 Minutes for Governance” (a lifelong learning feature the board enjoys at every board meeting). Here’s just one taste:

“…if the board is to rise to its spiritual potential, it needs a chair who brings the personal experience of Pentecost to the leadership of the board.”

Oh, my.

I will end with this helpful metaphor: “Like a one-stringed banjo player, the chair will always sound the note reminding the members that the board’s role is policy, not execution.” How knowledgeable is our staff on the roles and responsibilities of the board—and the board chair?

BOARD DISCUSSION: Discussing the policy governance term, “executive limitations,” McKenna illustrates: “In effect, God gave Adam and Eve a policy of executive limitation, saying, ‘Go until I say stop.’ He did not say, ‘Stop until I say go.’” Are the board’s executive limitations crystal clear to your CEO and all staff?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 22, “The Most Underrated Board Position,” by guest blogger David McKenna.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Best Board Books #11: Boards That Make a Difference


If you want to spark some healthy conflict in your next conversation with ministry CEOs or senior pastors, throw this verbal grenade into the discussion: “Hey! What do you all think about policy governance?” 

I mention this because even though the majority of boards I work with say they function as “policy governance” boards, I don’t believe them—because their micro-managing practices are so blatant.

Book #11: 
Boards That Make a Difference: A New Design for Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations, by John Carver
(Order from Amazon)

According to Policy Governance Guru John Carver, “Governing by policy means governing out of policy in the sense that no board activity takes place without reference to policies. Most resolutions in board meetings will be motions to amend the policy structure in some way. Consequently, policy development is not an occasional board chore but its chief occupation.”

Consider John Carver’s insight on what he calls the flaws of “The Approval Syndrome.” They include: reactivity, sheer volume of material, mental misdirection, letting staff off the hook, unfairly putting staff on the hook, short-term bias, lack of clarity in the board’s contribution, and fragmentation (“a sequence of disconnected and unmanageably voluminous vertical slices of the whole…instead of a holistic, manageable fabric of horizontally connected policies”).

He adds, “We all profess that boards should deal with the big picture, but it is difficult to picture the forest by inspecting one tree at a time.”

One of my favorite Carver counter-intuitive commentaries describes what happens when a board delivers a “vote of confidence” for the CEO during a crisis situation.

In Carver’s policy governance bible, Boards That Make a Difference, he writes, “Curiously, there are times when the board goes through the approval process not intending to withhold authority from the CEO but to confirm it. A board might declare its supports for the CEO by cloaking some controversial executive decision with the prestige of the boardroom. Board motivation is usually expressed thus: ‘We want the staff (or others) to know the board is really behind the CEO on this.’ As long as the board and CEO understand that the decision is truly the CEO’s, this approval not only seems harmless but appears to be a healthy show of solidarity.”

Then Carver adds this zinger. “However, such a gesture of board support is called for only if the board has been sending weak signals about the nature of delegation. This kind of support is rarely warranted if the board has made it clear to all that all CEO decisions that are within board-stated bounds are always supported by the board. Official support of a specific action implies that such sporadic backup is necessary, or conversely, that the general philosophy of delegation is weak.”

Carver notes—in his massive 340-page hardback, with another 80 pages of resources and references—that “Board approvals are an unnecessary and dysfunctional method of board control, then, regardless of the ubiquity of the practice.”  He goes on—in succeeding chapters—to build the case for “a more proactive, fair, and detrivializing approach to fulfilling the board’s moral and legal obligation to control the organization.”


If no one on the senior team or board of your nonprofit organization or church is familiar with Carver’s brand of policy governance (he invented the term), this is the starting point. Whether you agree or disagree that this board approach is right for your organization, it’s important to understand the continuum of choices available—and to seek consensus on defining your current reality and where your preferred governance future lies. 

Interestingly, the book includes an excellent “ends” policy (a big Carver term) from Lancaster County Bible Church—defining the church’s sequential priorities. Evangelism is the church’s first priority.

Note: If 340 pages are a tad too much for you, Carver has a series of booklets, focusing on niche policy governance issues. Another option is to check out the “lean and mean” approach, favored by many including myself, of a 15- to 20-page Board Policies Manual, as described in the book, Good Governance for Nonprofits: Developing Principles and Policies for an Effective Board, by Fredric L. Laughlin and Robert C. Andringa. (See Best Board Books #10.)

BOARD DISCUSSION: Board members can’t always be blamed for governance dysfunction. Sometimes CEOs and senior team members invite confusion when they bring agenda items to the board—in essence, begging the board to micro-manage. Is it clear, in your organization, where the line falls between board decisions and staff decisions?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 36, “Decrease Staff Reporting and Increase Heavy Lifting.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Best Board Books #10: Good Governance for Nonprofits


Peter Drucker preached “tool competence.” He wrote, “Although I don't know a single for-profit business that is as well managed as a few of the nonprofits, the great majority of the nonprofits can be graded a ‘C’ at best. Not for lack of effort; most of them work very hard. But for lack of focus, and for lack of tool competence.”  


Book #10: 
Good Governance for Nonprofits: Developing Principles and Policies for an Effective Board, by Fredric L. Laughlin and Robert C. Andringa (Order from Amazon)

More than any other tool or template, I have recommended the Board Policies Manual (BPM) template to hundreds of nonprofit organizations and churches. Fred Laughlin and Bob Andringa teamed up to produce this brilliant tool, the BPM. The who, what, where, when, why, and how—are all explained in their concise, but thorough, color commentary, Good Governance for Nonprofits.

