Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Better Together: New book explores healthy nonprofit board/CEO partnerships

When it's good, it's good. When it's great, it's great. When the dysfunction is flowing freely, watch out. 

Success in the nonprofit sector is built on relationships - human relationships - none of them more critical to effective governance (and mission impact) than the one between an organization's board chairperson and its CEO. When it's healthy and grounded in trust, transparency and humility, author John Fulwider says in his new eBook, the result is potentially transformational.

In Better Together: How Top Nonprofit CEOs and Board Chairs Get Happy, Fall in Love and Change the World, Fulwider does a fantastic job of describing what it takes to build a healthy nonprofit leadership partnership. He manages to create a vivid vision of that while acknowledging the very real challenges inherent in any human relationship.

There is so much that I appreciate about this new resource. Here are a few of the reasons why I'm recommending it as must-reading for every nonprofit CEO, board chair, and board chair in training.

The topic itself. In a very real sense, the health of the chair/CEO relationship shapes the destiny of the board as a whole. They play a key role in setting the agenda (literally and figuratively). They also ensure that the board has the tools and support needed to engage in the right work, at the right time, with the right results. Other resources explore the CEO experience. A few tippy toe into what it's like to serve as board chair. But the focus on the chair/CEO partnership is fairly unique.

So, too, is the emphasis on what ultimately boils down to basic human interaction, interpreted through the specific context of nonprofit leadership. It's so simple that it's often ignored by governance researchers. But it's also utterly foundational to the board's success and, in the end, the organization's community impact.

The research behind the book. In an environment that too often relies on quantitative approaches to describing and analyzing a very human experience, any qualitative approach offers a potentially fresh perspective. John's foundation is a series of interviews with CEO/board chair pairs, which offers an opportunity explore important questions about their common work in deeper ways. You simply can't survey this topic and do it justice. This method allows us to hear directly from those involved in the work, via the comments and feedback that illustrate the concepts Fulwider presents in the book's four chapters. The inclusion of case studies - seven sets of pair interviews - adds that extra layer of understanding without the researcher filter. We hear about the needs, motivations, victories and challenges directly from those who experience them.

The practitioner focus. Ultimately, this is a book designed to impact practice. The research method and the topic lend themselves well to visibility in scholarly journals. John may very well be working on that step. But this text is written for those in the roles now, and those who will some day find themselves leading from them. The factors that create healthy and transformative partnerships, and those that challenge that potential,  are real. Readers will see themselves in the descriptions and cases that John offers. They also will gain insights into how not only how to reduce the risks of dysfunction but to actively cultivate a mutually rewarding and productive leadership partnership. The author offers clear benchmarks for building the kind of relationship that serves everyone best.

The format. The eBook by itself gives the reader tools to launch and sustain a respectful and mutually productive partnership. But John takes the "make it actionable" step even further, by offering two additional resources. One is an audiobook (11 mp3 files) for those who prefer to listen and learn. The other tool is one about which I am most excited: a 94-page pdf workbook that outlines multiple exercises and reflection questions designed to start from wherever the partnership may be and move it to a healthier place. You don't have to wonder how to begin building the relationship you want, or how to make your relationship better, because Fulwider offers tailored paths to get you started. He even offers training outlines for consultants and facilitators interested in developing programs designed to foster healthier chair/CEO relationships.

John has generously offered discounts to readers of this blog for each of the three packages available. Use the links below to activate the discounts when you order.

Package 1 (eBook, available in a variety of reader formats):

Package 2 (eBook and audio book [mp3 files]):

Package 3 (eBook, audio book and companion workbook):


John Fulwider said...

Thanks so much for the generous review, Debra, and thanks for all the work you do for our sector.

Debra Beck, EdD said...

Thanks for creating such a terrific resource, John!