Tuesday, November 18, 2014

“We Don’t Eliminate—We Help Our Competition”

“We do not try to eliminate our competition. In contrast we try to help other Christ-centered organizations.”

That’s just one of exactly 1,300 comments received in the recent ECFA governance survey in response to this question: “If you agree that there are important distinctives of Christ-centered governance, please list one or two.”

CEOs, board chairs and board members shared their insights:

• “We interpret current information with the question, ‘What is God doing?’"
• “Decisions and discussions need to be within the context of seeking God's agenda as opposed to merely bottom line or goal-oriented thinking, decisions.”
• “Prayer—constant and continuing, both in and outside board meetings. Our board prays together for a half-hour via telephone each Tuesday morning.”

The perspectives were diverse—and prayer and spiritual discernment was a common theme:

• “Christ-centered boards are required to take certain steps of faith, whereas secular boards tend to be driving solely by numbers.”
• "Prayer: our board bathes the meetings, the staff, our plans, and decisions in prayer.  I've never served on a secular board that used prayer in this manner.”
• "We exist for primarily spiritual values.”
• “Living out those values is critical to being a board member."
• “Biblical conflict resolution (commitment to Matthew 18)”
• “The board members spend time in prayer on difficult issues.”
• “The board references scripture to address many issues.”
•  “Devoting significant time—maybe 25%—to hearing a [devotional challenge], personal checking in and prayer, before diving into agenda."
"Scheduled interruptions for prayer.”

Several board members pushed back a bit:

• “I think if the individual members are Christ-centered there isn't much difference.” 
• “While I disagree with that statement, my experience tells me that a Christ-centered board obviously has Christ at the center of the mission and the standard for conduct is based on scripture truths, but a secular board also has the adherence to fiduciaries of honesty, efficiency and performance that mandate effectiveness.”

To get the flavor of all 35 comments (out of 1,300) featured in the 62-page executive summary of the survey (pages 6 to 8), download the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey (click here).  More insights:  

• “There is a missiological context for a Christian organization. How the Trinity achieves its goals and mission directly relates to how we do the same. How God does His mission matters in how we do ours.”
• "Always mindful of what Christ wants through prayer and fasting.”
• “We measure success by biblical standards."
• "We don't have to be sensitive to political correctness. We are obligated to be Biblically-sensitive and honoring."

And my favorite:
“We use the Bible
as a plumb line, 
and value gracious ‘other-centered’ 
relationships at meetings”

QUESTION: At your next board meeting, ask your board members to first write down their response to this question: “Are there important distinctives between how a ‘secular’ board governs and how a ‘Christ-centered’ board governs? Then, ask board members to share what they wrote with the full board.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Board Chairs Sound Off on CEO Issues

“What is the most challenging issue you face when working with your CEO?” 

According to board chairs—they don’t meet often enough with their organization’s CEO. That and other responses from board chairs are noted in the ECFA 3rd Annual Nonprofit Governance Survey. It’s available as a download to ECFA-accredited organizations and subscribers. (Click here.)  

The responses were categorized into five major areas:
• 25.4%: Insufficient Time for Board Chair/CEO Mtgs. (and Distance)
• 20.8%: CEO Leadership Issues, Management Styles, & Organizational Health
• 17.7%: Vision/Strategy, Priorities & Measurement
• 16.2%: Board Functions & Board Roles
• 10.0%: Communication & Timely Information/Reports

Another 10% of the board chairs reported that they had no challenging CEO issues at this time. Here’s a sample from pages 24-29 in the survey report:

ISSUE: Insufficient Time for Board Chair/CEO Meetings (and Distance)

  • “Distance, time and differing personality types. Only our love in Christ makes it possible.”
  • "Taking the time to meet with the CEO one-on-one on a regular basis.”
  • “Keeping current on status of ministry when we meet only a few times per year.”
  • “Finding time to support him.”
  • “We really work well together.  Maybe the biggest issue is me making more time to spend with the CEO.”

ISSUE: CEO Leadership Issues, Management Styles, & Organizational Health

  • “The CEO likes to micro-manage issues and finds it difficult to accept that other board members are competent to handle issues without her constant input.”
  • “The CEO is a visionary so sometimes it is difficult to make concrete plans.”
  • “Encouraging more aggressiveness.”
  • “Because of personality differences, we sometimes view things differently. However, it is never a show stopper.”
  • “Personality style: I am direct; he prefers indirect, especially with criticism.”
  • “CEO, to lead well, must be positive. The challenge is that ‘being positive’ can mask reality when reality must be faced (or truly known). We tend toward ‘overly positive’ and need to push hard to get to understanding reality sometimes.”

Note this insight from Boards That Lead:
“Most chief executives are constitutionally optimistic, and since by definition their role is to surmount challenges, the tenor they bring into the boardroom is likely to be relentlessly upbeat. Taking executive overassurance into account will aid directors in detecting nascent troubles ahead, but it is only one piece of a very complicated puzzle.”
(See Chapter 8, “Spotting, Catching, or Exiting a Falling CEO” in Boards That Lead: When to Take Charge, When to Partner, and When to Stay Out of the Way, by Ram Charan, Dennis Carey and Michael Useem.)

ISSUE: Vision/Strategy, Priorities and Measurements

  • “Keeping the CEO focused on priority issues.”
  • “Trying to determine pitfalls.  Focus is usually on what is more important at the time.”
  • “Getting her to focus on CEO tasks to keep her from dipping into the daily operations.”
  • “I believe all goals should be measurable and I have some trouble with getting that accomplished. However we have just started the idea of every program should have measurable goals, or the program will not be approved until those goals have been clearly defined with strategies for evaluating their success.”
  • “Focus on what's important vs. what's urgent; delegating, communication and follow through.”
  • “Keeping him from taking on too many new ministries/projects before completing the current ones.”

ISSUE: Board Functions and Board Roles

  • “I am very blessed to have a great personal relationship with the CEO.  It is never ‘enjoyable’ to deliver tough feedback, but know it must be done.  Fortunately, he is very receptive and allows me the freedom to speak what we, as a board, see as important feedback.”
  • “Performance evaluation.”
  • “Constructive criticism and correction.”
  • “Encouraging underperforming board members to improve.”

ISSUE: Communication and Timely Information/Reports

  • “Getting written reports in a timely manner.”
  • “Communication: to understand the issues at the same level as the CEO so I can make informed and intelligent recommendations.”
  • “The CEO does not want to communicate with board members because so many disagree with him leaving me in between in major disagreements.”

QUESTION: What is the most challenging issue you face when working with your CEO--and have you talked with him or her about this issue?