The book describes the efficacy of compiling the twists and turns of board policies (some that conflict with others) into one thoughtful 15- to 20-page document that is designed to be revised at any board meeting throughout the year.

As Dan Busby and I note in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: “While many organizations have unwritten policies covering a wide range of topics, they’re often filed away incoherently in the archives and no one can find them when needed. ‘Here’s a fun job for a new board member,’ they say. ‘Please dig through 20 years of board minutes. Bring a flashlight and emergency provisions!’”


There’s a huge upside to a BPM, as Bob Andringa writes in “Do Unwritten Board Policies Really Exist?” (read the blog here). “For every hour spent on creating and maintaining a Board Policies Manual, at least three hours of board and committee meetings will be saved before too long. It’s a ‘living document,’ always reflecting the latest wisdom of the board.”

No question—this book (which gives access to the online template) is a must-have tool on your governance bookshelf.

BOARD DISCUSSION: According to Policy Governance Guru John Carver, “Governing by policy means governing out of policy in the sense that no board activity takes place without reference to policies. Most resolutions in board meetings will be motions to amend the policy structure in some way. Consequently, policy development is not an occasional board chore but its chief occupation.” Would your board agree?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 4, “Do Unwritten Board Policies Really Exist?”

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Best Board Books #9: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board


Max De Pree writes,
“There is a reason why this is a small book. We want it to be useful, but not a burden.” So…here’s my ninth nominee in this “best board books” series.


Book #9: 
Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, by Max De Pree (Order from Amazon)

I tilt towards books that lean towards the contrarian quadrant. Example: former USC President Steven Sample's book, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. Before buying a book, he prefers a five-minute conversation with someone who has already read it.

So when I had a five-minute conversation with consultant and author Dave Coleman about Max De Pree’s 91-page contrarian gem, it fed my board governance book-addicted soul. I love this book and the title: Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Contrarian Max De Pree (1924-2017) writes:
   • “We believe good people need reminders and an occasional nudge, not a sermon.”
   • “A good board will measure the appropriate inputs as well as the outputs. Failure to measure what matters damages our future.”
   • “My friend Jim Beré…once told me that he would serve only on boards that had hard-working executive committees.”

Commenting on board committees, De Pree notes the story of the English visitor who watched his first American football game and observed, “The game combines the two worst elements of American culture—violence and committee meetings.”

Rather than penning a 300-page snoozer, De Pree crafts a coaching conversation (a series of letters) with a young leader and his first CEO/board relationship. It’s easy reading and the short epistles are extraordinary.

Board service, writes De Pree, should be “demanding in the best sense of the word.” He lists three other characteristics of great boards:
   • Lively
   • Effective
   • Fun to serve on

CEOs will appreciate every page: “…the chief responsibility of boards is to be effective on behalf of the organization.” He adds, “Effective boards, in a nutshell: 
   • remember the long view,
   • remember that the president and staff are human,
   • and do the work of the board…”
   • Plus this: “Most of the work of the board takes place through the implementation of an agenda.”

More contrarian pokes-in-the-ribs:
   • “Many high-priced consultants will tell you to have the shortest possible mission statement. I don’t happen to think that is such a great idea.”
   • “I feel that the closer an organization comes to being defined as a movement, the closer it will come to fulfilling its potential.”
   • “I’m a great believer that management should be invited into the board’s world but that the board should not go into management’s area.”
   • “The chairperson should not permit anyone to read to the board.


Max De Pree served as board chair of Fuller Seminary—and get this—the seminary honored him with the establishment of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership in 1996. His day job was with Herman Miller, the office furniture company, where he served as president from 1980 to 1987 (and as a board member until 1995). His book, Leadership Is an Art, has sold more than 800,000 copies. (See also Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community.)
Effective boards do very good planning, says De Pree. He lists three planning questions and then suggests who must be involved in the planning. “…some people need to be involved, to be blunt, because they are going to pay the bill.”

He balances the CFO’s involvement in planning with this: “Planning by the board ought always to include the chief financial officer, a bringer of necessary reality to the process. Of course, the chief financial officer should never have a role that stymies the vision. Some realities have priority over numbers.”

Oh, my—I could write another 30 blogs on his contrarian coaching! (In fact—I did!) See the index to the 30-blog series here.

More Wisdom:
   • “Loyalty by itself is never sufficient. You always have to link loyalty and competence.”
   • “When an organization demands true leadership and the results justify the time and energy, good boards respond with gusto.”
   • “Another crime, it seems to me, is to give really good people poor leadership.”

Trust me—this book will not disappoint. All 91 pages are packed with power. Perfect snippets for your “10 Minutes for Governance” segment at every board meeting. (You do that, right?

BOARD DISCUSSION: De Pree recommends that “Key proposals and issues like building programs or fund drives should always come to the board through its committees at least twice.” Think back for three years—has this been your practice?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out the “40 Blogs. 40 Wednesdays.” color commentaries on Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson, including Lesson 31, “Cut the Cord! Invite Board Members to Exit When They Don’t Live Your Values.”