Wednesday, May 13, 2020

LESSON 19 – Beware the Phone-Book-Size Report

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. Dave Semmelbeck is our guest blogger this week for the third 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 19 OF 40 - Beware the Phone-Book-Size Report
My 84-page PDF landed with a thud.

THE BIG IDEA FROM THE BOOK: In Lesson 19, the authors warn against last-minute delivery of large reports—with pertinent information hidden throughout the report. Hopefully, you have board members that will have the candor to challenge “the abuse and distrust” this behavior communicates. If they do, you have the opportunity to learn from the bad behavior, but you will have to make some trust deposits that more than offset the withdrawal you made with your bad behavior.  

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 19, pages 107-110:
“What kind of CEO waits until the night before the board meeting to dump on the directors a phone-book-size report…? Surely not a CEO who trusts his or her board.” (Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld)
High-quality boards have a “virtuous cycle of respect, trust and candor. The cycle is broken if there is no authentic appetite for candor.” (Sonnenfeld)
• Board members “are, almost without exception, intelligent, accomplished and comfortable with power. But if you put them into a group that discourages dissent, they nearly always start to conform. The ones that don’t often self-select out.” (Sonnenfeld)

Delivering a phone-book-size report at the last minute may not have any bad news. The last-minute report itself, however, is “the bad news!”

It’s important to set an example worth following. This is certainly a bad example to avoid at all costs. However, it had a silver lining. When you have a culture and environment within the boardroom to call out unprofessional and/or ungodly behavior, it’s possible to redeem the moment. It will require significant effort—and perhaps some money out of your own pocket!—to make amends.  

A culture of candor and a willingness to “make it right” allow growth in your board relationships—and effectiveness over the long term. 


DAVE SEMMELBECK has served as the President of BEE (Biblical Education by Extension) World since May 1, 2016. Dave began at BEE World as a facilitator in 2008 and has also served as Director of BEE World USA, Director of BEE World Pakistan, and BEE World International Director. Dave is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with two master’s degrees (Christian Education and Biblical Studies).

• AVOID: Never, ever deliver agendas, reports and recommendations at the last minute!
SCHEDULE: Agree in writing on the board’s preferred timetable for receiving board agendas, recommendations and reports. 
VISIT: the ECFA Knowledge Center and read and share the short chapter, Lesson 19, “Beware the Phone-Book-Size Report.”

On May 20, 2020, watch for the commentary by Dan Steiner on Lesson 20, “Don’t Be Late—or Annoying! What’s worse than fingernails on a chalkboard? A boisterous board member at a prayer meeting.”

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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