Tuesday, April 28, 2020

QUESTION 1: Is Our Board Composition Right?

“A Board Full of Generalists
Is Not Good Enough Anymore”

This week while we’re still enduring the COVID-19 marathon, I’m launching a series of 14 pesky boardroom questions—over the next 14 blogs. I’m leaning on the savvy wisdom of Ram Charan’s helpful governance book, Owning Up. (Click here to read my review.) The first chapter (just 18 pages) is jam-packed with boardroom insights. He writes:

“The role of the board has unmistakably transitioned from passive governance to active leadership with a delicate balance of avoiding micromanaging. It’s leadership as a group, not leadership by an appointed person.” He adds, “With the right composition, a board can create value; with the wrong or inappropriate composition, it can easily destroy value.”

QUESTION 1 of 14: Is Our Board Composition Right?
Owning Up: The 14 Questions Every Board Member Needs to Ask (Order from Amazon)

Here are three takeaways:

Plan for Board Succession. Address “the anticipated requirements of the board composition over five to ten years. Staggering the ages of directors on a board is important—that’s why a ten-year view is needed.”

Recruit for Expertise (but don’t recruit micro-managers). Charan recommends using a skill assessment matrix “…because a board full of generalists is not good enough anymore.”

Conduct Deep Reference Checks. “Standard reference checking is not enough. Governance committees must make the commitment to vigorously check a candidate’s references by talking to other people in the board’s own social and professional networks.”

The author asks board members to annually conduct their own reality check: “Are You Staying on Your Board for the Right Reasons?” Chapter 1 also notes the biggest red flag to avoid—a board nominee with a big ego. 

So is your Christ-centered board appropriately addressing these board composition issues? Urge your Governance Committee, or Executive Committee, to read this chapter and ask these questions:

1. Do we have a plan for board succession? Is there a spiritual discernment component to our board member recruitment process?
2. Is our board composition wide enough and diverse enough to address our needs five years from now? Is boardroom group-think common or uncommon? Do we hear from God about our board prospects—or just the loudest-talking board member or the largest donor?
3. Do we consistently go deep when checking references—including a board prospect’s pastor, small group leader, and/or other influential people in his or her life?

It’s been said that “there are no dysfunctional organizations—only dysfunctional boards.” Thus, creating and leveraging the right board composition is critical. God-honoring boards will give high priority to board succession best practices.

BOARD DISCUSSION: What ONE next step is the most critical for our board—this quarter?

MORE RESOURCES: Check out these helpful ECFA resources:
VIDEO: ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1 - Recruiting Board Members: Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation, and Engagement (online video, viewing guide, and facilitator guide)
BLOG: “If You Need a Board Member, Recruit a Board Member,” by Bruce Johnson, in the 40-week series, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog
TOOL: “The Pathway to the Board: Six Steps on the Pathway to Board Service,” from the book, ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance: Time-Saving Solutions for Your Board

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Pop Quiz: Top-5 Ways to Bless Your Ministry

“What Everyone Knows Is Usually Wrong” 

STOP! Before you read further, grab a blank piece of paper and a pen (it’s homeschool time!)…and answer this question: 

“During this COVID-19 crisis, what are five ways that I can leverage my time, my spiritual gifts, and my network—to make a unique impact as a board member?”

Time’s up! Pens down!

Here’s my Top-5 list, plus a book recommendation for each suggestion:

#1. MEMO TO SELF: SHUT UP! Even though—like all board members—I have dozens of brilliants opinions and recommendations for everyone else, I would reel it back a bit and try to be a better listener on Zoom calls. Maybe I could tamp down the know-it-all gene, and—instead—bless other board members, our CEO, and senior team members. I’ve posted this on my office wall:

“You can be known as the person who helps articulate the critical issue or as the person who provides hasty answers to solve the wrong problem.
Which would you prefer? Exactly.”

Click here to read my review of The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier.

