Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More Annoying Boardroom Habits: Part 1 of 2

Good news: a client gave me a terrific book.  

Bad news: a client gave me this book!
   • What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: Discover the 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break, by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter (read my review)

And wow…this is one powerful, convicting book. Bestselling author Marshall Goldsmith says there are 20 workplace habits you need to break. He quotes Peter Drucker:
“We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do.
We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do.
They need to learn what to stop.”

Goldsmith agrees and then asks, “When was the last retreat or training session you attended that was titled, Stupid Things Our Top People Do That We Need to Stop Doing Now?

Mega-Warning!  The author—called the World’s #1 Leadership Thinker (pretty good branding)—says the problem for leaders is “not deep-seated neuroses that require years of therapy or tons of medication to erase. More often than not, they are simple behavioral tics—bad habits that we repeat dozens of times a day in the workplace—which can be cured by (a) pointing them out, (b) showing the havoc they cause among the people surrounding us, and (c) demonstrating that with a slight behavioral tweak we can achieve a much more appealing effect.”

Perceptively, Goldsmith identifies co-workers, bosses, volunteers and board members you know: “people who do one annoying thing repeatedly on the job—and don’t realize that this small flaw may sabotage their otherwise golden career.  And, worse, they do not realize that (a) it’s happening and (b) they can fix it.” 

(Okay—admit it. You’re thinking of a board member colleague right now!)

But here’s his asteroid-size attention-getter: smart, successful people are pitifully blind to their own tics. (If you agree, then insert your own Big Gulp here.)

The author says that the faulty behavior that messes up the workplace, the boardroom (and your home) is not due to flaws of skill, intelligence or personality. “What we’re dealing with here are challenges in interpersonal behavior, often leadership behavior.
They are the egregious everyday annoyances that make your workplace [and boardroom] substantially more noxious than it needs to be.  
They don’t happen in a vacuum. They are transactional flaws performed by one person against others.”

The 20 Workplace Habits You Need to Break include:
#1. Winning too much.
#2. Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
#3. Passing judgment.
#5. Starting with “No,” But,” or “However.” The overuse of these negative qualifiers which secretly says to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”

There are more—and we’ll mention several in Part 2 of 2.

For today, though, here are two questions:
• What is the protocol in your boardroom for addressing these issues?
• What is your plan for addressing your own annoying habits? (Reminder: we’re blind to our own blindness.)

Psalm 139:23-24 (The Message) is helpful:
"Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life." 

QUESTION: Do you have a board colleague you trust enough to ask, “What are some of my annoying boardroom habits?”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Boardroom Body Language

Here’s some empathy today for all the board chairs and CEOs who pray and prepare for effective board meetings—and sometimes drive home discouraged. Board members tell me they experience some or all of the following irritants in most meetings:

Unintentional Lack of Eye Contact. Sometimes, the room layout prevents eye contact with every board member—which impedes effective communication. (Long, narrow conference tables rarely facilitate robust conversations. Unless the table is named after a major donor, this has an easy fix—change rooms or change tables.)

Intentional Lack of Eye Contact. I say “intentional” because when a board member prioritizes his or her iPhone over his or her colleagues, it divides the room into two groups: 1) “We need a no device rule!” or 2) “Welcome to the 21st Century, Henrietta! Get over it!”

Folded Arms and Closed Heart. The oft-quoted research says that 93 percent of our communication is non-verbal. So when your favorite curmudgeon (the one that’s occupied the same chair location for 27 years) crosses his arms, whispers his patented “Harrumph!” and tunes out of the discussion—his non-verbal “no vote” poisons the discussion even before the vote is called for.

The answer to these under-the-table conflicts? Talk about it. 

You don’t need a committee. You don’t need to publish the 10 Commandments of Boardroom Protocol, but you can agree on the preferred culture you’d appreciate in your meetings. When you’re recruiting new board members (similar to recruiting staff), you’ll want to know—up front—if the candidate is in alignment with your culture. To do that, your culture needs to be crystal clear.

Usually, you don’t need to elevate irritants to the Matthew 18 level—but the standard is still a good one. Peacemaker® Ministries, an ECFA-accredited member, has a helpful “4 G” approach to conflict resolution. The first is “Glorify God.”  The second “G” is “Get the log out of your own eye.”

They add: “One of the most challenging principles of peacemaking is set forth in Matthew 7:5, where Jesus says, ‘You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’

“There are generally two kinds of ‘logs’ you need to look for when dealing with conflict. First, you need to ask whether you have had a critical, negative, or overly sensitive attitude that has led to unnecessary conflict. One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time meditating on Philippians 4:2-9, which describes the kind of attitude Christians should have even when they are involved in a conflict.”

Suggestion: Visit Peacemaker® Ministries for all four “G’s” and share these at your next board meeting. May God bless your work, your words and your non-verbal body language!

QUESTION: When is the last time you’ve talked about boardroom protocol and culture with your board?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fist Fights Over Mission Statements!

Recently a CEO asked me to resolve a verbal fist fight over the ministry’s mission statement. In their strategic planning process, some members of the management team voiced a strong difference of opinions. I assured this in-the-trenches leader that this was a good thing! 

Patrick Lencioni has noted that the reason most meetings (including board meetings, I’ll add) are so boring is because there is not enough conflict. For more on this, read his chapter, “The Centrality of Great Meetings” in The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. Lencioni calls bad meetings “the birthplace of unhealthy organizations.”

But back to the question about mission statements. I encouraged this CEO to evaluate the oomph and the caliber of the mission statement several ways:

• At least annually, when the board assesses organizational effectiveness and ministry results, does the mission statement give guidance for evaluating the organization’s trajectory? What ministry results should be measured? If the mission statement is too lofty, it serves no one. (However, vision statements—what an organization strives to be—are often lofty.) Ultimately, the board, not the management team, must land on a mission statement.

• As Tami Heim, president and CEO of Christian Leadership Alliance asked recently—does the mission engage you emotionally? She writes:

“In a 2013 interview I conducted with Wess Stafford, former CEO of Compassion International, we talked about Compassion’s mission. Wess explained,
‘When you share your mission and it doesn’t move you to tears in the first 90 seconds, you need to get out of the way. You need to resign. Yes resign, so the organization can find a leader who has a passion worthy of the call.’”

First, of course, you need a board-affirmed mission statement that grabs you by the throat. When sorted out through a robust spiritual discernment process, the mission statements of Christ-centered organizations often ooze with a sense of the Holy!

Bottom line: we waste a lot of staff time and board time on meaningless strategic planning busy work. But—reshaping the mission statement, if needed, is a high priority endeavor. If you don’t get it right, you’ll never have high commitment on anything else. 

QUESTION: Does your ministry’s mission statement guide the core decisions of your board? Do all board members know the mission statement by memory?