Friday, March 13, 2015

Governance toolbox: Organizational culture

This week's shared resources address various aspects of boardroom/group behavior.

When "nice" is wrong --  My friend Max is on a roll. This week's post raises a larger question that I've been asking for more than a year: Why do so many bright people turn into such boneheads when they enter a nonprofit boardroom? (My paraphrase. Max is much nicer than I am.) Max not only addresses factors that contribute to that phenomenon, he offers three excellent recommendations for creating a different kind of work environment.  Number two, board assessment, is a particularly undervalued vehicle for sparking reflection and honest conversation about boardroom behaviors that impede the work of governance.

How scarcity thinking holds nonprofits back -- Nell Edgington's latest post compares two types of mindsets that shape the thinking - and, ultimately, the outcomes of that thinking - within the sector. She draws on Carol Dweck's pivotal work on growth vs. fixed mindsets to explain how nonprofit organizations become so wrapped up in "scarcity thinking" that they end up wallowing and unable to access the kinds of stretch thinking (growth mindset) required to actually make an impact. She offers illustrations of ways in which a shift in mindset facilitates the kinds of discussions and actions that lead to change. Coincidentally, I'd bookmarked another post that shared this same illustration of Dweck's mindsets for sharing with you.

Protecting against groupthink: 17 techniques -- This is an excellent "how to" post that offers the promised strategies for avoiding or overcoming one of the more difficult challenges found in group work.

 How to ask better questions -- Writer Stephanie Vozza offers five tips for posing the kinds of questions that spark creative, challenging, inclusive questions. Hopefully, those five tips will feel obvious to you as you read them. But this article is a good reminder of the importance of posing thoughtful questions, especially from a leadership position.

5 power tips for powerful decisions -- How often do our boards feel pressured to make a decision, any decision, quickly? How much time do we give them to really sit with a potential decision before making it? There is much to like about Dan's tips in this post. Like the previous resource, some of what Dan shares may seem obvious. But it's good to articulate as reminders to respect the value - and impact - of the decisions we make. P.S. I really like number three.

Why listening might be the most important skill a leader has -- "Shut up. Just listen. Really listen." Blunt, but true. If effective nonprofit governance is grounded in great questions, there is an inevitable corollary: listening deeply and attentively to what is shared. That capacity to listen is important for any board member, but it is especially critical to leaders charged with facilitating the discussions and decisions that emerge from that listening. Not so much a "tool" as a timely culture-related reminder.

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