Sunday, October 5, 2014

Healthy vs. smart: Key differences and their impacts on nonprofit governance success

Did I mention you'd be seeing more from Patrick Lencioni's work on organizational health?

This brief video points out what should be obvious to boards (but may not be, because we don't talk about these topics): boards need to be both smart and healthy. Those of us who pay attention to board development - boards and consultants - tend to have the "smart" component down. We focus on the elements that typically signify board effectiveness. Look at his list under that category - technology, strategy, finance, marketing - for hints.

We may struggle a bit with execution in the boardroom, but we're reasonably aware that those are the kinds of capacity and focus muscles that boards are expected to build. Lencioni says they typically receive 95 percent of the attention in team development. In my experience working and talking with boards, that feels about right.

But what about the "healthy" half of the equation? His bottom line involves the following: minimal politics, minimal confusion, high levels of morale and productivity,  and low turnover among good people.

This description (related to high morale and productivity) particularly caught my ear:

"People are psyched to come to work and they get a lot done when they're there." 

Can our boards, and our individual members, say that on a routine basis?

Note that Lencioni doesn't say "ignore the smart." But he does call on us to attend to both sides. He also cautions us to avoid the trap of falling back on the "smart" half because it's where we're comfortable. He further points out that that isn't where the greatest potential lies.  

Let that sink in for a moment. We can't ignore the "smart" elements, but they aren't where our ultimate opportunities for differentiation and impact exist. As he says, most organizations today are smart enough to succeed.

Then Lencioni asks a question that I challenge every board leader to pose and make a priority:

Are we healthy enough to tap into the intelligence that we have?

To the extent that we routinely fail to make full use of the gifts that our individual board members bring to the table, I believe the answer for most of us is no.  Not at all. The reason: we aren't attending to the health of our board as a team and the morale needs of our individual members. That is as much the fault of the sector and many who focus on board development as it is individual board leaders.

I'm working to rectify that on my end. What can your board to do take a step toward nurturing your team health?

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