Friday, May 29, 2015

Governance toolbox: May potpourri

What a difference a week makes. Where I last faced what seemed to be an endless list of negative-toned (but still useful) resources, the month ends on a more positive note. Here is this month's "potpourri" mix of links and resources.

Nine key trends affecting the charitable sector (direct PDF download) -- Different trends described by Independent Sector may ring truer for you than others. Different sections may be more germane to your organization than others. Whatever the case, this document represents an opportunity to engage your board in generative and strategic thinking about the future. You  know. The kind of future-oriented work that it should be doing in governance. What you ultimately emerge with as points of consensus, action items, etc., isn't important. Even coming away with a "well, that's nuts..." conclusion is fine. What's important is that you have a discussion around meaningful questions of impact for your community and your organization. Share it with your board. Schedule a conversation - perhaps a multi-session conversation - with your board soon.

How great leaders avoid getting burned out: Two simple secrets -- They had me at the title. Clicking on the link and discovering that the author was my brilliant cousin, Erika Andersen, made it an even bigger treat. She describes issues facing senior private-sector executives, but they likely will ring familiar with many nonprofit board leaders as well. Admit it: how often have you reacted with one of the excuses Erika describes as a board chairperson? I can say generally that I've seen evidence of all of them (and wrestled with a couple) in my work on and with boards. Very thought-provoking, a must-read for all nonprofit board leaders (and a CEO or two).

19 timeless habits of today's most effective leaders -- Not all will apply to a volunteer group like a nonprofit board, but the universals on Peter Economy's list in this post absolutely transfer to this setting. Nothing on the list should be a surprise. But it offers a great opportunity to sit back for a moment and reflect on how we approach the critical people work of board leadership. Use it as a reflection opportunity and a moment for informal self-assessment.

13 beliefs that hold you back -- Hmmm. Maybe this post is more "leadership" than "random interesting things shared at the end of the month." Whatever the case, I offer Dan Rockwell's latest as another great reflection/evaluation opportunity. In keeping with the promised "positive" tone, I suggest spending more time exploring ways to build your capacity in the "beliefs that lift you high" area. I can see three obvious points of application: as individual board leader, as individual board member, and the board as a collective body. What are the beliefs that keep you from serving at your highest potential? Where can you soar if you choose a different belief path as a foundation for your service? Again, this is another potentially valuable resource for sparking individual reflection and collective conversation.

Setting your mission free in the wild -- On the surface, this one may feel more applicable to our friends working in, and for, museums. Maybe other types of cultural organizations. But I'd encourage you to stretch your view a bit further, if that's all you see, and consider Nina Simon's larger message: the value of reaching out and engaging beyond the physical walls (and traditional go-to boundaries) that confine our thinking about our missions. For some, that may be literally outdoors. For others, it may be more of a metaphorical change of scenery. Either way, I encourage you to consider inviting your board to explore the questions that  Nina poses: "How many of the best things you're doing are locked behind doors? How might things change if you could do them out on the street?" I'd add a third part of that discussion: what can we, as a board, do to better bring our story "out on the street?"

The most overlooked way of stimulating team creativity -- "Creative discomfort." I like that - and fear it, just a little. That's okay. Jake Levine's Harvard Business Review article addresses the private sector, but the concept transfers well to a nonprofit (and nonprofit board) setting. How can you introduce a little strategic "creative discomfort" to stimulate team thinking and action?

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