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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

LESSON 17 – Botched Executive Sessions Are Not Pretty

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. Philip Boom is our guest blogger this week for the first of three lessons in "Part 5: Boardroom Bloopers.” And during this COVID-19 crisis, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.


LESSON 17 OF 40 - Botched Executive Sessions Are Not Pretty
Don’t assume that your executive sessions will automatically be excellent.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 17, the authors note that executive sessions can be extremely effective or very devastating. One of the keys to an excellent relationship between the CEO and the board is for boards to strive for excellence when meeting in executive session. 

Just as board meetings require an agenda, so does an executive session. If executive sessions are not regularly scheduled, have no planned agenda, and if timely feedback is not provided to the CEO, such sessions can foster uncertainty and mistrust. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 17, pages 98-103: 
 “The best CEOs are always open to coaching and improvement.”
• “The best boards create a boardroom environment that leverages executive sessions for the good of the CEO and the ministry.”   

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
A board will rarely meet unless the CEO is present. When the board does meet without the CEO, in what is called an executive session, sensitive issues such as CEO performance and compensation are the prime topics for discussion. 

Executive sessions should not be a surprise to the CEO, they should be held on a regularly scheduled basis.

If a board convenes without inviting the CEO, it may mean the CEO’s tenure is in jeopardy. Several principles are set forth by the authors. A few key ones include:
   • Board meetings should rarely be conducted unless the CEO is included in the meeting.
   • Following an executive session, the gist of the discussion should be communicated to the CEO in a constructive manner.
   • Feedback should be provided to the CEO in a timely manner, preferably right after the executive session.  

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY PHILIP BOOM:


PHILIP BOOM currently serves as the President of Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. Phil has participated in a variety of ministry and community boards as a member, as a board chair, and in the role of a CEO. He greatly enjoys the positive relationships that are created when board members serve together in constructive ways! Prior to his service at Emmaus, Phil spent 30 years in the business world in Delaware. He and his wife, Evelyn, enjoy their adult children and grandchildren who live all around the USA (Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Iowa). You might also find them on the ski slopes in Colorado from time to time, enjoying some outdoor time together!


TO DO TODAY: 
• Establish a pattern for executive sessions. Set a regular schedule to meet. Keep your CEO informed.
• Prepare an agenda for your executive session. Don’t allow the board to get off-topic into issues in which the CEO should be included.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 17, “Botched Executive Sessions Are Not Pretty.”

  



NEXT WEDNESDAY: On 
May 6, 2020, watch for the commentary on Lesson 18, “Warning! Résumé-Builders Make Lousy Board Members. He envisioned how board service would look on his résumé.”



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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

LESSON 16 – Looking for Consensus but Finding Division

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. Max Wilkins is our guest blogger this week for the fourth of four lessons in "Part 4: Epiphanies in the Boardroom.” And during this COVID-19 crisis, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.


LESSON 16 OF 40 - Looking for Consensus but Finding Division
Finding consensus on challenging issues requires deft handling and a flexible approach by the board chair.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 16, the authors note that difficult or challenging board decisions are best handled with a consensus-building process. While the tools of voting and Robert’s Rules of Order may be prescribed in the organizational bylaws, an adept board chair can utilize these tools within an open, thoughtful and fair process to enable the board to achieve consensus even in divisive situations. 

A board operating with the right purpose (to honor the Lord), the right people (those with a Kingdom mindset who seek the best for the organization), and the right agenda (including the right timing for challenging issues), in the hands of the right board chair (who is sensitive not only to the Holy Spirit, but also to the individual board members’ thoughts and concerns) can utilize the right approach (tailored creatively to the context and realities of each individual decision) to arrive at this consensus. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 16, pages 91-96: 
 “Consensus is a spirit or sense of the board. It is not a formal action. It is a process that seeks widespread agreement among group members.”
• “There is no single right approach for every agenda item in every meeting. Sometimes, while the board meeting is in progress, the chair will sense the Holy Spirit’s leading—and call a holy time-out. …It may also involve prayer!
• “Periodically re-visit the consensus-reaching and decision-making processes and make adjustments as necessary.” 

