Friday, May 31, 2013

Rumsfeld’s Rules on Meetings

“The first consideration for meetings is whether to call one at all,” says Donald Rumsfeld in his jam-packed book of wisdom, “rules” and axioms, Rumsfeld’s Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life.

As the CEO of two Fortune 500 companies, White House Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford, and Defense Secretary (twice), Rumsfeld has endured more than his fair share of meetings.  Here are several rules on “Running a Meeting” from his new book:

“Pay close attention to who is invited, and for goodness sake, avoid making meetings so large that it feels you should have rented an amphitheater.”

“The default tendency in any bureaucracy, especially in government, is to substitute discussion for decision-making. The act of calling a meeting about a problem can in some cases be confused with actually doing something.”

“If you expect people to be in on the landing, include them for the takeoff.”

Rumsfeld quotes Pat Moynihan: 
“Stubborn opposition to proposals 
often has no basis other than the complaining question, 
‘Why wasn’t I consulted?’” 

“I try to pay attention to every attendee in a meeting. I like to see how they are reacting to what is being said. Sometimes you can learn as much or more from nonverbal communication as you can from what is being articulated aloud.”

“Meetings do not have to be evitable, even if they appear on everyone’s calendar. For example, when I was the CEO of G. D. Searle, a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, a meeting was scheduled on a topic for which I had received the briefing paper only minutes in advance. I could have attended anyway and listened to people talk about something about which I had little understanding.  But why do that?
"I canceled the meeting and set it for a later date 
when other attendees and I had time to prepare.”

I’m recommending that every board chair and CEO read the “Running a Meeting” chapter in Rumsfeld’s book. (His chapters on “Thinking Strategically” and “Planning for Uncertainty” are also excellent.) Actually, the entire book (including more than 400 rules) should be required reading!

Why? Christ-centered organizations are stewards of time, talent and treasure. Yet our “evangelical niceness” too often pushes conflict under the board table, fails to address those who are unprepared, too easily forgives those with late-arriving reports, and rarely admonishes those who are late to meetings. When is the last night you cancelled a meeting—because preparation was dismal? Elton Trueblood once said, 
“Pious shoddy is still shoddy.”

QUESTION: If you asked the Lord for a give-it-to-us-straight assessment of your last board meeting, what improvements might He suggest?

Friday, May 24, 2013

7 Board Disciplines and 6 Risks

“Finally! A book about boards that isn’t boring!”  

That’s Patrick Lencioni’s endorsement of The Imperfect Board Member, a quick-reading, but thorough governance fable.  Using the power of story and humor, author Jim Brown guides board members through his seven disciplines of governance excellence:
   • DIRECT organizational performance
   • PROTECT organizational performance
   • RESPECT owner expectations
   • REFLECT on organizational results
   • SELECT your prominent leadership
   • EXPECT great board-management interaction
   • CONNECT for healthy board relations

At your next board meeting, PROJECT (sorry…couldn’t resist) these seven disciplines on the screen and ask board members to rate the board’s effectiveness in each area.

The “PROTECT” area addresses risk management—an often-neglected agenda item for many boards. Online value-added resources are referenced in the book, including this two-page, three-column summary of risk management issues in six critical areas: 
   • Strategic risk
   • Operational risk
   • Financial risk
   • Knowledge risk
   • Compliance risk
   • Reputational risk

To manage strategic risk, 
Brown says that boards should conduct 
a full strategic planning process every three to five years 
and review and update the plan annually.

Contrast the absence of risk management board discussions with what ECFA President Dan Busby observed recently. In his presentation on “Financial Integrity Insights for Ministry Executives and Boards” at the Christian Leadership Alliance 2013 national conference, Busby shared a stunning best practice of one ECFA-accredited organization.

At each meeting, said Busby, this board invested a full hour on risk management issues. They first identified three or four possible risks and then broke into discussion groups in each corner of the room. They concluded the hour with a summary report from each discussion group with recommendations on possible next steps.

Brown writes, “One of the primary responsibilities of boards is to protect the interests of the organization’s owners. This involves being aware of the risks the organization faces and applying tools to limit the potential impact of these risks.”

