Eliminate Hallway Whining

A 5/15 report to the board takes just five minutes to read and 15 minutes to write.

by Dan Busby and John Pearson

 

Individuals with written goals
were 39.5 percent more likely to succeed.
But there’s more to the story.
Individuals who wrote their goals
and sent progress reports to friends
were 76.7 percent more likely to achieve them.[1]

Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
 

 

More than 20 years ago, a board chair suggested a simple—and fast—board reporting tool that changed my life and blessed the board. Today, hundreds of CEOs and boards are using this “5/15 Report” template.

Just days before writing this chapter, yet another CEO emailed his appreciation:  “The 5/15 Reports have been a home run. Thank you. We are now in full implementation mode on your recommendations.”

Before we explain the 5/15 Report, here’s a pop quiz for board members and CEOs:

  • CHECK: True or False?

T

F

Board Members

 

 

Informative reports to the board from our CEO are received regularly.

   

As a board member, I’m sometimes the last one to hear both good and bad news.

   

I receive way too many emails from our CEO, and I can’t discern what’s really important and what’s really just an FYI.

 

 

I faithfully respond to every email or phone call from our CEO within 24 hours.

 

 

Our Board Policies Manual (BPM) establishes the type and frequency of CEO reports.

 

T

F

CEOs

 

 

I feel guilty that I’m not reporting adequately to the board in between meetings.

 

 

To be honest, I used to send more reports to the board, but no one ever read them.

 

 

I wish I felt more supported by the board. This is hard work. I don’t think board members pray for me.

 

 

I have to keep the main thing the main thing: raising money. If I take time to write board reports that no one reads, it’s a lose/lose.

 

 

Our Board Policies Manual (BPM) establishes the type and frequency of CEO reports.

In the hallways outside of boardrooms, perhaps the most constant whine is, “We don’t hear anything from our CEO in between board meetings. How can I steward this ministry, if I’m not in the loop?”

CEOs also whine. “My board runs the continuum: the micro-managers want a weekly report. Others don’t want email and they just call when they have a question. Frankly, I don’t really bless anyone.”

I was blessed one day when Pat Clements, my board chair at Christian Management Association (now Christian Leader­ship Alliance), introduced me to a simple, time-saving template. Like clock-work, on the fifteenth of every month, Clements, then CEO at Church Extension Plan, sent his 5/15 Report to his national board. So I took his brilliant idea and customized it for the board of CMA and sent it out like clockwork on the 15th of every month. The hallway whining stopped.

 

CEO’s MONTHLY 5/15 REPORT TO THE BOARD
5 Minutes to Read and 15 Minutes to Write

emailed on the 15th of every month

THE BIG IDEA. CEOs can write this report in just 15 minutes each month. Board members should be able to read it in just five minutes and enjoy a regular diet of good news, new news, and bad news. The content and frequency can be memorialized in the Board Policies Manual (BPM), by board action, so there is 100 percent board agreement on a report that serves the board’s needs and expectations.

THE CONTENT. Customize the report so it meets your needs, but it will likely be five or fewer pages and easy to read when using a standard template. The content might include (in this order):

  • Date/To/From/Subject
  • Next Board Meeting: date, location, special details
  • CEO’s Monthly Dashboard Report on three to five board-approved annual SMART goals (Peter Drucker: “If you have more than five goals, you have none.”)
  • Committee Highlights: bullet points only, and only if there is new information
  • Board Nominating Committee “Pipeline Report”: the running list of confidential prospect names under consideration
  • Monthly Financial Report Summary: YTD vs. budget for revenue and expense
  • Major Program Notes: bullet points
  • Ministry Events Calendar & CEO’s Travel Schedule: covers 12 to 24 months
  • A Brief Ministry Story: a half-page maximum—for the board’s encouragement
  • Prayer Requests
  • Personal Note from the CEO: one brief paragraph
  • Board Meeting Schedule: covers the next 12 to 24 months, including dates, locations, times and two to four key agenda item bullet points for each meeting, such as audit, CEO annual review, budget approval, annual board self-assessment, etc.

After you have created and tested the first draft and received feedback from the board and the senior team, your 5/15 Report template is ready to be systematized and delegated to the executive assistant or another team member. The template below may be a good starting point.
 

Point Person

Task

Deadline

Date Done

Executive Assistant

Begin Draft #1: request reports from others

7th

 

Senior Staff and Committee Chairs

Submit updates for report

10th

 

CFO

Submit monthly financial report summary

12th

 

Executive Assistant

Draft #2: All reports compiled

13th

 

CEO

Dictate or approve “Ministry Story” and personal note; approve final draft

14th

 

Executive Assistant

Email PDF of report to all board members (cc: senior team). Plus quarterly or occasionally, also email to selected former board members.

15th

 


REMINDER #1: READERS OR LISTENERS? Not all board members are readers. Listening is the preferred learning style for some people. If possible, accommodate both styles. For your listeners, record the information, and email the recording, but keep it to five minutes or less.

REMINDER #2: THE FOUR SOCIAL STYLES. It’s important for CEOs to communicate effectively for all four social styles:

  • The Analytical Style appreciates communication that is clear and concise.
  • The Driving Style prefers a “just stick to the facts” report.
  • The Amiable Style says “get to know me;” content is often a lower priority.
  • The Expressive Style wants you to listen to their opinions, so in your report ask for feedback and input.[2]

Not sure if the 5/15 Report will work for your board? Test it for 90 days, then ask for feedback. We predict it will be a home run!

 

BOARDROOM LESSON
_______________________________

Establish a board policy on the content and
frequency of CEO reports in between board meetings,
then observe—the whining will stop!
Board members: respond to every 5/15 Report
with an encouraging email, note, or voicemail message
within 24 hours. Your CEO’s engagement will soar—
as will accountability for achieving board-approved goals.

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Decide: Assess the current status of between-meeting reports to the board and discern if a CEO’s monthly 5/15 Report to the board is worthy of a 90-day test period.
  2. Delegate: Inspire your CEO to delegate the gathering of information to the executive assistant or another staff person .
  3. Respond: Ask board members to respond to every monthly report with a quick email thanks, a note, or a voicemail message.

 

Prayer

Lord, thank You for our CEO.
Give our leader wisdom to know what to include
in board reports. Give me discipline to read and
respond on a timely basis. Amen.
 

 

[1] Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (Austin, TX: Bard, 2012), 187.

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

 

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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