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
Prior to coming to my current position at TMS Global, I was the Lead Pastor for more than a decade in a large inter-denominational church. The church’s elder board operated on a consensus model. Upon assuming the pastorate of this church, I was told by many leaders in the church world that a consensus model of elder leadership simply would not work in a church of several thousand people. 

The principle concern seemed to be that one person could delay or derail any plans at will, creating stagnation. A “majority rules” approach was typically suggested. Despite these concerns, the church operated well using the consensus model. I believe there were a few key reasons we succeeded: 

• As the authors said, having the right attitude is key. Our elders lived out the sense of Romans 12:18, “As far as it is possible for you, live at peace with everyone.” 
Having the right people is also critical. Our elders, carefully selected by the congregation, understood that they had to play their “trump cards” selectively and carefully. Non-egocentric leadership is required for a consensus model to flourish.
• The right approach is vital. Making space for prayer, for discernment, for Holy Spirit “interruption” and for each voice to be heard, is far more important than motions, and Robert’s Rules of Order.

In my 11 years with that church, there were only a small handful of times that one elder stood in opposition to the emerging consensus of the group. I remember vividly the final time that happened. The elder who was a hold-out said, “I’m sorry, I know I’m alone in this, but I just have a strong sense in my spirit that this is not the correct action at this time.” 

Our excellent board chair asked us to reflect as a group. “Do you remember the five or six times over the last decade that one member has held out against the group?” We began to recall those few situations out loud. Then the chair asked a critical question: “With the benefit of hindsight, do any of us now believe we arrived at the wrong conclusion in those few situations?” One by one, we all acknowledged that in each case, the lone holdout had prevented us from making a bad decision. Time had shown the wisdom of their positions. 

The key does not lie in the decision-making system itself. Majority rules, Robert’s Rules of Order, a consensus model, or even a unanimity approach can all be used effectively to arrive at decisions. The key is the process by which these tools are used. 

The TMS Global Board votes, and the majority rules. But in the process leading up to a challenging rebrand and name change a few years ago, our spiritually-sensitive board chair sensed that we were going to need consensus for this essential change to be embraced throughout the organization. Thus, she made time repeatedly for Holy Spirit “interruptions,” had numerous pauses for deep times of prayer, and, when consensus seemed to be eluding us, even made a place for brand new ideas to be offered up extremely late in the process. 

As consensus finally began to emerge, she called a stop to discussion and simply stated, “I want to go around the room and ask each person to speak honestly for yourself in response to this question: If we go forward with this plan, can you live with wholeheartedly supporting it?” 


One by one, each member of the board, some while still expressing slight reservations, asserted that yes, they agreed in spirit to support the consensus of the whole. This thoughtful and fair process not only resulted in a broad consensus, it also transformed a potentially divisive and problematic decision into something the entire board celebrated and with great joy presented to the larger community and stakeholders.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY MAX WILKINS:


MAX WILKINS is the President/CEO of TMS Global, an inter-denominational global mission agency headquartered in Norcross, Ga. Prior to becoming CEO of TMS Global, Max served as a local church pastor for 30 years, planting and leading churches in Florida and Hawaii. He has also taught and preached in more than 40 countries. Max is married to Dorothy (Dee Dee) and they have two adult children. He recently received a post-doctoral Diploma in Organizational Leadership from Said Business School, Oxford University. He is also a huge fan of all things University of Florida. Go Gators!

TO DO TODAY: 
• Review the process my board uses to arrive at decisions. Is there room for flexibility? Are we working towards decisions or towards consensus?
• Can I think of one tweak to our current board decision-making process that might create a more open, thoughtful and fair process, thus leading to greater buy-in to tough decisions?
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 16, “Looking for Consensus but Finding Division.”




