Friday, December 4, 2015

Governance toolbox: Limping into December

"Limping," indeed. Besides the post disruption that came while I attended the 2015 ARNOVA Conference - and the multi-day trip home (thanks, O'Hare...) - I picked up something unhelpful during the extra airport time. The good news: I've been gathering a lot of great resources even while I haven't been writing. Here are a few of those most worthy of sharing:

I'll open with not a tool but inspiration, courtesy of a fantastic TedxEvansville Talk by my dear friend, Lynn Miller Pease. Whenever you're tempted to think that the change you want and need to see in your community is impossible, call up this talk and remind yourself of how Evansville, Ind., empowered and engaged its citizens and transformed the community. It's hard work, to be sure. But it's within our power to lead and achieve.

The one question challenge -- What would a toolbox post be without a contribution from Dan Rockwell's excellent leadership blog? This one merges two of my favorite topics, curiosity and questions, into a post that should spark, well, curiosity about what's possible when we foster that quality in our boards. It opens with 13 powers unleashed by curiosity. (Whew. Talk about governance power if those are unleashed!) It then offers two question-directed challenges, encouraging us to look for opportunities to open our part of a conversation with questions rather than statements. But questions come with their own challenges, and Rockwell offers several warnings to help us avoid falling into some of the more predictable traps.

Renaming board committees -- My good friend, Gayle Gifford, reminds us that words matter. How we frame our work matters. The concept here is simple: giving new names to old standing committees. But what she describes is transformative potential as board members expand their vision of what they are doing to broader values and purposes that really encompass nonprofit governance responsibilities. Check it out. Have the conversation with your board. Is there any potential in reframing - and expanding - how you define your committees' work?

16 (yes, 16!) easy ways to lead your organization's culture shift -- Hmmm. Maybe the subtitle to this one should have been "Debra's friends edition"... This friend, Pamela Grow, reminds us that culture shifts occur one (sometimes easy) step at a time. Some of these 16 recommendations are more board-applicable than others. But several are, and they offer effective ways to involve and inform board members about the work that you do. Those that aren't can be encouraged and supported by the board.

7 facts about the nonprofit sector you may not have known --  The primary focus for our boards is their own organizations and communities, and rightfully so. But there is value in also having a broader context, a sector-level (national and state) view of what our nonprofits contribute to society. My personal reading this week (a book I'll end up recommending here) reminded me of that. This Bloomerang post offers a small taste of the size and impacts that the sector has on society.

5 questions every nonprofit leader should ask -- I'll close this week's toolbox with one that made me a little giddy when I first read it. (Hint: check the title.) Clear whatever you had on the agenda for your final board meeting of 2015. Replace it with one or more of the five questions Tom poses here. Give board members the question(s) in advance, so that they come prepared to really discuss and analyze and transform their thinking and understanding. Use these questions, not only for specific conversations now, but for inspiration for the kinds of leadership discussions they should be having on a regular basis.

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