In previous posts, I have discussed the role of a chair, why policy matters, and other types of questions. Today I want to specifically tackle two things because they are burning in my heart and I need a constructive outlet.
Why Good Governance is Essential
Good governance is essential because it is the way in which we manage organizations at a high level, staying out of the day to day operations. Boards hire experts who can manage though on board-specified outcomes.
By all board members, a lack of understanding of governance, especially for a governance board, can lead to all kind all kinds of problems:
Why Who You Choose as a Chair Matters
It’s often too late when boards realize they put the wrong person in the role of chair. Boards find themselves with a poor reputation, with unhappy stakeholders, repeatedly cleaning up messes from a maverick, or feeling like they have spent one, two, or perhaps several years serving, only to look back wondering what was actually accomplished. Policies serve as roadmaps.
Before I had studied board governance, I actually didn’t understand the value of a good chair. I am better studied now and I can easily see when a chair is acting as an effective chair or when he or she is acting without the knowledge of governance. Please hear me: nice, smart, likable people can be in that position, but it doesn’t mean that it was a good choice and that a board should not make a course correction as quickly as possible if they feel the board chair is not representing the board well or helping the board govern well. Or better yet, make sure that whoever is chosen as chair undergoes ongoing training in the area of good governance. They are, after all, leading the board, and should be doing so with best practices.
Chairs model the way, I’ve said that before. And a huge part of the role of chair is to ensure the board is following its own policies – that’s why they are also often referred to as the Chief Governing Officer. The chair, too, is expected to be accountable for and accountable to the board for doing just that. Directors, use your voice, ask good questions of your chair, and never be afraid to challenge policy violations!
I just cannot stress this enough, choose wisely who the chair is because if left unchecked, disaster can happen. If we want enduring governance, then board development in this area is of critical concern. Recommendation: As a collective board, either develop someone who is willing to be trained in this area or actively seeks someone who has experience in this area – the organization you are entrusted with governing needs the best from its board.
Most boards have a budget, make sure you allocate some of it to invest in growing the capacity of the board in its responsibility to govern.
Questions about board governance, please post them in the comment section. Got any good articles about good board governance, please link them in the comments section.
Have an amazing day!
Reverend Carmen Kampman
Good morning (or afternoon or evening, depending on where you are)!
In the wake of several conversations that, in one way or another, had to do with board governance, I’m writing this blog post to address some of the great questions I have recently heard people asking.
What is a good size for a board? Well, that depends on the type of organization and what you are together trying to accomplish. For me, in the contexts I serve, 7-9 is an ideal number. Governance Today writes a great article on this, you can read that here. The important thing for any board is that they be able to accomplish that which they’ve been tasked to do.
Why policy matters? Policy – and reviewing it and revising it as needed – matters because policy allows a board to do its work. Policies are guiding documents that contain how that work is to be accomplished. Policy is owned by the board, is the work of the board, and empowers the board to speak with one voice. Another way of looking at this is it provides the board and CEO with empowering boundaries.
What if I want to manage versus govern? (Such a great question that I heard last night at a Town Hall meeting.) If you want to manage, then seek out a managing board or apply for a management position within an organization that you would like to manage and feel you have something of value to contribute. It is highly disruptive and an energy drain for all board members when one (or more) members want to be in the management domain versus the governing domain. I have seen this totally derail a board, sometimes for years.
Is governing hard? That’s an interesting question. Personally, I found governance hard when I was uneducated about what it was and why it mattered. Board work is good and necessary work, and, like any ministry worth stewarding well, requires hard work – from everyone. And it requires a commitment from all board members to grow and lean in together in order that they can become the most effective stewards they can be.
This is why taking seriously board development opportunities matters.
Not only that, having an effective chair really matters! To read more about the role of a chair, see my post here.
If you’re considering board service, see some suggestions on my blog post here.
Have an amazing day!
Reverend Carmen Kampman
p.s. In case you didn’t know, my ordination took place April 22, 2018.
I’ve titled this post What is Board Governance? because I have often heard people ask this very question or a variation of this question.
Board Governance is the job required to be done by the Board of Directors on a board. But before we dive into this a little further, it’s important to keep in mind the following:
Board governance then, in a most simplified form, is seeking to know the wishes of the ownership (stakeholders), translating that into desired outcomes (Ends), setting empowering boundaries for those hired (CEO) to achieve those Ends, and monitoring to ensure the Ends are being produced. Here is a great little video that teaches this.
How the board builds credibility with its’ owners is by, among other things, establishing how it is going to behave and make decisions – this is usually written as policy. And, by actively understanding and living within their own empowering boundaries/policies, boards are enabled to speak with one voice.
When one or more board members fail to operate within policy, it comprises the integrity of the entire board and can also have detrimental effects on an entire organization. (I could share some stories here that would make you cringe, but that is not the purpose of my post.)
Hope that helps you to understand a little better what Board Governance is, it’s the responsibility of the Board of Directors.
Have a great day!
I am reposting this post because I thought it had been lost forever when I transferred my blog platform, but I was able to find it again in the backups I had done. In keeping with my board series theme from last week, today I want to write about the role of the chair. I am particularly interested in this because of my experience that began a few years back while serving on my first board.
At the beginning of my 2nd year of a 3-year term, I was voted to be the Vice-Chair. I was not, however, to remain in that position for very long as our then elected Chair resigned and it was then that I found myself in the position of Chair. The decision to vote for Chair was something I let the board decide as I was quite content to stay as Vice-Chair because I knew there was a lot to learn. I had no clue, yet felt like God was calling me to this. So I did what I always do when I find myself out of my element, I read books, I prayed, I watched video tutorials, and I then invited the board to go on a journey with me as I learned to chair effectively. They were a gracious bunch.
