Governance Stew

By John Pearson

Engagement Thermometer:
You can’t stick a cooking thermometer into a board member’s arm—so how do you measure board meeting engagement? Recently, a highly engaged church elder told me, “It’s fun when long meetings don’t even feel long!”

Aristotle (384 -322 BC):
“The soul never thinks without a picture.”

Board Member (21st Century):
Regarding the style, length and frequency of CEO written reports to the board, a board chair told me recently, “I’m more of a People magazine guy versus a Forbes magazine guy.” (So how would you characterize your board members’ reading preferences? One size doesn’t fit all.)

Poor Management Is Not a Crime. Discuss!
“The Justice Department won’t charge former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner over tea-party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, concluding that IRS officials bungled the matter but committed no crimes.

“Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia, leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik wrote to Congress on Friday. “But poor management is not a crime.” (The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 23, 2015)

Board Homework:

Peter Drucker:
“All the first rate decision makers I’ve observed had a very simple rule: If you have quick consensus on an important matter,
don’t make the decision.
Acclamation means nobody has done the homework.”

(Peter Drucker’s Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, by Peter F. Drucker, France Hesselbein, and Joan Snyder Kuhl)

At your next board meeting, ask each board member to toss a memorable governance principle or axiom or complex issue into the governance stew—and then serve it up in small discussion groups (with food, of course).

QUESTION: What’s the best governance axiom you’ve heard—and why?


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.