Wednesday, February 12, 2020

LESSON 6 – Enhance Harmony By Clarifying Your Participant-Hat Expectations

Welcome to More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Andy Bales is our guest blogger this week for the second of four lessons in "Part 2: Boardroom Tools and Templates.”

LESSON 6 OF 40 - Enhance Harmony by Clarifying Your Participant-Hat Expectations
Understand the three board hats: Governance, Volunteer, and Participant

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: If you have clear expectations and communications—and an understanding of the 3 board hats: the Governance Hat, the Volunteer Hat, and the “Participant/Fundraising/Friendraising Hat” (my term!)—you will prevent a lot of difficulties and heartache on the staff and board side of things.

The board and staff will be “singing from the same page” and staying in their proper roles and lanes if expectations are communicated clearly and often reiterated.

Direct communication rather than mixed messages, indirect guilt, and shaming will keep an organization out of the fog and divisiveness that often splits an organization or even ends an organization.   

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 6, pages 35-39:
• “Affirming is certainly favored over hinting and whining.” A new board member should know—up front—if hosting a table at a fundraising event is expected as part of being a board member.
• “The best boards customize their own Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement…” (listing expectations). 
• CEOs should make every effort to plan ahead rather than waiting too long and guilting or prodding board members into participating in key events.
• “Guilt and shaming are a poor substitute for clarity and inspiration.” 

I’ve experienced the fog of division caused by lack of clarity and defined roles:
• Learning about shadow, unofficial board meetings
• Seeing a board member’s lack of understanding that he or she must only wear the Governance Hat in the boardroom—and not while meeting one-on-one with the CEO or staff
• Cringing when a board member inappropriately wears the Governance Hat at an event—suggesting on-the-spot program changes!

I’ve also hinted and whined or stayed silent—and suffered—rather than planning ahead and clearly communicating Participant Hat expectations about attendance at events. In the absence of clear expectations, I’ve also shared my opinion and/or disappointments about board members.

Recently, I scheduled a meeting with a board member regarding a moment when there was not adequate clarity. I observed this person’s Volunteer Hat drifting into governance territory—and even into the weeds of operations. In the past, I would have hinted and whined and lost sleep! But I’ve learned to speak directly and with clarity one-on-one and now I sleep much better.

I recently taught a class on longevity in ministry. I’ve served 40 plus years, including 34 years in the difficult area of addressing homelessness. For many years, I have suffered by not speaking with enough clarity. I’ve almost left organizations over issues involving board members not staying in their proper lanes or bounds. When we finally clarified roles (example: the three hats), I then chose to finally speak up—and a fog was lifted and I was able to stay.

I would have saved much heartache and had better sleep over the years if I had spoken with the clarity I now speak with. 


REV. ANDREW (ANDY) J. BALES has served as President/CEO of Union Rescue Mission of Los Angeles, Calif., since April 2005 and serves on the board of directors of Citygate Network (formerly Association of Gospel Rescue Missions).

• Develop a customized Board Member Annual Affirmation Statement for the board of directors.
• Cease hinting and whining and speak directly with truth and love. 
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 6, “Enhance Harmony By Clarifying Your Participant-Hat Expectations.”

Feb. 19, 2020, watch for the commentary by Bill Gruenewald on Lesson 7, “Eliminate Fuzziness Between Board and Staff Roles. Keep your leaders on track with a one-page Prime Responsibility Chart.”

BULK ORDERS: Click here. For more resources and to download the book's Table of Contents, visit the book's webpage.

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