I fumbled from time to time but overall I did an excellent job. I am proud of those years as I truly believe I served with excellence and understanding – as much understanding as one can have when they are learning as they go.
Over the years I have reflected on that time and wished there was more material that spoke to the role of the chair. Last week my wish came true when on my bosses bookshelf I saw this book: The Call of the Chair: Leading the Board of the Christ-centered Ministry by David L. McKenna.
That book highlighted for me so many of the things I instinctively thought a chair’s role ought to be and then some. You see, for me, I saw my chair role as that of a servant-shepherd, guiding the board to places we needed to be and towards decisions we needed to make. Mackenna would describe the call of a board chair this way:
The board chair of the Christ-centred ministry must be called of God to the position, exemplify Christ in qualifications, exercise Spirit-guided discernment in functions, and be accountable to God for performance. 1
But to break it down a bit further, here are some expectations of a board chair (this will not be an exhaustive list):
Those are but just a few of a chair’s responsibility, but I hope you’ll find them helpful as you consider the possibility of being a board member. And remember, every competent chair will bring their own unique gift set to the role, but there are things, such as I’ve listed above, that should never be compromised. The chair is a leader among leaders, and though they have no authority other than what’s been entrusted to him or her by the board, the chair role is a vital position and a board chair needs to be carefully selected.
Serve well in whatever context you’ve been called to,
This is another of the blog posts I thought had been lost – so thankful it’s not. Enjoy!
This is a blog post for those of us who have been asked to consider being a board member (director) on a board. For those of you experienced with boards and what that entails you may find this post elementary given your years of experience, but if your new to this type of role, you’ll likely find this helpful.
Here are some questions to both ask and consider before you give an answer:
I have a growing passion for board governance, board development, and board excellence which started in my first year of serving on board and continues to this day in my current study of board governance.
My experience is limited to not for profit organizations where board members are all volunteers, and these are all questions I wish someone had told me to ask before I said my first yes. I hope these questions empower you in your decision-making journey.
If you have questions you’d add to my above list, please put them in a comment below.
My journal entry from today’s devotions.
It was with a fierce determination that you entered this day, the day we call Good Friday, over 2000 years ago.
I love you too Jesus. I can’t imagine, not really, what that day must have been like for you. Betrayed by a disciple, abandoned by others – yet you remained determined. Read More
Hope everyone is having a great day!
Woke up this morning after last night attending a fantastically led Town Hall meeting for the membership of the school where my children attend, and I woke up this morning thinking about the role of a board member and things potential board members should consider before seeking to be on a board.
Here are some thoughts for you to consider:
Those are just a few of my morning thoughts. I hope you find them helpful. Please comment below if you have other things you think would be important to consider.
Have an amazing day!
p.s. I highly recommend reading Jim Brown’s book The Imperfect Board Member.
*Note: All of my posts on governing boards will be about nonprofit boards who have moral ownership they are accountable to.
When switching my website to a new platform I, unfortunately, lost several of my posts, most of which had to do with Board Governance and board work. So frustrating! However, it can be argued that having to rewrite something also reinforces ones learning. So here we go!
Be still my soul, God is in the waiting.
He’s present, patient, working. Sometimes I see Holy Spirit at work, others times I don’t – but I know God is always at work.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. Isa 64:4
He’s at work in my waking hours. He’s at work in resting. Somethimes my resting is not so restful, it feels like restlessness and like I am trying to take just one deep breath. It hurts. And I am rminded that God is in my waiting.
God help me in the waiting. Help me to rest in you. Help me to see you, the only God who became visible in and through Jesus Christ.
Friend, I don’t know where your at today, but I felt a strong push to write this short blog post to remind us that God is in our waiting. Let us trust that he is working for those who wait for him.
Praying for all of you who feel discouraged in the waiting.
Be at peace my soul, God is in the waiting.
Held by God in the waiting,
There are a lot of things to value about a faith-based graduate study journey, and there is one that I am particularly thankful for this week: time allotted to simply hearing and reflecting on the Word of God. That’s where the inspiration for today’s post comes from. Read More
I’m currently not serving on a board, but hope to again at some point in the future. Since the first time I served on a board, I have done a lot of reading, studying (which included taking a Board Governance class), talking with others who are either serve or served on a board, and I’ve learned a thing or two since those early first days of board service.
Here are some warning signs of a toxic and or dysfunctional board. They are in no particular order of importance, yet they all matter.
Though this list is not exhaustive, I hope it gives you enough food for thought and possibly even makes for some good discussion points among those of you considering being on a board.
Board work matters – and we need healthy boards.
Have a great weekend.
For some of us, saying we’re sorry is extremely difficult; while for others of us, it rolls off our tongue as a quick fix and we give little thought to what we’re actually saying or why we’re saying it.
But the power of a genuine I’m sorry can be immeasurable in it’s ability to yield positive fruit.
In the last number of years, learning to say those words – and mean it – has been well modelled for me from men and women alike. Here’s what I’ve witnessed and/or experienced as a result:
Leaders, we need to be people who are unafraid to step into a conversation where we accept and own when we’ve blown it. Leaders model the way.
As I am reading through the New Testament for a class, I am reminded that Jesus was a man of grace and truth. He was also a man who led differently, let that also be true of us. Let us be men and woman who, when needed, say I’m sorry and genuinely mean it.
Is I’m sorry part of your vocabulary?