Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don’t Be Overwhelmed!

This summer I’m featuring several “re-runs” of past blogs.  Last year on April 27, I related a story about “The Board and the Bachelor Farmer,” and I included this powerful verse from Matthew 10:42 (The Message):

Jesus said,
“This is a large work I’ve called you into,
but don’t be overwhelmed by it.
It’s best to start small.
Give a cool cup of water to someone
who is thirsty, for instance.
The smallest act of giving or receiving
makes you a true apprentice.
You won’t lose out on a thing.”

To read the encouraging story about the bachelor farmer and a board's faithfulness, click here.

QUESTION: Discuss these three words from Matthew 10:42: large, small, called.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Could I Fire You? No Problem!

I was in the last phase of what I call “dating a board prospect.” I had been cultivating Dan’s interest and engagement in the ministry I led for about 18 months.  Dan was also a good friend—but good friends don’t always make good board members.

So over dinner with Dan, and his wife, I’m ready to make the big ask—would he be open to serving on our board, if the Nominating Committee recommended him to the board?

Good news: Dan was willing to serve.

More good news: Dan’s wife affirmed his passion for the ministry.

“One last question, Dan.” I paused to be sure he would take time to think about it.

“We’re good friends. But it would be important to me that, if needed, in extenuating circumstances, the board had to fire me…”

Clearly, I was moving too slow for Dan and he didn’t even wait for me to finish my sentence, which would have been, “…if the board had to fire me, could you do that, irrespective of our friendship?”

As I said, Dan interrupted me half-way through my monologue: 
“Could I fire you, John?
No problem!”

I laughed. He laughed. And all was well.

One of more than 400 “
Rumsfeld Rules,” penned or borrowed by Donald Rumsfeld, reads:

“Never hire anyone
you can’t fire.”

Perhaps we need another rule: “Never recruit a friend to your board who values friendship more than doing the right thing.”

“Most of us are unknowingly selfish when it comes to friendship,” say Jerry and Mary White in their new book, To Be a Friend: Building Deep and Lasting Relationships. In their chapter on “Virtuous Friendship,” they pose an excellent discussion question: “[Discuss] the instances in which you have practiced virtuous friendship or been the recipient of a virtuous friendship.”

Should board members and CEOs invite close friends to serve with them on a ministry board?  I can’t answer that for you—but a virtuous, God-honoring friendship should be able to handle board work.  Certainly many acquaintances over the years have become close friends—as a result of the joys and turmoil of board service.

My response: No problem!

QUESTION: What are the upsides and downsides of inviting close friends to serve with you on a board of directors?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

85 Governance Questions and 85 Answers

Just when you think you have a handle on God-honoring governance, you discover you’ve muddled yourself into a lose/lose dilemma:

   • A board member doesn’t recognize a messy conflict of interest.
   • The CEO and senior team are encroaching on the board’s role.
   • The board is meddling and micromanaging in the staff’s role.
   • Neither the board nor the CEO is focused on governance.
   • (Add your issue here.)

What to do?  Sometimes, just knowing that other boards have experienced similar issues is therapeutic. So I recommend you surf through the 85 questions and answers in the 363-page resource, The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives (Third Edition), published by BoardSource.

Suggestion: bring the book to every board meeting—and pass it around the room.
It will be irresistible to your board members
in their search for proof texts!

When you scan the table of contents, dozens of relevant questions will jump off the page—and tempt you to read the crisp, well-written two- to four-page answers. While this is not a faith-based book the first edition was written by Ted Engstrom and Bob Andringa, evangelical Christian leaders who have mentored hundreds of Christian leaders in effective governance.

The 85 questions and answers are organized into seven sections:
   1. Basic Board Functions
   2. Board Structure
   3. Board Member Selection and Development
   4. Board and Committee Meetings
   5. The Board’s Role as a Fiduciary
   6. Board-Staff Relations
   7. Organizational Change

As you leverage the insights of this book, challenge your board members to then ask the next question: “Do we need to add anything to this answer that would more specifically speak to the core values of Christ-centered governance?” For example, "While competent in decision-making, are we also competent in spiritually discerning God’s direction for our future?"

QUESTION: What are the Top-3 sticky issues your board is facing—and does The Nonprofit Board Answer Book provide any answers?