Friday, December 30, 2011

It Takes a Village to Raise a Board’s Effectiveness

Almost 1,100 CEOs, board chairs and board members participated in the 2011 Governance Survey of ECFA members.  A question on board effectiveness asked, “Give your board a grade for their board work in the last 12 to 18 months.” On a scale of 1.00 to 5.00 (an F equaled 1.00; an A equaled 5.00), CEOs gave an average rating of 3.84 for board effectiveness.

The good news: almost 67 percent of boards were rated “Good” to “Excellent.” The bad news: 27 percent were rated “Average.” Just four boards received “Failing” grades by their CEOs while 19 boards received a “D” (“Danger Zone”).  Bottom line: 33 percent of boards were lackluster at best, according to their CEOs.

Max De Pree, the board chair for many years at Fuller Seminary, says that “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”
So what is reality for your board? How effective is your board? And how clear is it that your board sees their work as Christ-centered? While 81 percent of board members said it was “crystal clear” their work was Christ-centered (the best description of five options), only 65 percent of CEOs checked the “crystal clear” box.

There’s no one silver bullet for raising your board’s effectiveness. It takes a village—a thoughtful array of integrated action steps that cover the four arenas of board work: cultivation, recruitment, orientation and engagement.
Don’t let board work overwhelm you or ignore the kingdom implications of mediocre governance. Ask your governance committee to define reality today and then recommend next steps on board effectiveness. Create a life-long learning plan for your board members.  Action steps might include a book-of-the-quarter, governance articles, webinars, video resources, workshops, retreats or self-assessment surveys.

Elton Trueblood said that “pious shoddy is still shoddy.” Ministry effectiveness, however, honors God.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

10 Most Common Board Shortcomings

Only 10?  The December issue of Board Member® magazine from BoardSource (you do subscribe to it, right?) features a quick-reading one-pager on “The Top 10 Most Common Board Shortcomings.”

Pour a cup of coffee for three or more Christian organization CEOs, board chairs, senior pastors or church board members—and, without asking, you’ll certainly have your own list of the Top 50 board shortcomings.

Here’s the problem: we all bring our delightful dysfunctions into the board room—often based solely on our prior board experiences in other organizations and churches.  If the last board I served on did it “this way,” I may incorrectly assume that the next board will operate the same way. Not!

That’s why the cultivation and recruitment phase (dating before the wedding) is so critical when inviting new people to join the board.  After the “wedding” it’s too late to discern if your new recruit is a good fit.

Here’s the BoardSource list of shortcomings. The magazine article includes a short paragraph on the prescription for each shortcoming.
  1. Veering off mission
  2. Complacency
  3. Misguided motivations
  4. Multiple voices
  5. Micromanagement
  6. Limitless terms
  7. Lawless governance
  8. No self-assessment
  9. Lack of self-improvement
  10. Knotted purse strings
What additional governance shortcomings have you discerned in Christ-centered organizations and churches?

Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Board

In board self-assessment surveys I’ve conducted recently, I’ve noticed that both CEOs and board members are asking for more help on board member recruitment strategies. So you might appreciate the interview checklist suggested in The Wall Street Journal’s six-page philanthropy report on Nov. 28, 2011.

“Before You Join That Board…” listed 10 questions a prospective board member should ask:
  1. Can I see the organization’s annual report?
  2. Can I see the most recent audited financial report?
  3. Can I see the long-range program and financial plan?
  4. Can I see a list of current board members, titles and all affiliations?
  5. Can I see a description of board members’ responsibilities?
  6. Can I see a board organization chart?
  7. Can I see a staff organization chart?
  8. How much is each board member expected to give? Is there a minimum?
  9. How many board meetings are there per year?
  10. Can I go on a program site visit?
However, instead of waiting for a board member prospect to ask you for this information, provide it up front. I encourage Christian organization and church governance committees to prepare a 31-tab Board Nominee Orientation Binder with the above information and a whole lot more. Potential nominees will not read everything, but they’ll appreciate your heart for transparency and due diligence.

What questions are your board prospects asking you—and how do you package that information for them?