NEXT WEDNESDAY: On 
April 29, 2020, watch for the commentary by Philip Boom on Lesson 17, “Botched Executive Sessions Are Not Pretty. Don’t assume that your executive sessions will automatically be excellent.”




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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

LESSON 15 – Be Intentional About Your First 30 Minutes

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. David Schmidt is our guest blogger this week for the third of four lessons in "Part 4: Epiphanies in the Boardroom.” And during this COVID-19 crisis, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.
LESSON 15 OF 40 - Be Intentional About Your First 30 Minutes
Does your board meeting need a refresh—so you experience holy moments more frequently?

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 15, the authors note that what happens at the very beginning of our board meetings—sets the tone. I’ve been in scores of meetings where the chairs or leaders seemed almost superstitious—nervous if they didn’t say something spiritual or “bathe our meeting in prayer” at the start.  

Frankly what members really want—and what God invites us to—is to be real. If being intentional is important, then so is this: Be authentic. Everyone can smell a hastily prepared intro. Board members will know if the chair or leader’s opening, with some devotional or prayer, lacks energy or relevancy. 

Instead think of these first 30 minutes as “entering into” new and sacred space, knowing God’s Spirit is already there. Then plan and deliver a great start to your meeting that sets a tone of authenticity, peace and creativity. If beginning with a prayer time is part of your intentional plan, then pray. If not, thank God for His presence and get to work.   

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 15, pages 86-90:
• “How many holy moments can you recall from last year’s board meetings?”
• The insights from the book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments: “With examples from education, business, hospitality, and church sectors, they call leaders and teams to break out of the routine and defy ‘the forgettable flatness of everyday work and life by creating a few precious moments.’”

• Be on time.  Better—be early. We all need the margin anyway that being there 10-15 minutes early gives us.

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
It’s likely—during this challenging COVID-19 crisis—that you’re having more, not less meetings and most of those by video/Zoom as well. Keeping these meetings moving—no more than an hour or so (call another meeting if needed) and guided by an agenda (sent ahead or posted at the start)—will help to take the slack and sloppiness out of these video conference meetings.  

But more meetings need not mean more meetings falling on your shoulders as leader or chair. The issues and pace we are running at right now leaves our tanks on or near empty. Another board meeting already? You can’t do it all and unless you have an essential message or idea to start with, give the mic to a younger leader or a different person on a regular basis.  

You will have plenty of opportunity in the meeting to make your points or provide needed governance or leadership. Drop everyone an email (before or after the meeting) if you have a spiritual insight you want to share and time doesn’t permit you to do so in the meeting. When tapping others, give them clear guidance on length, out-of-bounds topics, the need to be real, free from rote prayers or piety—and trust God with the outcome. 

I liked the idea of a self-imposed “report card” concept. Conducting this at every board meeting might be a bit much—but at every few board meetings, do the checkup. The feedback will make your future meetings better.  

“How you launch will impact how you land.” Good counsel especially when the needed outcomes of our board meetings these days are so important.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY DAVID SCHMIDT:


DAVID SCHMIDT is the leader of J. David Schmidt & Associates.  David uses strategic conversation processes to help organizations experience increased focus, impact, and results. With more than 40 years of experience in assessment, research, strategic thinking, off-site leadership retreats, and guided processes, he notes, “We aren’t a very good fit for leaders and organizations that simply want ‘another good year.’ But we are a good fit with leaders looking to explore, rethink, and reset their organization’s strategic intent.”


David and his wife, Melinda, live in Wheaton, Ill., and their two adult children live in Colorado and Southern California. David is the author of dozens of research projects and co-author with Wesley K. Willmer and Martyn Smith of The Prospering Parachurch: Enlarging the Boundaries of God's Kingdom.

