Friday, April 5, 2013

Overheard: April 5 edition

A few links of interest for you this week:
A simple solution to nonprofit board inertia (Joan Garry)

It's not the first storytelling resource I've shared here; but this post offers some details that I find valuable, most notably, a list of factors that make a story compelling, advice for packaging and - most important - thoughts about potential outcomes/uses for successful nonprofit stories. Joan provides an additional layer of information to spark productive conversation (and story development) for a nonprofit and its board.

No more boring meetings, please! (Jesse Lynn Stoner)

Yes, please! There's always room for another quality resource for rethinking how we spend our times in meetings. One welcome twist to what Jesse Lynn has shared here: she encourages us to define desired outcomes for each meeting. What should we have accomplished by the time we adjourn? It's so easy to fall into the same agenda-template rut that we don't notice that we haven't done anything that moves us forward. Sometimes we need to ask, and hold ourselves accountable for ensuring that our time is productive.

12 ways to liven up your board meetings - and your board (Gail Perry)

Nothing on Gail's list should be new to regular readers. I've written, and shared resources, about each of the 12 as some point here. But Gail has created a valuable package that could spark discussion about how an individual board could adapt the way it works to create space for more creative and motivating work. Adopting even one of Gail's recommendations offers great transformative potential for most boards.

Do nonprofit leaders have time to be bold? (Nell Edgington)

It's time to move past our perpetual mode of scarcity thinking and move boldy to the future we want. That's Nell's message. Believe me, I understand the nervous obsession with all that we don't have. I've served on human services boards for 30 years. We can't ignore that reality. But I also know the mindset Nell cautions against and how easy it is to get so caught in the muck that we're trapped. Fact is, the future is the board's ultimate domain: defining it, supporting it, advancing it. We need to summon the boldness that Nell calls for in this post and govern from there.

Loyal opposition (Patricia Bradshaw and Peter Jackson)

"Parsley on the fish." I'd probably include this one for the chance to share this vivid new metaphor for boards that aren't doing their job. But beyond that, the larger message of this post is an important one. We need board members, and a board culture, where asking the hard questions is expected and valued. We need the kind of relationships with our chief executives where they can expect that we'll be there when they need a sounding board and that we won't blindly accept every recommendation. We'll ask the "what if" and explore alternatives, because that's our job. Oh, and the paragraph above the "where loyal opposition fits" chart is priceless. It opens with this statement: "Governance should be a 'radical' function that seeks to challenge the root assumptions of leadership..." Read the rest and share your reactions in a comment. Fantastic.

Expecting the best - and getting it (Annie Murphy Paul)

I'll close with a post that has nothing to do with nonprofit governance and everything to do with creating the boards we want and need. I've written before here about the need to hold boards to the higher expectations that governance demands and, most important, to support them as they work to reach that full potential. This post discusses the general concept (linking to the Pygmalion Effect) and describes how it works. Replace "learners" in her descriptions of the "hows" with board members and see how that impacts your thinking about what boards need to reach further and higher.

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