Friday, September 18, 2015

Governance toolbox: Regaining my post-break, post-illness blogging mojo edition

My apology for the unanticipated break here: I picked up something treacherous on the return trip from a Labor Day family wedding in Chicago, and the recovery has been a slow one. Today's re-entry post shares a few of the intriguing resources that accumulated as I continued my quest to rejoin the living.

7 signs your culture is sick -- Heh. That feels like a particularly appropriate opener, given my past week-plus. As I read Dan Rockwell's "sick" list, I could either recall an actual nonprofit board scenario that matched or envision tricky situations that could exist in that setting. Be sure to pay attention to his seven signs of a healthy culture. Culture is one of those things that remain largely invisible until it breaks down. The reminder of the types of actions and environmental factors that contribute to organizational health is a good one.

"The vision thing" - And why it matters to you - "You," as in you as an individual board member and "you" as a board. Erika Andersen's Forbes post resonates this week as I prepare to lead a vision session for a local start-up organization. It also resonates because of this brilliant quote:

We may need our boards to  play a lead role in strategy development and planning. We may require our boards to tend to the fiduciary tasks and responsibilities. But make no mistake: if we've recruited well, with commitment to our vision and mission as the starting point, this is what drives our board members to serve. This is what keeps them motivated to provide the leadership we need from them. If we allow them to lose sight of the vision to which we all aspire, we lose them. Period.

Nonprofit employment trends --  What's really going on in the nonprofit sector? I don't know how often your board thinks about the sector beyond your own doors. But understanding the larger environment - locally if not nationally - is one way to keep governing bodies attuned to the forces that impact both your work today and your potential success in advancing that vision that Erika addresses above. This quick-read piece by the National Council of Nonprofits (an excellent resource for educating ourselves about the sector as a whole, by the way) gives us a taste of some of the employment-related issues to which boards and senior staff leaders should be aware. It's also an example of the kinds of easy-access resources available to boards to help them do a better job of educating themselves about the nonprofits that they lead.

Avoid these 9 leadership traps -- I'll close with this one, as a reminder that leadership requires a bit of bravery that we sometimes lose in the nonprofit boardroom. As I re-read this list just now, it sparked thinking about how we sometimes hunker down and accept whatever offers the least risk. Good, responsible stewardship of organizational resources is one thing (and a critical bottom line for boards). But it shouldn't be used as an excuse to settle for "good enough."


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