TO DO TODAY: 
• Read The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.
• Instead of a hastily prepared devotional thought to launch your board meeting, be intentional about inviting a board member (or a staff member) to share a spiritual insight that will be relevant (not random) to the focus of the board meeting.
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 15, "Be Intentional About Your First 30 Minutes.”




NEXT WEDNESDAY: On 
April 22, 2020, watch for the commentary by Max Wilkins on Lesson 16, “Looking for Consensus but Finding Division. Finding consensus on challenging issues requires deft handling and a flexible approach by the board chair.”






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

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

LESSON 14 – Plant a Seed in the Boardroom

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. Seng Tan is our guest blogger this week for the second of four lessons in "Part 4: Epiphanies in the Boardroom.” And during this COVID-19 crisis, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.

LESSON 14 OF 40 - Plant a Seed in the Boardroom
Watch the Lord reap the harvest.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 14, the authors note that boardrooms are in fact holy places and spaces within which holy work is—or can be, should be—conducted. Boardroom experiences are fertile ground for planting seeds with board members about their future service in our ministry.  

That said, we often plant seeds practically everywhere—but rarely in our own boardrooms. We never quite know how and when God will use a boardroom experience to speak to the heart of a board member about possible future service in our ministry—whether as a key staffer, as a volunteer, or indeed as the CEO.  

Granted, such developments could conceivably happen “naturally” or “organically,” but the big idea the authors aim to convey is that the process involves a level of spiritual intentionality on our part, where we cooperate with the Holy Spirit through alert awareness to—and focused participation in—His holy work in our respective board members.  

This involves our investment of time and effort to know our board members well, our sharing of relevant ministry opportunities with specific board members as a way to inspire and involve them, and intercession to the Lord on their behalf—that those seeds planted in them may, in God’s time and way and per His will, yield an abundant harvest down the road. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 14, pages 82-85:
As the authors note, we tend to think of our board members in terms of what and how they may contribute to the ministry. Our view of, and relationship with, board members risks becoming predominantly instrumental and utilitarian—“What can you do for the ministry?”—or, as Janet Jackson might put it, “What have you done for me lately?”  

We risk seeing our board members as assets to be used rather than people to be loved. Lesson 14 reverses that self-centered logic and asks what and how can we contribute to the spiritual—and, potentially, professional—development of our board members. 

Even if they do not end up with our ministry, the fact that we intentionally invest in, inspire, and intercede for them can and will reap benefits for the Kingdom of God more broadly. Helping our board members grow in their own faith journeys with God is as important, perhaps even more important, than their contributions to our ministry.


MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
To my mind, Lesson 14 is a timely reminder that divine calling can be and usually is a dynamic process. God calls us to Himself—that fact does not change—but the specifics can evolve over time.

In his chat with the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well in John 4:1-26, Jesus pointedly noted that there would come a time where neither (for Jews) Jerusalem nor (for Samaritans) Gerizim would matter any longer, because “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24, NIV).  

What the given illustration of Paul Nelson’s inspired move from the ECFA boardroom to ECFA’s “workroom” suggests is the sustained refusal by the servant of God to make an idol or monument of place—my Shechem, Bethel, Hebron, or Jerusalem, etc.—and/or of time—when God saved and redeemed in my “Red Sea” experience way back yonder—and to worship and serve God wherever and whenever He calls him or her.

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY SENG TAN:


SENG TAN is the President/CEO of International Students, Inc. (ISI) in Colorado Springs, Colo. A former international student and a Singapore national, Seng served briefly as an ISI campus staffer in Phoenix, Ariz., after obtaining a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Before being called back to ISI in his current capacity, Seng was a Professor of International Relations at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  His latest book is The Responsibility to Provide in Southeast Asia: Towards an Ethical Explanation (2019).  


