For my next three blogs I want you to think about some conversations you might have with your board. The first has to do with your board meetings, the next about decision-making, and finally, thoughts about boards and their fundraising.
It would be nice if we could measure how we actually spend our minutes in board meetings. If we could, I’d like to know about four time-use ratios. Once I had the answers I think I could begin to assess the effectiveness of a board’s work. Here are the four ratios:
- Listening:Talking. When I am hearing reports from management or committees I am listening. When I am engaging in talking about those reports or recommendations, offering solicited advice to the CEO, or helping make decisions, I am talking. I suspect that boards that mostly listen are less engaged in board governance. What do you think?
- Macro:Micro. The macro stuff is the big stuff, strategic, long-range, and important. The micro is what one CEO called, “stuck in the weeds.” Here we want to make little decisions, helping management do their work. The other day I wondered about why a board I sat in on spent even 90 seconds talking about a $142 mini-blind purchase. The more micro-talk, the less macro-thinking gets done. Is your board a micro or macro board?
- Future:Past. The past is looking at the rear-view mirror, seeing what is behind us. I know that is important for boards. We have to assess how we are doing and learn from our past. But we can’t dwell on the past too long. We need to look out the windshield and into the future. Our work is most strategically about where we are going and how our journey is progressing. Your board: future or past?
- Important-Urgent. Long ago I was impacted by a little book called Tyranny of the Urgent.by Charles Hummel. The author argued that we dwell on either the urgent or the important. The urgent is usually some kind of last minute deal, some crisis, some problem of our own making. The author contends that if we focused on the important, there would be less time wasted on the urgent. An organization that is always struggling financially has neglected the important and is living with the urgent. Where is your orsganization?
When you look at your board meetings, what are the ratios of minutes spent. I hope you bend toward the talking, macro, future and important.
For more information be sure to check out my book Board Essentials: 12 Best Practices of Nonprofit Boards