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.”   

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.  


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!

• 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.”


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.

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