TO DO TODAY: 
• Carve out time to connect with your board members individually outside of board meeting times.    
• Learn what each board member’s interests and passions are. Where possible, connect those to relevant areas of service within your ministry and invite their participation.  
• Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment about their respective circumstances and pray that God will cause that which has been seeded in them will encounter good soil and yield 30-fold, 60-fold, and/or 100-fold returns.  
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 14, “Plant a Seed in the Boardroom.”




NEXT WEDNESDAY: On 
April 15, 2020, watch for the commentary on Lesson 15, “Be Intentional About Your First 30 Minutes. Does your board need a refresh—so you experience holy moments more frequently?”



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

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

LESSON 13 – Caution! Understand the Governance Pendulum Principle

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. Paul Anderson is our guest blogger this week for the first of four lessons in "Part 4: Epiphanies in the Boardroom.” And during this COVID-19 crisis, the role of the board becomes even more critical. We pray that your board will have God-honoring wisdom as you spiritually discern next steps.


LESSON 13 OF 40 - Caution! Understand the Governance Pendulum Principle
You have limited time to act when the pendulum oscillates in a positive direction.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: Strike while the iron is hot! In Lesson 13, the authors note that opportunities to improve a ministry’s governance are limited to certain situations and fleeting time periods. 

I’ve found this to be true. Governance structures and processes seldom change, and when they do change, the changes tend to be substantial. It’s important to know when the time is right to act.

And when the time is right, preparation is critical. You need to understand the current state of governance, what changes are needed, and have a plan to maximize your opportunities. 

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 13, pages 76-81:
 Page 77: There are “three pendulum positions—resting, negative, and positive.” What position describes your organization?
Pages 78-79 identify five significant barriers to positive governance change: a status quo outlook, people who are progress blockers, no term limits, board size, and a “we can’t change” mentality. Do any apply to you?
• Pages 79-80 identify several critical things that are needed for positive governance change: knowing what changes are needed, board and CEO openness to change, and most important, when is God telling the board to change.  

MY COLOR COMMENTARY:
A number of years ago, the ministry I led went through a reincorporation process, rewriting and refiling our governing documents. When we were done, we asked ourselves, “Now what?” 

Honestly, we didn’t really know what to do, so we did what any self-respecting organization would do: get more information and data to analyze!  

We went to an ECFA forum on Governance Essentials for Nonprofits and came back with some critical tools. First, we knew that our governance pendulum was in the positive position, which meant we were ready for change. 

Second, the ECFA forum taught us to look first for “small wins,” and then to build on the momentum from those to find bigger and more impactful initiatives that would push us forward. We did that, making a number of small changes, but eventually writing a Board Policies Manual (BPM), which has revolutionized our governance. 

Today, nearly everything—in how we govern the organization—has changed. It has been a terrific blessing and lift to our ministry’s effectiveness!

THIS WEEK’S QUOTES & COMMENTARY BY PAUL ANDERSON:


PAUL ANDERSON is president of Christian Investors Financial (CIF), a financial services organization affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). CIF offers church loans, church capital campaigns, and investment opportunities for churches and individuals. Paul has worked in Christian ministry for nearly 30 years both as a senior leader and a board member for numerous organizations and churches. He currently serves on the boards of ECFA and Cassia, a senior care organization.  

TO DO TODAY: 
• Understand where your governance stands. Consider conducting an assessment of your board’s governance and governance pendulum. ECFA has some helpful tools for this purpose (including the NonprofitBoardScore assessment).
Consider where you can get some “small wins.” What are some obvious and easily achievable tweaks or changes you can make to your governance to generate positive, forward governance momentum?
• Visit the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, “Lesson 13: Caution! Understand the Governance Pendulum Principle.”




NEXT WEDNESDAY: On 
April 8, 2020, watch for the commentary by Seng Tan on Lesson 14, “Plant a Seed in the Boardroom. Watch the Lord reap the harvest.”



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

LESSON 30 - Are You Competing Based on Overhead—Really?

Welcome to  More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog ,  a 40-week journey through the new book,  More Lessons From the Nonprofit Board...