Pop Quiz: Top-5 Ways to Bless Your Ministry

By John Pearson

“What Everyone Knows Is Usually Wrong”

STOP! Before you read further, grab a blank piece of paper and a pen (it’s homeschool time!)…and answer this question:

“During this COVID-19 crisis, what are five ways that I can leverage my time, my spiritual gifts, and my network—to make a unique impact as a board member?”

Time’s up! Pens down!

Here’s my Top-5 list, plus a book recommendation for each suggestion:

#1. MEMO TO SELF: SHUT UP! Even though—like all board members—I have dozens of brilliants opinions and recommendations for everyone else, I would reel it back a bit and try to be a better listener on Zoom calls. Maybe I could tamp down the know-it-all gene, and—instead—bless other board members, our CEO, and senior team members. I’ve posted this on my office wall:

“You can be known as the person who helps articulate the critical issue or as the person who provides hasty answers to solve the wrong problem.
Which would you prefer? Exactly.”

Click here to read my review of The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever, by Michael Bungay Stanier.

#2. HELP OUR CEO DISCERN “THE ONE THING.” As a board member, I would call or email the CEO with this insight and offer to have a conversation about his or her “ONE Thing:”

"What's the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it
everything else would be easier or unnecessary?"

Click here to read my review of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

#3. DON’T MAKE THE PROBLEM WORSE. As you experiment with new programs (online and other innovations), take a step back to ensure that you don’t create unintended consequences—like the “cobra effect” noted here:

“When we fail to anticipate second-order consequences, it’s an invitation to disaster, as the ‘cobra effect’ makes clear. The cobra effect occurs when an attempted solution to a problem makes the problem worse.” That happened in India, during the UK’s colonial rule. “A bounty on cobras was declared,” and citizens received cash for producing dead cobras. You guessed it—the entrepreneurs
began breeding more cobras.

Click here to read my review of Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, by Dan Heath.

#4. CONSULT OUTSIDE WISDOM. I would urge our board and CEO to slow down (even though these are urgent days) and not launch new initiatives or apply Band-Aid fixes to complex problems—without adequate due diligence. I’d give our CEO quick examples of hasty actions gone south—including several that I’ve observed in the last four weeks. My sense: many program and communication disasters could have been avoided—had the CEO and/or the board sought outside wisdom from an independent third party. (You likely have observed numerous knee-jerk reactions. “What were they thinking? Why didn’t they ask someone outside their inner circle? Yikes!”)

“What everyone knows is usually wrong.”

Click here to read my review of The Practical Drucker: Applying the Wisdom of the World’s Greatest Management Thinker, by William A. Cohen.

#5. DELEGATE! I’ve noticed in recent weeks that CEOs and board members have taken on heavy, heavy loads—doing way too much—and, in one sense, playing god, not leaning on God.

“There is no virtue in doing more than our fair share of work,” writes J. Oswald Sanders in his oft-quoted classic, Spiritual Leadership. Referencing the delegation counsel from Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, Sanders adds, “Moses could doubtless have done the task better than the 70 men whom he selected, but had he persisted in doing so, he would soon have been only a memory."

Click here to read my review of Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer, by J. Oswald Sanders.

BOARD DISCUSSION: What’s the board’s “ONE Thing” this week—and who is best gifted to own this? Is our CEO trusting God—or playing god?

MORE RESOURCES: Read Lesson 9 in More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, “Just Do One Thing a Month. Make a specific ask of each board member each month.” Devlin Donaldson suggests how you can unleash your board members to experience much greater satisfaction and productivity! Click here.


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.