Wednesday, August 31, 2016

10 Organizational Dangers—Caution If You Check 3 or More

Here’s a quick gut-check for your next board meeting. According to Ted Engstrom (1916-2006), who retired as president of World Vision in 1987, some organizations often begin with a man [or woman], become a movement, develop into a machine, and eventually become a monument.

If your board checks at least three of the 10 organizational dangers listed here, there may be trouble looming, said Engstrom. Does your ministry:
   [  ] Settle for the status quo?
   [  ] Eliminate creative tensions?
   [  ] Fail to plan in depth?
   [  ] Fail to listen?
   [  ] Depend on past successes?
   [  ] Depend on personal experience?
   [  ] Neglect the highest good?
   [  ] Forget unity?
   [  ] Lose the joy of service?
   [  ] Forget the bottom line?

To drill down further, Engstrom lists 10 questions that relate to the 10 dangers. He adds, “Note that none of them are bad in themselves. In fact, they may be very good. However, if you check three or more of these as being characteristic of your organization, perhaps it is time to evaluate. Perhaps you have already succumbed to some of the dangers we have outlined above.”

Ted Engstrom’s “Danger Ahead” Checklist

[  ] Our organization chart hasn't changed in the past 12 months. 
[  ] I haven't been faced by a new creative idea in the past two weeks. 
[  ] We have no way of measuring the quality of our programs against a set of standards. 
[  ] Most of our executives are 50 or over. [I would add: Most of our board members are 50 or over.]
[  ] There is a great sense of satisfaction in the organization and all that God has accomplished through the organization in the past. 
[  ] Most of the leaders of the organization have a real sense of being on top of their jobs. 
[  ] Few of the leaders in our organization are what one would call real Bible students. 
[  ] The average person in our organization would question whether we have true biblical unity. 
[  ] Most of our leaders think that the primary function of leadership is to lead.
[  ] We seldom ask the question as to whether the ministry we are performing is there for the primary purpose of honoring God.  

For more, read Chapter 29, “Understanding the Dangers,” in The Essential Engstrom: Proven Principles of Leadership, by Ted W. Engstrom (Timothy J. Beals, Editor).

QUESTION: What one danger should be addressed in the next 90 days?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat: Part 2

In my last blog, I noted that BoardSource has just released a jam-packed treasure chest of ideas and insight, Board Book Essentials: Checklists + Infographics + Topic Papers + Guides+ Tools + Templates

The 136-page PDF (free to BoardSource members only) includes six “how-to” pages for your next board retreat. So my here’s the second installment of my “Top-10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat.”

#5. Reporting. All talk—with no note-taking—will challenge even the best brains on your board. For at least half of your retreat sessions, divide the board into small groups of three or four people each. Appoint a recorder and reporter.  While the reporter shares verbally, the all-important reporter summarizes the wisdom of each small group session and delivers the written findings to a designated person. All notes are then summarized in one document and shared at the next board meeting for a consensus/prioritization exercise. Avoid all talk and no note-taking!

#4. Reflecting. The best boards pull the best thinking out of each participant—and bullet point the good stuff on flip charts. But…wait! There’s no need to rush into decision-making mode. Let the ideas simmer. Pray. Reflect. Discern. If possible, wait for your next board meeting to move ahead on the big ideas—so everyone has had a chance to think and reflect. (The Analyticals on your board will appreciate having time to think.) Avoid jumping to conclusions—before you’ve had time to reflect.

#3. Reversing. Need new ideas for an old program? According to Army intelligence, there are nine principal ways to change a subject. A 56-card creativity tool, Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, uses the acronym, S.C.A.M.P.E.R., to describe the nine approaches:
    • Substitute something.
    • Combine it with something else.
    • Adapt something to it.
    • Modify or Magnify it.
    • Put it to some other use.
    • Eliminate something.
    • Reverse or Rearrange it.
Avoid the tendency to operate in the same old/same old mode. Maybe God is calling you to something new.

#2. Relating. Perhaps the greatest value of getting your board away from the wired rat race is to give them time to build relationships. Many board retreats include spouses, with selected sessions for both board members and spouses. (I frequently facilitate a StrengthsFinder exercise and encourage the board to leverage each person’s “3 Powerful S’s: Strengths, Spiritual Gifts, and Social Styles.”)

