Warning Signs of a Toxic or Dysfunctional Board

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.

  1. How is the board’s relationships with its key leader(s)? Toxic alert warnings should be abounding if boards are not getting along with their key leader(s) and are talking about them in negative ways instead of talking to them to find solutions and ways to come together. If a board and their CEO (or whatever title is used for the key leader) are not actively working alongside each other and respecting each others roles, it will be felt in the entire organization. It takes high levels of humility from both sides to work together, and it can be done.
  2. How effective is the Board Chair? The role of a chair directly ties into how effective the board can and will be.  “As the president or executive director is the public face of the organization, the chair is the public face of the board. When he or she speaks or acts with the conferred power of the board, the credibility of the organization is on the line.” (David L. McKenna, Call of the Chair, 11. Unhealthy chair equals a toxic board. It is vitally important that a chair is carefully selected for the leadership abilities and character that they bring to the role. Take care in selecting the right chair. (I think that last line rhymed.)
  3. When the board speaks, is it speaking as one voice?  “Good boards contain and accommodate a diversity of perspectives and thoughts. They give time and respect to individual differences, and they are rewarded with a message that the board as a whole can support. Although there may be discussion, even vociferous debate, of competing viewpoints in a board meeting, when the board finally speaks to an issue in the form of policy, it should speak with one voice.” (Frederic L. Laughlin and Robert C. Andringa, Good Governance for NonProfits, 26.) When board members are not speaking with one voice they are in a dysfunctional pattern and should be considered toxic.
  4. Are there sound board processes that empower the board to thrive? If processes are not clearly understood by all and are not able to be easily found, referenced, and followed, it throws a board into chaos and things can quickly degenerate. John Carver rightly advises “that taking time to design a sound board process, before the process becomes personalized is the greatest safeguard against the debilitating effects of unfortunate interpersonal dynamics. The only other preventative measure that comes close is to ensure that all board members are intelligent, communicative, assertive, and mentally healthy” (John Carver, Boards that Make a Difference, 136.)
  5. Is there good communication and transparency from the board?  Boards have a hard job to do together, and for many of us, serving on a board is something we do in addition to our day job. However, we can never lose sight of the fact that we were elected to give leadership and thus have a responsibility to be effectively and regularly communicating with those who have entrusted leadership to us. Also, something else to be aware of,  if boards are spending more time in-camera than out – there is a problem. That said, in-camera sessions do matter; here is a great blog post to read that speaks to why they’re important.
  6. Lack of trust, confidentiality, respect, power struggles and nonparticipation of board members are all warning signs that a board is toxic. I couldn’t figure out how to make this a question (it’s late) so I made it as strong a statement as I could. If any of the above is happening it needs to be dealt with – this is why choosing a qualified chair matters! The role of the chair is to manage the board members, call us all to a higher standard, and to deal with issues head on so as to keep the entire board healthy. I think health can also be achieved by setting criteria for board members and allowing a board to recruit qualified people (accountability/policy must be in place for this) to ensure there are diverse gifts present. Health can also be attained by having ongoing board development so as to grow the capacity and health of the board. It is also imperative that a board use their allocated resources to hire consultants or other experts, as needed.

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.


The Power of Saying I’m Sorry

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:

  • Trust and respect grows
  • Teams are strengthened
  • Family relationships grow deeper
  • Grace abounds
  • Resilience is built
  • Healing happens
  • Relationships are transformed

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?

Leaders: Are You Letting Others Shine?​

I believe with all my heart that you and I were created to shine for Jesus in ways that make him known.   I also think it’s a leaders responsibility to create space for people to shine. Read More

Making Changes: Just Start & Start Small

Well, friends, we are more than halfway through January 2018.  For those of you who set 2018 goals, how are you doing? Read More

Lean In To the More That God Has, It Comes Through Pruning.

As I have been preparing for our upcoming LEAD Women event on January 22nd, I have been reflecting a lot on the idea of pruning and how we’re often stuck in life because we are not comfortable with endings or don’t know how to end things. Henry Cloud, in his book Necessary Endings: The Employee, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up, suggests that many don’t have a healthy worldview about the healthiness and need for endings. And because none of us like painful experiences, we often avoid confronting the things within ourselves that are keeping us stuck. And just this week I heard an interesting statistic, here it is:

CHARLES DUHIGG: Well, habits are a big deal not only in our lives, because about 40% to 45% of what we do every day sort of feels like a decision, but it’s actually habit.

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Change the Way You’re Speaking to Yourself: Personal Growth Reflection

Growing up it happened on multiple occasions that I heard these words from my Mom, “Watch the way you’re speaking to me.” I deserved it. There was an attitude in my words, and likely my body language too, that was coming full force at my Mom. There are times even as an adult, especially when I am feeling stressed, that I can become overly directive in my communication with others and I know I need to change my tone. But here’s another important truth: sometimes we need to change the tone and choice of words we are using with and about our self.

