Tis the season…. For board, staff and team retreats.
As we enter into the month of November, the Connect For More team and I are deep into the second wave of our busiest time of the calendar year (for those of you wondering January-April is also quite full).
Almost every one of our clients and colleagues is in full throttle finish-up-before-the-holidays mode. Perhaps you can relate.
For us, this is an intense time of gratitude and we are working hard to reap those benefits. We’re almost halfway through our 10th anniversary year and are still growing as a business, as a team, and as individuals.
We are eternally grateful to all of our clients for making it so! We’re also working towards the great and imminent (hopefully) intentional pause from work that will come soon with the holiday “break.”
With all of that in mind, we’re opting to share our favorite board governance-isms…
…that is, those statements, affirmations and yes, even sometimes clichés, that continue to ring true for our work with nonprofit leaders in the hopes that they will both inspire and validate your work for the remaining months of 2019.
Some of them are respectfully borrowed from colleagues, others are our own earned/learned from the hard knocks of 10 years of facilitating with boards and over 20 years of serving them.
We hope that you’ll share the ones that resonate – or create Memes of them and share those too!
Either way, please consider this our affirmation of the work you do with your own board and leadership team – we appreciate you and the delicate balance of part art, science, and herding that goes along with the task.
A good board is a victory, not a gift.
Board Governance Guru
I never met a board or team that could be considered “good” without a significant amount of work and effort behind that designation. This starts with intentionality (Step 1- admit you have a problem or as we like to call it areas for inquiry/improvement) and it continues with a commitment to do something about it.
You also need at least one board leader to serve as the leader in these efforts – to be sure, this is NOT your Chief Executive’s job to lead. As journalist Malcolm Gladwell says it takes at least 10,000 hours of hard work put in to become an expert in anything – just think how many board meetings you’d have to attend to become an expert in good board governance!
Who you are is how you lead.
I used to believe that you could silo your leadership style from your personal values. Read: I believed there was a Work Liz, Mom Liz, Friend Liz and so forth. Truth is, they’re all just me and we show up as leaders based on our own level of self-awareness and self-worth (or lack thereof).
Sometimes that means I can show up in a way I’d be proud of, sometimes that means I can show up a frazzled working mommy mess. You’d better believe showing up the latter has a lasting impact on the group I’m working with or serving.
So how do you show up for your leadership roles? What are those values leading your work and how can you – in the words of Brené – take your values from BS to Behavior?
The nonprofit board is the only team that doesn’t practice.
In this case, Kim is speaking about fundraising in particular to board service (read: all board members need to be participating in the fundraising process). Yet how often do we practice generative thinking or adaptive decision making at our board meetings?
Much of our meetings are spent in the minutiae and/or the business of running your nonprofit business. It’s certainly not spent in building the connections amongst board members so that they’re armed with the tools needed to address crises, forwarding thinking planning or (gasp!) risk-taking.
What elements of good board practices can you put in place within your board or committee gatherings to help build those proverbial leadership muscles?
Transparency is the currency of trust.
I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating with this expert much over the past few years. I’m always in awe of the Zen-like sayings she shares related to change management and board governance. Sayings like “people will never rise to low expectations” and “questions are the gateway to transformation” resonate so deeply with me that I often tweet them every time she shares them.
To be sure, unless we’re sharing openly with our leadership teams, being willing to ask questions and setting clear expectations within our service, we are not living up to our legal duty of care and I dare say, we’re not living up to our leadership abilities.
Board service is often times a labor of Love, often times more labor than love.
Board service is an honor but it’s also hard work. Too often times we lure colleagues and friends into service by minimizing the commitment and maximizing the passion.
Let’s stop doing that and be honest about the level of service it takes. To be sure, nonprofit is a tax designation not a way of life – we are running a business when we’re running a nonprofit and as most any entrepreneur will tell you it is hard but rewarding work.
My favorite thing about working with boards, is that they’re made up of people. The hardest thing about working with boards is they’re made up of people.
Long ago, I had a colleague tell me that once you’ve met one donor or funder, you’d met one donor or funder. The same can be said about boards – once you’ve “met” one board, you’ve met one board.
Each board or committee has its own dynamics, structure, and culture. Though we can certainly learn from each experience it’s important that we don’t take what we did with another group of people and off-load onto this new group the same expectations.
Every group dynamic is unique because each person brings with them a different bucket of issues, experience, etc. to the board table. The challenge is how you show up and learn to productively connect with your peers.
Admittedly putting myself amidst those governance-isms isn’t always a comfortable feeling (those last two are mine, by the way). But they are certainly truisms that we’ve seen over our own years of service to the nonprofit sector.
I invite you to consider all of them as it relates to your individual board service, the collective whole of your boards or the organizations whose boards you serve. They may serve as a start to a conversation that can help you move further towards exceptionality.
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Which of these resonate MOST with you and your leadership? Did we miss one of your personal favorite governance-isms?
Share your thoughts in the comments section. We’d love to learn more about your own workings with nonprofit leadership.
Thinking about how to get your board or nonprofit leadership team working more effectively together?
Join us in celebrating our 10th anniversary as we offer 10% services discount to all new clients who are scheduling strategic planning, group facilitation, or other services with us before the end of 2019.
About the Author: Liz Wooten-Reschke is President/CEO of Connect For More. CFM engages leaders and empowers philanthropists to help them accomplish their mission. As the lead consultant, Liz focuses her efforts on providing ongoing support & coaching for chief executives and volunteers of nonprofits, workshop & retreat facilitation, and customized engagements to enhance board governance, agency strategy and leadership experience with her clients. Liz is a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator and BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer. She is a proud member of the University of South Florida Alumni Association Board, a fourth-generation Floridian and Key West Conch. She lives in Tampa, Florida, with her partner, four children, two dogs, and one cat. For more information about Liz or her work, please follow her on Twitter, or visit her Amazon author page.