Saturday, December 31, 2016

What Will You Measure in 2017?

Max De Pree reminds board members in his 91-page gem, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board, that “a good board will measure the appropriate inputs as well as the outputs. Failure to measure what matters damages our future.”

If you don’t have this quick-reading book for board members, buy it or download it. We’ll be dipping into this book regularly in 2017.

Reading Called to Serve this year reminded me again how elegantly De Pree discusses results in all of his books, especially Leading Without Power: Finding Hope in Serving Community, especially in chapter four, “What Shall We Measure?” 

Today—the last day of the year—is the perfect time to assess what you measured this past year and what your board plans to measure in 2017. Heed De Pree’s wisdom:

“In my experience a failure to make a conscious decision about what it is we’re going to measure often causes discombobulation and a lack of effectiveness and a lack of achievement.”

“Yet measurement is essential in an organization for several reasons.  It’s directly connected to the way an organization can mature and grow. And it directly affects whether or not we’re going to reach our potential—how close we’re going to come to our potential. The idea of measurement in an organization is also directly connected to the whole concept of renewal, one of the essential ingredients of which is abandonment.  What are we going to give up? What are we going to abandon? None of us have unlimited resources.”

“The task of stating just exactly what to measure falls to the leaders in organizations. It’s not an easy job, and finding what to measure won’t happen automatically.”

“Broadly speaking we can begin by thinking about how we measure inputs and outputs. The Soviet Union believed that in many cases managers should be rewarded with bonuses based on input. If you were running a shoe factory, your bonus as a manager was based on how much leather, how many nails, how many pounds of glue entered the process. If all the shoes came out for left feet, well, that was too bad. Nobody cared—except, of course, the people who needed the shoes.

He continues, “If you made furniture, your bonus was calculated on the how many board feet of lumber entered the plant, not on how many chairs came out. A strange system. We should be surprised not that it disintegrated but that it lasted as long as it did.”

De Pree adds, “It’s so easy to fall into the trap of measuring only what’s easy to measure.”  Then he suggests you measure the “tone of the body” in your organization. Not easy—but he gives you clues on how to do it, like gauging a team’s sense of urgency. Good stuff!

As your board considers what to measure next year (perhaps you’ve already done it), invest time also in spiritually discerning God’s direction for the ministry. As John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.”

QUESTION: As you measure outputs and outcomes, are your board members, board chair, CEO, and senior team members all on the same page?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Language of Christmas Gifting

What’s an appropriate gift for board members to give their CEOs at Christmas? Should the CEO thank the board chair with a special Christmas gift? What kind of gift would all board members appreciate?

Caution! One size doesn’t fit all!

A few years ago, while facilitating a “360 annual review” of a ministry’s CEO, I asked the executive committee, “What is your CEO’s love language?”

You’ve probably read Gary Chapman’s bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages (more than 11 million copies sold). He reminds us that one size doesn’t fit all when he describes the five love languages:
     Receiving Gifts
     Acts of Service
     Words of Affirmation
     Physical Touch
     Quality Time
The problem: we tend to love others in the language we prefer. So if my love language is “Receiving Gifts,” I erroneously assume that my spouse, my grandkids—and fellow board members—all prefer receiving gifts, instead of (for example) acts of service. Wrong!

Back to my story…the executive committee had a helpful discussion on their CEO’s preferred love language—and it heightened their awareness of how to bless their leader.

Likewise, CEOs must become students of their board chairs and their board members. One generic Christmas gift—one love language—won’t cut it. Thoughtful gifts take time and creativity.

Boards Chairs and Board Members: for more on this, read “Nice Farewell Dinner, But Where’s My Plaque?” about a well-meaning board that didn’t know their CEO’s love language.

CEOs: for a creative way to express appreciation, read “Forget the Plaques!” about a very meaningful gift given to a retiring board chair.

I hope you will receive at least one Christmas gift this year in your preferred love language! And this reminder: the Gospels are filled with creative and amazing ways Jesus customized his message in the love language of every person he met. Amazing encounters!

QUESTION: At your next board meeting, ask each board member, “What is your love language?”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Are You More Like the Queen or the Valet?

This week as I was reflecting on the important role of the board I was struck with a very poignant scene from the new Netflix series, “The Crown,” about the Royal Family. 

In Season 1, Episode 5, there is a creative collection of flashbacks.

It’s 1936. King George VI is rehearsing the lines for his coronation and his little girl, Elizabeth, is reading the Archbishop’s lines. It’s the sweetest scene.

Still in rehearsal mode, the King’s valet places that priceless, spectacular crown on King George. (It has more than 2,800 diamonds and is a foot high!) It’s heavy!

Here’s the scene:

King George: “That’s very heavy, indeed!”

Valet: “Not to mention the, uh, symbolic weight, hm?”

Young Elizabeth is beaming at her father. She is so proud of him!

The camera turns…and it’s 1952. Elizabeth is now rehearsing (at age 27). Grieving her father’s death…yet immediately, she’s queen: Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation…just around the corner.

The camera zooms in: we see a tentative Queen…balancing the weighty crown.

The Queen: “It’s not as easy as it looks.”

The Elderly Valet: “That’s what your father said.”

The Queen: “I remember.”

The Queen: “Do you suppose I could borrow it for a couple of days? Just to practice.”

And then this line from the very proper valet:

“Borrow it, ma’am? From whom? 

If it’s not yours, whose is it?”

That scene touched my soul.

Remember that young Elizabeth was totally unprepared for queenship. Her father was just 56 when he died.

And…although we think we’re prepared for what’s next (strategic plans, contingency plans, back-up plans)…really, we can only trust God, day by day, week by week, year by year.

When young Queen Elizabeth asked about “borrowing” the crown (imagine!), she posed a question asked too often, perhaps, by board members, CEOs and senior team members. On paper we own the stewardship responsibilities—but really—do we personally, professionally, emotionally, and spiritually own our roles?

I confess (as I reflect on my board service over the years) that even as I’ve attempted to be a faithful steward on boards, I’ve too often been a wee bit like Elizabeth. “Whew. That’s a daunting fork-in-the-road ahead! Someone else—not me—make the decision!”

Our challenge and opportunity as board members is to treasure and wear the crown—the responsibilities—God has given each of us. Not to own it, but to be faithful and fruitful stewards on behalf of our Holy God and Heavenly King!

“Borrow it, ma’am? From whom? If it’s not yours, whose is it?”

QUESTION: As you steward your board roles and responsibilities, are you more like the young, tentative queen, or more like the valet?