The One-Minute Board Member

By John Pearson

“How do we think more generatively?” was the question that Mike Pate, executive director of camping for Transformation Ministries, asked at a board retreat recently. As the retreat facilitator, Mike noted insights from Bill Ryan, co-author of Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards.

Ryan comments, “Good governance is not just about doing work better; it’s about ensuring your organization does better work.”

Mike noted four proactive next steps from his study of generative governance:
• Carve out more time and space in board meetings to wrestle with issues that matter most.
• Spend more time in reflecting on “overall” situations facing your organization…consider the whole picture.
• Practice the “one-minute longer” exercise. “If this meeting could go on for one minute longer, what would you want to talk about?”
• Look outside your industry regularly. “What other developments in different industries might impact ours next?”

All four points are worthy of more reflection (and blog posts)—but the “one-minute longer” challenge got my governance juices going.

At the end of each board meeting, Ryan suggests you jot down anything else you might have said—had the conversation continued. Then hand your thoughts to the board chair as a possible topic for your next board meeting.

Great idea! But let me suggest a 10-minute exercise before the gavel hammers away all creativity.

Board chairs: At your next meeting, hold the gavel in your hand and announce this:

“Before we adjourn, for the next 60 seconds, turn to the person next to you and share your answer to this question: “If this meeting could go on for just nine minutes longer, what would you want to talk about?” I’ll take suggestions from each team of two—and I’ll pick one topic for a final nine-minute discussion. Then…we’ll discuss, pray, and adjourn.”

Ephesians 5 (The Message) reminds us: “Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness . . . So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!”

I can hardly wait to try this at my next board meeting!

QUESTION: What wisdom or question would you have added with an extra 60 seconds at your last board meeting?


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.