According to the Harvard Business Review article, “What Makes Great Boards Great,” the author says, “It’s not rules and regulations. It’s the way people work together.” And you can only learn to work together when you spend time with each other. Avoid those jam-packed schedules and tight meal times that leave little room for growing relationships.

#1. Renewing. At board retreats, I frequently hear these typical responses from board members who agreed to participate, but with great reluctance:
    • “Oh, my. That last half-hour of quiet time for us to reflect and discern was golden. That never happens in our board meetings.”
    • “This has been so helpful. Reviewing the job description of a board member was a great reminder (and a wake-up call)! And I will step up my giving—this month!”
    • “I need to interrupt—and ask you to pray for me. Right now, I’m sensing that the Lord is speaking to me about perhaps applying for that open staff position. Whew! I’m overwhelmed and need your prayer.”
Avoid low expectations! When you build in time for prayer and reflection—expect God to meet your need, often in surprising and exhilarating ways!

QUESTION: Who needs to review these 10 board retreat mistakes—as part of the planning process for your next retreat?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat: Part 1

BoardSource has just released a jam-packed treasure chest of ideas and insights, Board Book Essentials: Checklists + Infographics + Topic Papers + Guides + Tools + Templates

The 136-page PDF (available only to BoardSource members) includes boardroom “discussion starters,” dozens of board topics and helpful reference materials, including two glossaries (14 pages) of governance terms, board leadership terms, and financial terms.

If you’re planning a board retreat this year, you’ll appreciate the six “how-to” pages covering:
   • Why have a retreat?
   • What topics should we address?
   • Where should we host our retreat?
   • When should we host our retreat?
   • Who should be involved in our retreat?
   • And 11 tips on what to do, and what not to do at a board retreat.

I’ve enjoyed (and endured) my fair share of board retreats over the years. In reflecting on the best and the worst, the BoardSource resource prompted me to write this board retreat list for Christ-centered organizations:

Top-10 Mistakes to Avoid at Your Next Board Retreat

#10. Preaching. As Christ-followers, we all share one common methodology—the weekly sermon. Board retreats, however, do not need sermons. Instead, use the away-from-the-routine setting to engage every board member in reflection, spiritual discernment, and discussion. Skip the talking heads and ask your facilitator to bring out the best in each board member.

#9. Protocol. When senior team members are invited to participate in the board retreat, ensure that the protocol is clear between the staff, the CEO, and board members. Insist that direct reports to the CEO do not conduct “end runs” around the CEO—and share information and opinions that have not been shared first with the CEO. Ditto for board members: they should avoid inappropriate conversations with senior team members about the CEO. Use your annual 360 for that fact-finding process.

#8. Prayer. In an unhurried, relaxed environment of a retreat setting, don’t miss the opportunity to invest significant amounts of time in prayer together. Praying only when scheduled to pray: Big Mistake. Instead, pray as a group. Pray in small groups. Pray in groups of two. Pray when you sense the Holy Spirit’s nudge. Pray without ceasing. 

Corrie ten Boom once asked,

“Is prayer your steering wheel
or your spare tire?” 

#7. Planning. While not every board retreat must involve strategic planning, a retreat is the perfect time for the annual look back and bold look forward. The most common mistake, however, is the expectation from less experienced board members that an entire strategic planning process can be completed in one board retreat. When you fast track the agenda, and minimize the spiritual discernment process, you’ll get what you paid for.

#6. Popcorn! While you’ll want to steward your time well, don’t forget to have fun food and fun times. (I call it hoopla!) Invite board members to complete the online StrengthsFinder assessment—and ask your facilitator to plan a session on leveraging board member strengths. You'll have fun comparing those with "Harmony" strengths to those with "Activator" strengths.

If working on your strategic plan, divide into teams and role play a preferred ministry outcome that could happen five years from now. Put some of your more expressive board members on stage (Expressives love the stage!) and they’ll create many funny and memorable moments.

Stay tuned for five more board retreat mistakes in the next blog.

QUESTION: Could a well-executed board retreat help enrich our relationships, our planning, our dependence on God, and our trust factor with the senior team?