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 protect the organization from a runaway leader and a disengaged board.
Disengagement is sometime characterized as a “yes” board. Whatever the senior leader wants the senior leader gets . Where the micromanagement type board takes away the authority and responsibility from the senior leader, the disengaged board abdicates its responsibility to direct and protect the organization.
There is however, a better way, a way in which the board is both empowered to direct and protect the organization or church while at the same time makes room for the senior leader to run the organization.
It’s called “Governance that Transforms”.