Friday, August 30, 2013

27 Years – 27 Board Chairs!

One of my mentors, George Duff, served 27 years as the president of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.  Imagine this—he served under 27 board chairs in 27 years!  We first met in the 1970s when he was an adult Sunday School teacher at the church we attended in the Seattle area. I quickly invited him onto the board of the Christian camp I served.

Through my ministry years, I stayed connected to George because his counsel was, and still is, always wise and laser-like. On his office wall at the Chamber, he featured an anonymous quotation which he repeated frequently:

“You never get to the point where everybody knows your story, where there is no more criticism. Remember, you are talking not to a crowd but to a parade that is changing all the time. You must communicate with all the marchers—young people are growing up, new people are assuming the burdens of the old, different people are moving into your area, even the same people are changing their thinking.”

Board members come and go. It's a parade.  Your new members didn't attend last year's new board member orientation.  Your new board members don't know your acronyms, your tribal stories, your annual S.M.A.R.T. goals, your strategy, or your sacred cows. (And they don't know that Hank has been sitting in that corner chair for 17 years! Don't sit in Hank's chair!)

Your next board chair is a new relationship. Last year's chair was an Analytical. Your new chair is a Driver. (Time to re-read the social styles book!) 

The next parade of board members will bring new insights, new wisdom and new dysfunctions. It's hard work bringing new people up-to-speed—but it's important work.

Judges 2:10 reports, “Eventually that entire generation died and was buried. Then another generation grew up that didn't know anything of God or the work he had done for Israel.” 

“Remember, you are talking not to a crowd but to a parade that is changing all the time.” George Duff conducted board chair orientation 27 times! Wow.

QUESTION: How will your inspire and remind your board members (and especially your board chair) to view their colleagues around the table as part of a parade, not a crowd? 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

6 Board Dysfunctions

I call them “delightful dysfunctions.” We all bring them into the boardroom. Some are eyebrow raising, others are so nuanced that—like the proverbial frog in the kettle—we learn to live with the dysfunction and it often takes a new board member's whispered question in the hallway to call it out. You've heard this one before:
“If it looks like a duck, 
swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, 
then it probably is a duck.”

We could add, 
“If you think that a particular 
board behavior is dysfunctional, 
and it quacks like it's dysfunctional, 
then it probably is dysfunctional.”

Here are six boardroom dysfunctions:
1) Board members arrive late and leave early—and no one says anything in the meeting or one-on-one with the offending board members.

2) “Spiritual discernment” is a foreign concept. The “spiritual” part of the board meeting is an opening prayer, a prayer at a meal, and a closing prayer (“Make it short—we're running late!”).

3) The board chair thinks she is the CEO's boss—and takes it upon herself to address all her pet peeves (few ever discussed at the board level).

4) New board members are welcomed to the board without vetting and with little if any due diligence and reference checking we would expect the CEO to exercise for new hires.

5) There is no written protocol that prevents staff members from going around the CEO to a board member—to either campaign or vent about an issue. Ditto on no protocol preventing board members from doing that in reverse.

6) “Policy governance” (or pick your board model flavor-of-the-year) becomes more important than mission achievement.  The i's are dotted. The t's are crossed. But no one has dusted off the mission statement in years and asked if your ministry is making a Kingdom impact.

Max De Pree, former chairman and CEO of Herman Miller, and former seminary board chair, said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”  So...Step 1: Define reality for your board.  Step 2: Deal with it!

QUESTION: What delightful dysfunctions are your board members bringing to your board process? 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The 6 D's: Donor

Martin Luther said, “There are three conversions necessary to every man; the head, the heart and the purse.” That's a key reminder behind this sixth and final blog on the “6 D's Criteria for Board Members” from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members. 

No. 6: Donor
Because Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, 
“Where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also,” 
this nominee is already a generous giver to our ministry. 
(Many organizations define “generous” as prioritizing your organization in the Top-3 of a person's annual giving. Board members at all income levels can be generous.) 

I can hear it already, “OK. Now you're meddling!”  

I've shared this principle with hundreds of board members—and interestingly—the first response is rarely, “Hmm. I wonder what giving guideline would be honoring to the Lord?” 

Instead, I often get severe push-back:

  • “Oh. So board service is now all about the money?”
  • “I give plenty of time. Why do I need to give money?
  • “But not everyone is wealthy. Not everyone can give money.”
  • “OK. I get it—but what about a policy that says, 'Give or Get X Amount?' Do I have to personally give it if I can raise the money somewhere else?”

Let's read the verse again. 
“Where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also.”

If this is your first encounter with this best practice (that many Christ-centered boards have adopted), at least take some time to discuss it, then reflect, pray and discern.  What would happen if you defined generous as “every board member prioritizing our organization in the Top-3 of his or her annual giving?”

  • Spiritually, this guideline aligns with Jesus' giving principle in Matthew.
  • Practically, why would you want someone on your board who has greater passion and gives more generously to three other ministries before your ministry?
  • Foundationally (excuse the pun), this demonstrates to major donors and foundations that your board is highly committed (a key factor as they consider grants).
  • Financially, this allows people at all income levels (single parents, younger leaders, and what some would call “wealthy” givers) to all meet the generosity mark—your ministry is in their Top-3 every year.

Caution! Don't spring this on your board. Plant some seeds. Quietly share the concept with a few first and invite them to move into the generous givers circle.  Then give time for all board members to move to that giving level, after you've established the guideline. (For some, it make take up to two years, depending on other commitments they have made.) Give generous grace!

QUESTION: Before we invite new people to consider board service, what is our giving guideline for board members?  For more on board giving, read R. Scott Rodin's novelette, The Third Conversion.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The 6 D's: Doer

How do you know if the board prospect you're interviewing has high moral character and will enhance the spiritual maturity of your board? That's the question behind one of the “6 D's” criteria from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members

No. 5: Doer
Walks the Talk!  Reference checks affirm a God-honoring lifestyle and character. Humble, prayerful, high integrity in all relationships. Affirms our statement of faith. 

James 1:22 (KJV) reads, “But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.”  That's the heart of this fifth criteria when discerning which candidates should be invited to join your board.

The Message (verses 22-24) makes this “doer” mandate even more practical: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.”

So how do you discern after one or two interviews if a board candidate walks the talk? 
  • Check references religiously.
  • Talk to the board prospect's pastor.
  • If she is in a small group, ask for permission to call a group member.
  • Speak to several close friends of the candidate.
  • And, in some cases (with permission). talk to his employer or employees.
Sure—it's hard work.  No one said board work is easy. But you expect your CEO to check references of future employees, so why do less for board candidates?  Board members, before God, are stewards of the entire ministry. 
Your decisions 
will have Kingdom impact.

When you do find a sterling candidate who walks the talk and honors God in every area of his or her life, you will be adding maturity and wisdom to your board. Doers of the Word add value!

QUESTION: Do you have a written pathway to the board that includes reference-checking? What questions do you ask others about a prospective board member?