Align Board Member Strengths with Committee Assignments

Leverage the three Powerful S’s.

 

by Dan Busby and John Pearson

 

If you are not strong enough to state your position on an issue,
remember that God places people on boards
because of who he made them to be,
the experiences he gave them, their education, or their perspectives;
he wants the contribution that only they can make
to be a benefit to this particular ministry at this particular time.[1]

John Pellowe

 

“Mr. Chairman, with all due respect…”

Whenever a board member begins with, “Mr. Chairman, with all due respect…,” you know something very interesting will follow!

I’ll never forget that moment. The room got quiet. The chairman’s mouth dropped. Every board member focused on their colleague at the other end of the boardroom.

It was the very first board meeting of a new nonprofit ministry. Throwing best governance practices, due diligence, and caution to the wind, the CEO/founder had personally recruited every board member, but many had never met each other!

(Rule No. 1: Before agreeing to serve on a board, meet the other board members first to discern their passion for the ministry, heart for God, character, and governance experience.)

The CEO/founder, in his first stint as a nonprofit chief executive officer, had retained me as a consultant. Apparently, he was a bit wary that I would say too much in his first board meeting, as his instructions were clear and blunt: “Just sit in that chair [not at the board table] and observe the meeting. You can share your feedback with me after board members have exited.”

I dutifully observed from the perimeter, but it was hard to keep quiet. I mean, I had so much to offer!

So in this speed-through-the-agenda environment by the old-school board chair, committee assignments were announced. There was no advance agreement on the continuum between policy-making governance versus hands-on governance. Depending on the board’s style, maybe some committees would not be needed.

Board members had not been consulted in advance about committee assignments. It was recruitment by fiat. The only thing missing was a black robe and a banging gavel.

And that’s when “Frank” interrupted the board chair. You could hear a pin drop!

“Mr. Chairman, with all due respect…” Frank paused. “I appreciate your confidence in me that I could serve on that committee, but honestly, that area is not one of my strengths.”

If this had been on video, camera two would have captured a close-up of the consultant in the back of the room. Big smile. Maybe with a hint of “I told you so.” I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t pass up this delicious, teachable moment.

I sprang to my feet with an arms-wide gesture to my new favorite board member and blurted out, “Wow, everyone! Did you hear what Frank just said? He said that his committee assignment did not align with his strengths!  Oh, my! Can you imagine the incredible culture you could create for this important ministry if the board modeled a strengths-based environment for staff, volunteers, donors, and your customers?”

Trust me. I didn’t look at my former friend, the CEO/founder, or the board chair. I just kept preaching while I had the pulpit.

“Imagine if right from the get-go, all board members were inspired (and permitted) to leverage their Three Powerful S’s:

•   Strengths (from Gallup’s bestselling StrengthsFinder 2.0[2] book and assessment)

•   Social Styles (know your style and other board members’ styles: Analytical, Driving, Amiable, or Expressive[3])

•   Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12, etc.)

“Imagine if you served on committees that leveraged your strengths. You’d be six times as likely to be engaged in your board work. Wow! 

“Gallup says that people (and I would add board members) ‘who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general.’[4]

“So, Frank, thanks for having this insight about yourself, and thanks for modeling this with conviction to other board members!”

I sat down, and after a few harrumphs, the chairman got his train back on schedule and finished the agenda.

Did I mention that was my last day as their consultant?

It was worth it!

 

Several “strengths” tools and templates
(and a source for ordering attractive coffee mugs)
are also included in the book,

ECFA Tools and Templates for Effective Board Governance:
Time-Saving Solutions for the Nonprofit Board

by Dan Busby and John Pearson

(Winchester, VA: ECFAPress, 2019)

 

BOARDROOM LESSON
_______________________________

Avoid committee appointments by fiat. Instead, leverage the
Three Powerful S’s of each board member (their Strengths, Social Styles,
and Spiritual Gifts). According to Gallup, “People who do have the opportunity
to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely
to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely
to report having an excellent quality of life in general.”

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Identify: Give every board member the book, StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath, and inspire them to complete the online assessment which identifies their top five strengths.
  2. Inspire: When discerning committee assignments, challenge board members to serve on committees that leverage their strengths, their social styles, their spiritual gifts, and their passions.
  3. Invite: Create a board culture that affirms members for speaking up, even when the discussion might be uncomfortable or unpopular.

 

Prayer

Lord, the Psalmist wrote that "we are fearfully
and wonderfully made." Guide all of us as we seek
to leverage our God-given strengths and gifts. Amen.

 

 


[1] John Pellowe, Serving as a Board Member: Practical Guidance for Directors of Christian Ministries (Elmira, ON, Canada: Canadian Council of Christian Charities, 2012), 19.

[2] Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0, (New York: Gallup Press, 2007).

[3] For more on the four social styles, visit www.socialstyle.com.

[4] Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0, iii.
 

From Lessons From the Nonprfit Boardroom: 40 Insights for Better Board Meetings, 2018, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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