Thursday, March 31, 2016

Just Do 1 Thing a Month!

In the hallway, board members often grimace and admit to me, “I don’t think I’m doing enough as a board member—but I’m not sure how I can be of more help. I don’t want to micro-manage, or assume a staff position. I just wish there was more clarity about the expectations of my role on the board
in between meetings.”

Good news! A board member recently shared a brilliant solution to this dilemma.

I was consulting with a ministry board at their annual weekend retreat, and a new board member made a presentation based on his expertise in his day job—he’s the senior vice president of advancement for a major state university. In addition to sharing the latest trends in giving, what motivates givers, and how to grow giving, he shared this insight with his new board colleagues:

Every month, he said, he contacts the institution's board of directors and reminds them:
“Just do one thing a month 
for our university!”

University board members have the grocery list of ways they can inspire, influence and impact other people for the university’s important mission. 

Your ministry’s list of “Just Do 1 Thing” will be unique to your cause—but it might include these ideas:

Just Do 1 Thing a Month: The List
[  ] Set up a lunch meeting with a prospective giver and the CEO.
[  ] Invite a colleague to a ministry event.
[  ] Open a door at a family foundation.
[  ] Host a prayer gathering for our ministry.
[  ] Pray and then send a sacrificial gift.
[  ] Call current major givers to say thanks for their faithfulness.
[  ] Other: ___________________________________
[  ] _________________________________________

Imagine the clarity and confidence you’ll create when your board members know that if they do just one thing a month for your ministry—on the development side—they will have a sense of “I’m being faithful.”

And speaking of clarity, be sure that you distinguish between the board member’s three hats (Governance, Volunteer, Participant) when establishing “Just Do 1 Thing a Month” expectations. (For help, order the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 2: Balancing Board Roles.)

Matthew 25:23 reads, “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’” (NLT)

QUESTION: Are your expectations for board members crystal clear—so everyone knows when to celebrate a board member’s faithfulness?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tame the Advice Monster!

Quick! Read this new book before your next board meeting!

“Tame the advice monster,” urges Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of the hot-off-the-press book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. (Read my review here.)

The author notes, “We’ve all got a deeply ingrained habit of slipping into the advice-giver/expert/answer-it/solve-it/fix-it mode.” (One study revealed that doctors interrupt patients with advice within 18 seconds. Ditto, perhaps, the rest of us in the boardroom!)

Slow down and take a breath, says Stanier. “Even though we don’t really know what the issue is, we’re quite sure we’ve got the answer they need.”

Oh, my.  This is brilliant counsel for the boardroom, isn’t it? When your CEO poses a difficult question to the board—how often do you (and your board colleagues) jump in with the first fix that comes to mind?

(And we should note: most CEOs only give boards their most difficult problems. The easy challenges never make it to the board agenda. Welcome to the board!)

So how do you tame the advice monster?  Stanier says you must ask “The Best Coaching Question in the World.” I’m guessing that few board members see themselves as coaches. We’re advice givers. That’s why we’re on the board, right?

The Coaching Habit lists seven essential coaching questions:
   • The Kickstart Question
   • The AWE Question
   • The Focus Question
   • The Foundation Question
   • The Lazy Question
   • The Strategic Question
   • The Learning Question

Stanier says the best coaching question in the world is the AWE question:
“And What Else?”

At a workshop recently, led by the author, I was in a four-minute exercise with another board chair. I was instructed to ask four questions displayed on the seminar room screen. Stanier says “the first answer someone gives you is almost never the only answer, and it’s rarely the best answer,” so the AWE question is the perfect follow-up.
   • Q1: What’s the real challenge here for you?
   • Q2: And what else?
   • Q3: And what else?
   • Q4: So what’s the real challenge here for you?

In just four minutes—it was almost magical. I stuck to the bargain (whew—very hard) and just asked questions of my board chair partner. He responded to each question—and increasingly, in response to “And what else?” he dug deeper and deeper and—BINGO!—answered his own question and solved his own challenge.

What if the next time your CEO posed a prickly problem to your board, you put on your coaching hat—while humbling your advice-giving tongue—and then simply responded, “And what else?”

Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23 (Amplified Bible), “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

QUESTIONS: At your board meetings, are you an advice-giving monster—or a thoughtful, prayerful listener? Should we order several copies of The Coaching Habit and ask for a book review at our next board meeting?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Board Service Word Association Game

What’s the first word that comes to mind when a colleague or family member asks you, “What’s it like to serve on that board?”

Pick one:
   • Joy
   • Irksome
   • Boring
   • Inspiring
   • Fulfilling
   • Fun
   • Fruitful
   • Encouraging
   • Discouraging
   • (Other):

What’s your word?

My dad served a few terms on the deacon board at our church. I don’t ever recall his post-board meeting commentaries being joyful. Did your parents serve on church or ministry boards? How would they describe board meetings? Are you serving on a board today because of a parent or older mentor who paved a positive path for you?

As a young CEO of what is now called Christian Camp and Conference Association (CCCA), I was blessed with remarkable board members, and especially board chairs. I remember looking forward to board meetings. 

One of my board chairs in the 1980s, Bob McDowell, had a rich blend of both pastoral and practical gifts. He told us that at the board meetings of Warm Beach Camp and Conference Center (where he served as CEO), he projected the mission statement on the wall—so all decision-making would be in alignment with their mission. That helped our association board fine-tune our mission and stay focused on our vision.

Fast forward to 2016. Bob’s son, Ed McDowell, is now the CEO at Warm Beach and also chairs the national board of CCCA. Ed, I’m sure, saw joy in his dad’s board service, and he joyfully accepted the leadership and board baton. Today, Ed is creating a ripple effect of board service fruitfulness—locally, nationally, and internationally.

This past month when Ed and I were facilitating a board enrichment process for 12 ministries, I learned a new governance term from him: “heavy lifting.” The Warm Beach board meets three times a year (including a board retreat). “Heavy Lifting” or “Work that Matters,” notes Ed, “gets the prime energy of the day. In our 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. agenda, heavy lifting will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon.”

The board wants their best energy (mornings) to be focused on the big agenda items for that meeting. Here’s a bonus idea from Ed. The Warm Beach board uses this sequence in their heavy lifting sessions:
   • Context
   • Draft Recommendation
   • Discussion
   • Refine or Refer Back (to committee, staff, or task force)
   • Approve If Ready

“Heavy lifting” was a new board term for me—and, as I reflected on this, it was a double blessing.  Bob McDowell mentored me on joyful board service and now I’m learning even more from his son, Ed.

QUESTION: Does your board service inspire other family members (sons, daughters, nieces and nephews) to invest their lives in Christ-centered board work? What are they learning from you about growing healthy boards?