He adds, “Eliminating all risks is not the goal because with no risk there is no return. Managing the risks is a key role of board members as they fulfill the discipline of protecting the owners’ interest.”

Many Christ-centered boards, in discerning the interest of the owners, have determined that God is the Owner of their ministries.  Thus, risk management for the board member/steward has significant consequences—both in this quarter and in eternity. 

QUESTION: How effective, and disciplined, is your board in assessing risk in these six categories?

Friday, May 17, 2013

S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Boards

I’m sure this isn’t a problem for your board—but please keep reading.

It’s possible that when a CEO’s work is more activity-driven than results-driven, it’s because the board also tilts towards activities—even very good activities. (Jim Collins said, “Good is the enemy of great.”)

But when a board sets goals for itself—and achieves those goals—it broadcasts to the CEO, the senior team, and the entire organization that “great” results are important.  And of course, Great Commission results are even more important.

I like to use the “S.M.A.R.T.” goals acronym.  Goals must be:

So what goals should a board set for itself? After consulting with a board several years ago, I recently received an encouraging update from the ministry’s CEO. He wrote:

“Our board has continued to implement your recommendations.  Here is some of what has been accomplished:
   • Gone from 20 board members to 13.
   • Gone from 10 committees to three committees.
   • Gone from no evaluation or accountability of board members to annual assessment and interview as term of service is coming to a close.
   • Gone from no role description or qualifications for board members to having both documents.
   • Gone from one-third of the board members not donating annually to 100 percent of board members being donors of record each year.”

Wow! Imagine now the influence the board has with the CEO, senior team, staff and volunteers. Goals were set. Goals were achieved. 

Why are goals so important? In Donald Rumself's new book, Rumsfeld's Rules: Leadership Lessons in Business, Politics, War, and Life, he writes, "If you don't know what your top three priorities are, you don't have priorities."

And by the way, which board (the old board or the rejuvenated board) has the greatest potential to see God’s work flourish?

I say five cheers for this board—and three cheers for S.M.A.R.T. goals for all boards!

QUESTION: What are the Top-3 Goals for your board this year?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Participant Hat: Hinting, Whining or Affirming?

In the hot-off-the-press ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles, the short DVD helps boards define and clarify their appropriate roles regarding the three board hats: Governance, Volunteer and Participant.

So what’s the Participant Hat?

The 20-page Board Member Read-and-Engage Viewing Guide (each toolbox includes 12 guides) says that boards must define those special events (including fundraising events, as detailed in board policies) that board members, and perhaps spouses, are expected to attend.

“The best boards communicate their Participant Hat expectations to current and new board members.”  Are expectations crystal clear for your board? 

Which Participant Hat scenario describes your board’s experience?

Scenario 1: Hinting.  A week before the work day or walk-a-thon, your CEO or board chair hints that it would be helpful if board members participated.

Scenario 2: Whining.  After the work day or walk-a-thon, your CEO or board chair whines that it would have been helpful if more board members had participated.

Scenario 3: Affirming.  At the beginning of each year, the Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement lists the Participant Hat “attendance-required events” and all board members affirm their high commitment to participate (or ask to be excused). 

 “Affirming is certainly favored over hinting and whining. For example, new board members should know—up front—if hosting a table of 10 at the fundraising dinner is a required Participant Hat event.  
"Glossing over their lack of advance planning, 
some CEOs and/or staff members 
often default to clever guilt tactics 
to prod board members into showing up. 

"That’s inappropriate and unfair—and hardly God-honoring!”

The solution is simple—and a downloadable template is included in the toolbox.

The viewing guide continues, “Board members should be informed, up front, of the organization’s realistic expectations regarding attendance at ministry events. Effective boards leverage a “Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement,” a document signed annually by both new and current members that spells out the specifics for all three hats. This annual affirmation also adds rich meaning to the spiritual calling of board service and inspires high commitment.”

Click here for more information on the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series:

  • Series No. 2: Balancing Board RolesUnderstanding the 3 Board Hats: Governance, Volunteer and Participant
  • Series No 1: Recruiting Board MembersLeveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement
QUESTION: Are the Participant Hat expectations crystal clear to all board members?