Monday, June 9, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Creating an effective group spirit in the boardroom

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a new series sharing awe-inspiring and instructive insights from several of my favorite nonprofit board resources. My goal is to not only share great quotes but to also suggest ways to use them to inform your own approach to governance.

Strong, effective nonprofit governance doesn't just happen. We don't just throw a bunch of people - even a room full of smart community leaders - into a room and tell them to govern. We know that, even if we don't always act as if we know it.

Revisiting this classic board text, written by an adult education icon (a major shock when I discovered it during my dissertation literature review), I appreciate this particular quote even more today. Houle captures the essence - the "effective group spirit" - that we ultimately need for the kind of environment where governance can evolve and emerge as true community leadership. 

Yet, as a sector, we often sweep past the board dynamics and legitimate need to feel like we're accomplishing something important to emphasize roles and responsibilities - tasks that have a place but are far from all-inclusive of what governance requires.

The second part of Houle's quote is important today. It probably was downright revolutionary when he first published the book. His four factors are intended to expand our thinking about what is required for an effective governance experience. And, yet, they also feel like only a basic starting point. Nevertheless, I invite you to pull out those four elements, take them to your board, and ask:

How are we doing on each of these factors?
How close are we to being strong on all four elements?
Where are we challenged?
What can we do to address our challenge area(s) and bring balance to our boardroom?

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