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Living Worthy of the Call & Making Every Effort to Maintain Unity of the Spirit

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.  Eph4: 1-6

In a matter of one week, this particular portion of scripture came up three times  – so I am today writing about it.

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My Moment: A Leadership Transition

“I want my moment,” I said. I meant it. It mattered. And it mattered to me not only for myself but for all those other women looking, following, and watching my journey as a female leader.

I’ve been invited to the table of leadership. I’m transitioning from an Executive Director of Advancement to a Vice President of Advancement.

Since encountering Christ, I have always sensed a call upon my life. The road of discovering it has not always been easy. I have fumbled. I have studied. I have taken steps of faith. I have failed forward. I have had times of aching. Of being unsure. Of being refined. Of hitting rock bottom. You know those moments where everything is stripped away? It seems, at least for me, it’s in those moments when God still whispers, “Take up your cross and follow me. Not everyone will understand, but you belong to me. Follow me.” I choose “yes” to all that God has for me.

In the journey, there have also been moments of intense joy. Of being sure. Of embracing and living in a beautiful moment, and a moment came this week. You see my friends in the MB/NWO District are people with whom I have shared a lot of important moments with.  Over the years there have been new appointments in ministry, shared prayers during hard seasons, shouts of joy at a victory, celebrations at ordination services, and strong words of encouragement for all that God was doing in my life and theirs. PAOC is my fellowship. The MB/NWO District are some my people. I feel at home among them. And they blessed me this week in ways that are forever etched upon my heart.

Not only did they announce my new appointment (of which I feel very privileged to steward) they honoured me as a woman in ministry. They encouraged, affirmed, and blessed me. They honoured female leaders, and they invited the women leaders to surround me and pray for me. (My brother in Christ, Andrew, said a moving prayer.) It was my “moment” coming to pass in ways that exceeded my expectations. I felt loved. I felt like I belonged. I felt an even greater measure of courage for the days ahead seep into my soul!  I felt hope for all those women watching and wondering if they, too, could be called to steward such responsibility.

I believe with all my heart that God calls men AND women to co-labour together for the advancement of His Kingdom. I believe with all my heart that God gives people gifts (Eph 4:8) and that we are to be who he made us to be for his glory.

Shout out to my husband Albert and all our kids – I love you! Shout out to my HCS colleagues for being a part of my journey and for allowing me to grow up and into my calling these last few years. And shout out to my MB/NWO PAOC family for blessing me with a moment.

To those of you following along on my journey of transformation, blessings in your journey. I pray you embrace Jesus, take up your cross, and wholeheartedly follow him.


My moment. Surrounded by godly women.



My friend Jo-Ann captured my presentation of “What’s New” at Horizon.



The Holy Spirit & Leadership

I had the privilege of being a guest writer on a colleague and friend’s blog. I hold Andrew in high regard.

Check out his website and my guest post at the link below. And, sign up to follow his blog – he writes about some interesting stuff!


Practicing Presence: Lessons from Liberia

I’ll admit, it has taken me time and will continue to take me time, to process the things that God is teaching me as a result of my recent trip to Liberia. And it was this past week during a Live2Lead Seminar that I realized this: Liberia taught me more deeply about the need to linger in another’s presence.

In Liberia, there were times that I sat with my friend Naomi. (She’s in all the attached photos and isn’t she stunning?!) Sometimes there were very few words spoken, but there was a presence. Her presence. Her hopes and dreams. Her longings for God. Her curiosity about me. And there was God, working both in us and around us. And there was joy, the kind of joy that comes from sitting with someone you care about.

And for us there were also times of focussed concentration as together we attempted to draw botanical flowers. (I had brought a drawing book with me.) Initially I had decided to stay home on the day the team had intended to go Monrovia because I was nervous about being stuck in a car in hot (never been to a place so hot and humid!) weather. And because I had made the decision to stay home I had asked Naomi if she wanted to spend time learning together. Then the team’s plans changed, and they were going to the ocean. I wanted to go to the ocean! But I had given my word, so I stayed back.

In hindsight I realize how selfish it was to even consider rescheduling or canceling my time with Naomi and, if I had postponed or canceled,  I would have missed out on something special. I would have missed out on Naomi’s laughter when comparing our artistry. (I suck.) I would have missed out on watching her eyes light up when she beheld the flower she wanted to draw.  I would have missed out on seeing her never-give-up attitude. I would have missed out on being in the presence of someone whom God loves with an everlasting love. I would have missed a lesson that has continued to shape me since coming home.

