Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Reflect on energy-draining board members

"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.


Okay, so this one isn't technically a "nonprofit" quote. It also isn't a quote from the type of resource used as inspiration for the rest of the series. 

But I couldn't resist, because it asks us to reflect (the point of this series) on one of the chief obstacles to highest board performance: those energy-draining members that divert attention from our work and make the service experience at times deeply unpleasant.

I hope I've never been "that" member (though I know I've had my moments when I definitely added to someone's discomfort). But I've certainly served with members who simply dragged us down. I suspect you've served with your own version of "that" member. You know how deeply, terribly frustrating the experience can be - and how detrimental it is to fulfilling the board's governance responsibilities.

The source of that tweet is important here, and to my larger point in sharing it. Dan Rockwell's Leadership Freak blog is a constant source of information and inspiration on its title topic. (Subscribe. You won't regret it.) The larger point: energy-draining board members and the troubles they bring are a leadership issue. They must be addressed by leadership. 

That's not easy, especially in an environment where we're contributing time and talent to do good work. But that's also why we (especially board leaders) must be willing to address the challenges to our effectiveness and productivity, even/especially when one of our own is "the challenge."

I've written several posts on nonprofit board dynamics that may be of value here. In the meantime, and in the spirit of this series, here are a couple of questions for reflection:

Do we have interpersonal issues that keep our board from functioning fully, effectively, and creatively?

What do we need to do about them?


Monday, August 4, 2014

Quotable nonprofit governance: Building board member community

"Quotable Nonprofit Governance" is a summer 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.


Over the last two years, I've become more convinced than ever that this is a major, missing piece of the board performance puzzle. 

Not that we don't have other significant challenges - some of our own making, others not. But the fact is, too many nonprofits bring bright, committed, talented leaders into their boardrooms only to have them wallow and wither on the governance vine.

Why is that?

Gail's quote (from her marvelous book) reminds us that when boards are a team - a community - their potential to collaborate, to create, to envision expands exponentially. But how often do we take the time to create that community? To get to know each other? To find and build upon our common visions of what is possible? To do more than get together long enough to check off the items on our overcrowded agendas?

I fold broader issues of board dynamics into the concept of community. Governance is not one, non-stop Kumbaya moment (as much as that might make the process easier). True communities deal with the highs and lows of working closely together, of debating sometimes thorny issues, of bouncing around wide-ranging (and sometimes contradictory) visions of the future, of challenging each other to be the best we can be so that we can collectively reach our dreams. They not only survive, they often thrive - and succeed.

Questions for reflection with your board:

Is our board a community? How do we know?

If the answer is no, what is missing? What would make the difference?

What can a successful board community accomplish for our nonprofit? For our community?