Called to Serve: How to “Table” a Thank You

By John Pearson

Note: This is No. 5 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board. (Click on the title to order the book for every board member.)

I quote this Max De Pree insight at least once a week: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

But do you know the rest of the story? He adds, “The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
So after highlighting 10 marks of an effective board in Called to Serve (the previous two blogs), De Pree throws in a bonus measurement of board effectiveness:

#11. “An effective board says ‘thanks.’”

Imagine the ripple effect if board members were thanked as creatively as Kareem Abdul Jabbar was once thanked. (NBA coach Pat Riley and players Isiah Thomas and Julius Erving have called him the greatest basketball player of all time.)

Max De Pree writes about Kareem’s last season, 1989, with the Los Angeles Lakers:

“Seven feet two inches tall and on his last circuit of all the towns the Lakers played in, he was honored in every city because of who he was and what he had done for basketball.

In Dallas, a businessman presented a gift to Kareem and had obviously thought about saying thank you. He had a special table built, higher than usual, on which to place the gift for Kareem. The businessman observed that you shouldn't ever make a person stoop to receive a gift. Now I think that is a marvelous lesson, isn't it?”

BOARDROOM EXERCISE: How does your board thank people? Do you consider the recipient's “love language?” Read how one board honored a retiring board chair—and why the thoughtful gift still brings tears to his eyes.


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

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.