You see I want to be more present in my own life. I want to be present with the people who are currently within reach – within my ability to embrace and look in the eye.  I’ve discovered in the weeks since being home that social media and trying to “keep up” with everyone all over the globe is more than I can do. I can’t like every post, read every update, or post on several different platforms.  So here’s my change: I am drastically reducing the time I spend on social media reading and responding. You see, I learned from Naomi that I want to look at your facial expressions, to hear your tone when you speak, and I also wish to have heart and head capacity to linger in your presence – even if for just a few minutes. I don’t want to be distracted!

So let me challenge you with a few reflection questions – they are ones I am also asking myself.  Is my energy and attention being dragged away by things that are not healthy for me? When I set up a coffee or tea time with a friend, am I attentive to the relationship or am I distracted? If I’m distracted, what’s the source of my distraction? Am I asking God how I might serve those he loves?

Action this week: Be intentional to get rid of at least one distraction so you can be more present in your life.




The Least of These: Lessons From Liberia

It was a step of faith to say “yes” to a missions trip to Liberia (Africa); I had no idea what this opportunity would encompass. I knew I would have the opportunity to teach and minister with other PAOC pastors and leaders, but I had no idea how this experience would impact my worldview, let alone how my heart would be so profoundly impacted by the things I saw and experienced.

With my own eyes, I have now seen mission work in one of the poorest countries in the world. And though our family has been Compassion Canada sponsors for over 25 years, we have only ever seen pictures of what life looks like in a third-world country. I’m changed. I don’t know all the ways that I’ve changed as it will take me a while to process all that I’ve seen and experienced, but I know this: my eyes have beheld suffering and hardship, my arms have embraced others who have endured sufferring I will never know (Civil War & Ebola), and my ears have heard stories of death, trauma, future dreams and God’s goodness.

I have a new found respect for missionaries and the ministry of missional workers, and I am asking God how I might reorder my life to give more because it is needed, desperately needed. And what we do for the least of these, is serving Jesus. I’ve been thinking on this: if God’s people are his vessels for kingdom advancement, then it seems to me that we need to be supporting our missionaries as they seek to serve Jesus and advance His kingdom is areas with limited resources.

One of my teammates, Pastor Donna Drisner, said this: “They don’t want what we have, they want who we have.” That who being Jesus. They want Jesus to strengthen their weak knees, to encourage their hearts, and to help them learn. They welcome opportunities to influence their country and its’ people for the better, and they take every occasion to share Jesus’ love with each other.

Here are a few of my photos. (For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may have seen some of these already.) 

As I process, I will be sharing more about the things I experienced in Liberia.


Our PAOC missions team at the momument in front of the school. All the 500 school children daily come here to here announcements, the raising of the flags, and to say the Lord’s prayer. Very moving!
The dwellings where the TLP workers live.
Some of the orphans that are cared for my Pastor John and Cecelia. Beautfiul, passionate children.












God Is Pleased With Me.

It is my last day here in Canmore, Alberta where I have spent the last four days with my kids. (Not all could be here, but most were.) We’ve shared laughs, meals, walks, and done some incredible hiking together. And amidst it all we read together the book of 1 Peter. It was a random choice as I wanted to be able to finish what we started, so I chose a book that I knew had 5 chapters. 

It came as no surprise to God as he knows exactly what we need and when we need it, and even though we think it may be a random choice, God’s Word to us can be so timely. In the right season it is healing  balm for our soul – and that is exactly what happened! It was day 2 that God, through His Word, spoke powerfully to my soul.

For God is pleased when, conscious of his will, you patiently endure unjust treatment. 

Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.  (1 Peter 2: 19-20)

I have felt a sense of “calling” to serve in the Body of Christ since my early twenties. It is a call that has taken me on a long unpredictable  journey, and on that journey there have been seasons of intense happiness and times of deep grieving. Things that have caused these seasons can be attributed to both external and internal circumstances. And for the last number of years I have been going through a season of deep refining. It’s been painful. But I now experientially know this: God is pleased when we endure.

There are season of enduring in relationships with people who do not have our best interests at heart. Heck, they may not even like us much. There are seasons of leaning into discipline/correction/hard feedback at work or church or school that, though the fruit is not immediately seen, can transform our life. 

During the last few years there were so many opportunities where I could have chosen an easy path, but I chose to lean into hard. Hard cost me. It cost me my pride – which needed to go anyways. It forced me to remain silent when all I wanted to do was fight! It forced me to lean into God and ask him to fight my battles. It forced me to learn new skills. Hard allowed me the opportunity to be broken and changed, and I like who I am becoming. Why? Because God is pleased with me. Because in and with Christ I have discovered a much better path and viewpoint that had I not leaned into hard, I would have never discovered. 

If at the end of my life it could be said of me that she suffered for doing good, she endured patiently, she encouraged Christian women to lead with confidence, she loved others well, and she knew God was well pleased with her so she kept on choosing hard over easy, that is enough for me. 

The view is better the other side of hard.  

Wherever you are in the hard (suffering for doing good), may you experientially know God is pleased with you.

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