#2. HELP OUR CEO DISCERN “THE ONE THING.” As a board member, I would call or email the CEO with this insight and offer to have a conversation about his or her “ONE Thing:”
"What's the ONE Thing you can do this week
such that by doing it
everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"

Click here to read my review of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

#3. DON’T MAKE THE PROBLEM WORSE. As you experiment with new programs (online and other innovations), take a step back to ensure that you don’t create unintended consequences—like the “cobra effect” noted here:

“When we fail to anticipate second-order consequences, it’s an invitation to disaster, as the ‘cobra effect’ makes clear. The cobra effect occurs when an attempted solution to a problem makes the problem worse.” That happened in India, during the UK’s colonial rule. “A bounty on cobras was declared,” and citizens received cash for producing dead cobras. You guessed it—the entrepreneurs
began breeding more cobras. 

Click here to read my review of Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath. 

#4. CONSULT OUTSIDE WISDOM. I would urge our board and CEO to slow down (even though these are urgent days) and not launch new initiatives or apply Band-Aid fixes to complex problems—without adequate due diligence. I’d give our CEO quick examples of hasty actions gone south—including several that I’ve observed in the last four weeks. My sense: many program and communication disasters could have been avoided—had the CEO and/or the board sought outside wisdom from an independent third party. (You likely have observed numerous knee-jerk reactions. “What were they thinking? Why didn’t they ask someone outside their inner circle? Yikes!”)

Peter Drucker: 
“What everyone knows is usually wrong.”

Click here to read my review of The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker, by William A. Cohen.

#5. DELEGATE! I’ve noticed in recent weeks that CEOs and board members have taken on heavy, heavy loads—doing way too much—and, in one sense, playing god, not leaning on God. 

“There is no virtue in doing more than our fair share of work,” writes J. Oswald Sanders in his oft-quoted classic, Spiritual Leadership. Referencing the delegation counsel from Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, Sanders adds, “Moses could doubtless have done the task better than the 70 men whom he selected, but had he persisted in doing so, he would soon have been only a memory."

Click here to read my review of Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer, by J. Oswald Sanders.

BOARD DISCUSSION: What’s the board’s “ONE Thing” this week—and who is best gifted to own this? Is our CEO trusting God—or playing god?

MORE RESOURCES: Read Lesson 9 in More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, “Just Do One Thing a Month. Make a specific ask of each board member each month.” Devlin Donaldson suggests how you can unleash your board members to experience much greater satisfaction and productivity! Click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Gloom, Boom, and Zoom

God Willing, the Post-COVID-19 Era Might Usher in an Unprecedented Response to the Gospel

Wow! All bloggers today (no matter the subject) are medical, financial, psychological, and pastoral experts. COVID-19 has unleashed the advice-giving genes in every LinkedIn and Facebook user. So…here is my three cents-worth:

#1. GLOOM. Even the newspaper comic strips have themed into the despair. (See “Pearls Before Swine” by Stephan Pastis for last Tuesday. Click here.) Some board members—one layer removed from the day-to-day action/survival plans—may inappropriately tilt toward gloom. Be aware!

But—when you are a student of your CEO’s, board chair’s, and board members’ “3 Powerful S’s” (click here for more on spiritual gifts, strengths, and social style), you’ll understand and balance their responses to crisis. For example, the way each of the four social styles act is different: 
   • Analyticals are cautious.
   • Drivers are decisive.
   • Amiables are slow.
   • Expressives are impulsive.

Your board needs deep discernment from all members—before moving in the wrong direction to address your unique crisis. And—remind the drivers on your board—that you may need to stop and lament. (Read N.T. Wright’s thoughts on lamenting in Time magazine. He writes, The mystery of the biblical story is that God also laments.”)

