Inconsistent Decision Making

John wasn’t concerned as he headed to the board meeting that evening. They had been down this road before and the board had backed him 100%. Boy was he in for a surprise. He couldn’t understand why on this occasion they decided differently. As he walked away from the meeting that night he thought to himself, “it’s the last time I’m going to make a decision on my own. I don’t need this grief. Now I have to go to the committee and tell them their idea has been killed.” Boards want their leaders to lead, to make decisions without feeling they have to run back to them every time. To realize this, however, they must be consistent in their decision making. If they are not they unwittingly undermine the confidence and effectiveness of leadership, as well as frustrate volunteers. Creativity is stifled because leaders never know if their ideas will be embraced or given the thumbs down. To avoid inconsistency, here are a few questions a board should ask when making any decision: 1. Is this our responsibility to decide or have we delegated this responsibility to leadership? 2. Have we dealt with this issue or one similar to it in the past? 3. If so, what was our decision then? 4. Have circumstances changed that would lead us to make a different decision? 5. Who is affected by our change in position on this issue? 6. How can we communicate our change of position to those affected so they will understand?     Photo...

Getting Past the Clearing House

The third layer of approval process for weary proposals and leaders You have been asked to put together a team to launch a new ministry. The idea has been on the agenda for some time and there is even money set aside in the budget for this new initiative.  Everyone you talk to about the idea is  enthusiastic and wants to be part of the project.  As the time to launch approaches you get a call from the board chair suggesting that you postpone the launch until the Board has had a chance to review and approve this new ministry. [bq_left]When boards take the position that they have to be the clearing house for everything the church does, they in fact become the bottle neck to growth.[/bq_left] “Hold on a minute”, you respond, “It was at the boards suggestion we began this process, and besides they approved the money needed in the budget.  The next Board meeting isn’t for another month what am I going to tell the volunteers who are ready to go now?” If you have been in ministry any length of time it’s likely you have had this kind of experience – everything is ready to go, but your hands are tied because the board has to have final approval. When boards take the position that they have to be the clearing house for everything the church does, they in fact become the bottle neck to growth. This need for final approval is driven by fear. Fear that if allowed to run unshackled, the pastor and/or lay leaders will create mayhem in the church. This approach,...

Micromanagement at its Worst or Disengagement at its Best

Over the years, I have attended, as a pastor, member of multiple not for profit organizations and more recently as a consultant, more board meetings than I care to think about. This experience unfortunately has led me to conclude that more often than not they don’t understand their role. These ineffective boards generally fall into one of two categories; either they end up micro managing the organization, or they disengage. The micro managers somehow feel they can do a better job running the organization than those who have been hired to do so. Instead of dealing with issues of policy and organizational direction they end up discussing the colour  of the new chairs in the office, or what brand of coffee should be purchased. Boards migrate to this approach because often this is easier and more natural to board members. Operational issue are concrete and making decisions in these areas produce tangible results. You can purchase a computer or paint a room and see the results. It is much more difficult, on the other hand, for most of us to wrestle with the abstract, to think at that higher level where the vision and longer term direction of the church or organization is hammered out.  Place this along side of the idea of policy setting and most people’s eyes glaze over. They assume they’re in for a boring experience, not understanding that the establishment of policy is critical to the operation of the church or organization.  Policy is the rails on which an organization runs on. Policies define the parameters for the operational staff and at the same time...

Confusion of Expectation

You have just been elected to the board of your church and the question is, “What does that mean?” My guess is, if your church is like most churches, there is little by way of preparation provided for new board members.  What there is a lot of is confusion around what exactly is expected of you.  And because of this confusion, I can almost guarantee that you will be approached by a number of congregants with requests to get the board to do everything from buying new towel dispensers, to making sure the worship team sings more hymns, to disciplining the pastor for something he said from the pulpit. So how does a board bring clarity to this minefield of expectations? It starts with a few simple principles: Remember whatever the organization, as a board, you are first and foremost about mission. A board that does not own the mission/purpose of the enterprise is missing the key element of governance. Always have S.M.A.R.T ENDS in mind and move most of the MEANS to leadership and expect them to tend those (within empowering limits you set).  Defining the ENDS is the most critical board function. Establish the key result areas and monitor outcomes. Inattention to results is the primary cause of organizational failure, which is ultimately the board’s...

A Necessary Evil

Boards are an endurance test and a necessary evil. When was the last time you looked forward to a board meeting? If your experience is like most, it can best be captured by the words  “Don’t wait up for me, I have board meeting tonight.” By definition, Board Governance is best described as the gathering of two or more wise and capable leaders who have been entrusted with the role, authority and relationships to use their power to direct the affairs of the organization, ministry or enterprise.  And, because Boards only function when they meet, the Board meeting is the primary context for directing the affairs of the organization. Unfortunately, all too often board meetings turn into marathons of frustration rather than productive meaningful experiences. But take heart, it doesn’t have to be this way.  By following a few simple rules you can turn you board meetings into productive meaningful experiences. Always work from an agenda. The Board chairperson in concert with the CEO or Director of the organization is responsible for the preparing of the agenda. Board members should be advised to submit any agenda items two weeks prior to the board meeting. All agenda items must be screened by the Chair to ensure they are in fact Board responsibilities. All items for discussion should have back up material especially where a decision must be reached at the meeting; this material must be sent out to the board members with the agenda and any appropriate instructions at least one week prior to the meeting. The Board Chair must assign time allotments for each item on the agenda according...