Friday, September 27, 2013

Encouragement: Oxygen to the Soul

At a recent board meeting, the CEO asked a provocative question:
“How can you tell if a guy 
(or gal) needs encouragement?”

Answer: “He’s breathing!”

I’m using that one in a PowerPoint next week. It’s brilliant and profound! 

Not every CEO, not every board member, has the spiritual gift of encouragement—but every CEO and board member needs encouragement!

So effective boards are always looking for potential board members who are encouragers. According to Bruce Bugbee, the spiritual gift of encouragement is “the divine enablement to present truth so as to strengthen, comfort or urge to action those who are discouraged or wavering in their faith.”

Today, for a moment, let’s just set aside the dozens of demands that boards and CEOs are facing—and just remind ourselves that a little encouragement goes a long ways.  My friend Bob Kelly included these gems on encouragement in his handsome coffee table book, The Best of Success: A Treasury of Inspiration.  Share them at your next board meeting:

• “We should seize every opportunity to give encouragement. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. The days are always dark enough. There is no need for us to emphasize the fact by spreading further gloom.” (George Matthew Adams)

• “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be—not what you nag them to be.” (Scudder N. Parker)

 “A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

There are dozens of ways to encourage your CEO and your board members: birthday cards, notes to spouses, Starbucks gift cards, phone calls, completing assignments early, arriving at meetings early to leverage relational time, answering emails within 24 hours, prayer, high fives for faithfulness. (You can add to the list.)

A friend of mine just blessed-the-socks-off a pastor and his wife by giving them a week's vacation in Hawaii, including airfare. Wow! That's encouragement!

Not every person appreciates the same kind of encouragement—so become a student of your CEO and your board members and bless them with customized encouragement.  

“So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.” (I Thessalonians 5:11, The Message)

QUESTION: How can your board be more intentional about encouraging your CEO?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Micromanaging Board Members: Ego Satisfaction?

Have you ever considered that a board member's temptation to micromanage might be related to ego satisfaction? At the heart of Christ-centered governance is the heart—not policies, organizational charts, strategic plans or cool logos. Let me explain. 

A week doesn't fly by without a CEO or board member calling or emailing me: “How do I inspire board members to focus on policy and the big stuff versus micromanaging the operational stuff?”

William Bowen, former Princeton University president says, 
“Finding the appropriate balance 
between executive authority and board oversight 
is more likely to require strengthening the hand of the CEO 
than building up the powers of the board.”  

I recently discovered that insight and other savvy one-liners in a helpful book, Policy vs. Paper Clips: How Using the Corporate Model Makes a Nonprofit Board More Efficient & Effective (3rd Edition), by Eugene H. Fram with Vicki Brown. (Click on the title for my full  review.)

Much of what happens in the boardroom (nonprofit and corporate) is highly dysfunctional (perhaps even sinful?). In my opinion, 
most governance fuzziness 
emanates from unvoiced assumptions 
about the board's role and the CEO's role
—and perhaps, competing egos.

Role clarity should always prompt a discussion about governance models: the Hands-on model, John Carver's Policy Governance model, the Board Policies Manual tool, and other options.  

Fram's book—with a very unique writing style—will help clarify board roles and responsibilities. The author begins with the key question: what's Job #1 for a board? 

He says the most important job of the board is “to find the best possible person to manage the organization, then stand back and let that person manage.” Fram has more wisdom:

“Volunteer directors who micromanage their agencies are, in blunt terms, cost centers for nonprofits, since they affect staff time so dramatically.” (Preach it!)

“Good governance helps eliminate the many hidden costs associated with pursuing activities that have nothing to do with the organization's purpose.” (Amen!)

“Your board should not be primarily focused on outcomes 
(e.g. success of specific programs) but concerned more 
about assessing the 'impacts' of those outcomes.”

Fram adds, “Separating operational and policy issues is more complicated than it sounds.” 

He mentions two board sins, analysis paralysis and rubber-stamping. His solution? Use the “Corporate Model” to focus the board on policy, not operations.  The book's format: a quick-reading email dialogue between two friends eliminates the typical boring governance book rhetoric (yada, yada, yada) and replaces the blue sky stuff with in-the-trenches, to-the-point conversation and thoughtful next steps.  

In one email exchange, the rookie board member asks, “We also need more information about how to keep board members truly involved without the ego satisfaction that often comes from dealing with operational issues.”'s my question again: Have you ever considered that a board member's temptation to micromanage might be related to ego satisfaction? 

In the powerful book, Master Leaders: Revealing Conversations With 30 Leadership Greats, by George Barna with Bill Dallas, they quote Miles McPherson: “One way to get a healthy culture is to hire healthy people.” We would add, 
“One way to get a healthy board 
is to recruit healthy people.” 

The Four Spiritual Laws (now Would You Like to Know God Personally?) describe this fork-in-the-road issue: “self is on the throne” versus “Christ is on the throne” of your life. You want the latter on your board.

QUESTION: What drives your board's actions: ego satisfaction from micromanaging or ensuring that Christ is on the throne for each board member—and then, as a group, spiritually discerning his voice?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Last Time We Evaluated Our CEO? How About Never!

It's time to demystify the board's role in evaluating the CEO.

When I ask board members or CEOs about the annual performance review of the CEO, the reluctant responses run the continuum:

  • “We did a review three years ago, but it didn't go well.”
  • “The Board Policies Manual says the Governance Committee should conduct the annual evaluation—but no one knows how to do it.”
  • “Our board chair takes the CEO out for lunch—and uses the annual review forms from her company's HR department.”
  • “We pray for our CEO and speak the truth in love, but we don't have a formal process.”

Every governance resource lists some variation of “supporting and evaluating the CEO” as one of the primary responsibilities of a well-functioning board.  Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards: The Companion Workbook, published by BoardSource, suggests, 
“The annual review should be a formal, written process that centers primarily on the annual goals mutually and previously 
agreed upon by your board and the chief executive.”

Aha! That's the reason so many boards fail to conduct annual evaluations of their CEOs—no annual goals!  

Try this pop quiz at your next board meeting: “OK, everyone stand.  I have a Starbucks card for the last board member standing.  Now...if you can name two of our CEO's annual S.M.A.R.T. goals that are written, approved by the board, and recorded in our minutes...remain standing.”
Trust me—the last person standing will be you, 
and you will keep the Starbucks card.

So what to do?  If you're not already annually evaluating CEO performance, agree on the process. Consult the literature on why and how, including Rebekah Burch Basinger's excellent six-page resource for theological schools, “The Board's Responsibility for Evaluating the President.”  Then ensure that the agreed-upon goals meet the S.M.A.R.T. test: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related.

Basinger suggests a four-step process: 1) Establish a committee to manage the presidential evaluation, 2) Set criteria for the evaluation, 3) Gather input, and 4) Discuss the findings with the president (in a face-to-face meeting, followed by a written review and summary).

She adds, 
“The best evaluations encourage presidents 
to think deeply about their own vocational satisfaction.”

Imagine a board that thoughtfully and prayerfully, in a God-honoring way, encourages, supports and blesses the CEO with helpful and frank feedback—so he or she will leverage their God-given strengths, spirituals gifts and leadership style to the glory of God and Kingdom advancement!

QUESTION: What is your board's process for annually evaluating your CEO?