What is the role of the Board of Directors when it comes to stewarding the health of a Christian non-profit’s employee culture? The answer, as you’re about to discover, can make a huge, positive impact on your people and the organization’s ministry, plus save you and everyone involved a needless heartache.
The answer: Six revealing insights that can strengthen the work of your board—and the senior executive—for good.
Bob Andringa is a trusted expert with 30-plus years of experience with 400 boards of Christian organizations. A respected consultant, presenter and author, Bob knows the truth about boards, as he told me in a recent interview:
“All boards do many things well and some things not so well. Yet every board is dysfunctional at some level. For instance, board members can lack focus and engagement. Board members are busy; they have other commitments. It’s too easy for board members to rest on their oars and let the CEO lead. The board should be leading at the top strategic level and allow the Board Chair to manage the board, while the CEO runs the organization.”
Your board should be leading at the strategic level, allowing the Board Chair to manage the board, while the CEO runs the organization.
Bob shares 80 distinct best practices to teach and coach boards to be successful. Our 20-minute visit couldn’t begin to scratch the surface of the wisdom and value in all of his insights. What Bob did let me in on are the six “must have” strengths of every great board.
1. One agent.
Great boards understand they have one agent, the CEO. They don’t try to supervise or evaluate other staff beyond the top executive. They avoid micro-managing the staff, and they surely avoid being a “rubber stamp” board. Bottom line: A great board understands governance and its partnership with management.
2. Defined roles.
Board members want to know their role vis a vis staff and the CEO. Great boards are very deliberate in finding the right people to serve in the right positions on the board. It’s never the casual question of, “Well, who do we know that might want to serve?” A great board defines the profile they aspire to in terms of board membership, then are very deliberate in searching for people that fit that profile.
3. Great chair.
Do you know that an exceptional board chair spends three times as many hours as his or her fellow board member? You need a chairperson with talent and time to lead the board.
Great boards ask the tough, needed questions, and they don’t delay in taking action when the data show a decision is needed. The problem in ministry is that people will say, “We’ll pray about it, and the Lord will provide and give us direction.” Most board members have businesses and are much quicker to recognize the facts facing them and then take action.
5. Board policy manual.
It’s the central document, about 15-20 pages. It’s everything the board must address at the policy level, the one voice of governance. It includes everything about the board’s own structure and procedures. The polices cover the organization’s mission, vision and values, along with the relationship of the board to the CEO and staff and various parameters around executive action. Because it’s updated several times a year, it becomes a living document. Creating and maintaining a good Board Policy Manual is the single best decision a board can make to operate with once voice. (Bob has even been so gracious as to offer us a sample Board Policy Manual and other useful resources.)
6. Faithful God.
Great boards of great faith-based non-profits know that God is faithful. Through prayer, they seek and invite God’s leading on all matters before them. You want a board with great integrity that honors God in all they do, including of course, governance.
“The most important goal of a great board is to retain a CEO who has been uniquely prepared by God for one’s particular ministry at a particular point in time. To see the board and the CEO working together for the sake of the organization, it’s a marvelous thing to watch,” says Bob.
The most important goal of a great board is to retain a CEO who has been uniquely prepared by God for their ministry.
And then he added the perfect exclamation point.
“Board leaders: Your ministry can not exceed the level of excellence modeled by your board in fulfilling its governance role. So take governance seriously. Develop and stick to proven principles and practices that can be implemented by thoughtful, gifted people.
“To the CEO: Your greatest legacy could be your leadership and being supported by a strong board that knows how to govern, while not trying to manage the organization. Seek to be in partnership—not in competition—with the board to have a strong ministry.”