#2. BOOM. Possibly, God willing, the post-COVID-19 era might usher in an unprecedented response to the Gospel. Are your board, CEO, and senior team making plans—not for surviving, but thriving? Maybe:
   • Colleges and camps will become residential villages of revival.
   • Churches will re-invent themselves.
   • International outreach will be resourced with an outpouring of funds and volunteers.
   • Christian ministries will innovate down Holy Spirit-led paths.

Maybe, one more time, we should read The Prayer of Jabez.

#3. ZOOM. (Note: I’m not an online meeting expert.) While there are hundreds of articles and columns on how to facilitate online meetings with Zoom, Skype, and other portals—is anyone actually reading these articles? I don’t think so!

Four suggestions:

   • Your screen presence. If I can see the ceiling in your office or third bedroom, repeat after me: “Position the camera at EYE level.”
   • Meeting agenda. Please email the agenda at least two to seven days in advance. 
   • Should you postpone a decision? Hopefully, our business-by-bunker environment will end soon. But—caution! There are two enemies of sound board decisions—and one is to make major decisions online, and not in person. And if you must meet online, estimate the length of the meeting—and then double it.
   • Ask for feedback. Zoom meetings will unlikely meet the needs of all four social styles, but always (always!) ask for feedback. Every meeting can be improved

BOARD DISCUSSION: Around-the-Zoom-room: What are you feeling today? What are your insights about the future? What is God saying to you?

MORE RESOURCES: Read Lesson 29 in More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, “The Two Enemies of Sound Board Decisions. Avoid being pressed for time and making major decisions remotely.” Click here

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

How to Spend a Day in Prayer

The Ministry Grew—“Not by Methods or Principles But by Promises Given to Him From the Word”

Some of your board members may have more time—during this COVID-19 crisis—than they’ve ever had before. So consider planning a day of prayer: personal and/or corporate. Here are two resources:

#1. “Slow Down and Wait on God,” from Chapter 28 in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom (2nd Edition). This chapter is based on The Navigator’s booklet by Lorne C. Sanny, “How to Spend a Day in Prayer.” Click here to read this chapter. Lorne Sanny writes:

I believe it was in these special times of prayer that God made known His ways and His plans to Moses (Psalm 103:7). He allowed Moses to look through a chink in the fence and gain special insights, while the rank-and-file Israelites saw only the acts of God as they unfolded day by day.

Once I remarked to Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, “You impress me as one who feels he is a man of destiny, one destined to be used of God.”

“I don’t think that’s the case,” he replied, “but I know this. God has given me some promises that I know He will fulfill.” During earlier years Dawson spent countless protracted time alone with God, and out of these times the Navigator work grew—not by methods or principles but by promises given to him from the Word.

#2. Read Jerry White’s guest blog comments (click here) on the above chapter. Writing in Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, White notes:

I became much more reflective, thoughtful and prayerful through my 18 years of leading The Navigators—where I could not “make it happen,” but had to rely on God and others to do what I could not do. I began to see the consequences of action without deep prayer, counsel and reflection. “Seek first…” and “in everything by prayer and supplication...” have become my pattern as I have grown in my leadership and in my own maturity. What is more, key members of my board checked up on me regularly on how I was doing in my personal walk.  

BOARD DISCUSSION: How might our board devote itself (individually and corporately) to greater prayer and discernment? (Maybe a Zoom conference call-in—exclusively for a day of prayer—with “shifts” of board members and staff members hosting the 8-hour, 12-hour, or 24-hour call to prayer?) 

MORE RESOURCES: Reflect on Wes Willmer’s guest blog, “Guarding Your CEO’s Soul,” which notes that the “fourth-century Christian pastor and philosopher, Gregory of Nyssa, described the soul’s desires as a river, and at the end of the river is God. Yet channels in the river can divert us from our journey and eventually our desire-river is completely dried up before it reaches God. Board members—also—must model to CEOs that they, too, are on this journey toward God, our Only Hope!”

Click here to read Willmer’s color commentary on Lesson 4 in More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom