board

How to Build Strong Staff-Board Relations

  • 24 April 2017
  • Randy Wollf

The growth of an organization often depends on the strength of the working relationship between its board and staff. Stephen M.R. Covey writes:

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world—one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love. On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. That one thing is trust. {1} 

Trust is the foundational element for building a strong board-staff team. Yet, how do we build trust in this strategic relationship? Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Spend time together

There is no substitute for just hanging out together in a relaxed, fun environment. For example, in the churches where I have served, we have done board-staff meals and retreats. When I was starting out in pastoral ministry, my lead pastor would remind the staff team to make the most of our overnight leadership retreats by spending time with non-staff leaders. It was prime time to build relationships.

The primary relationship in the board-staff team is between the lead pastor and the chair/moderator. If you are one of those people, make sure that you meet with your counterpart once or twice a month (preferably for a relaxed discussion over coffee or a meal). Build a strong relationship even as you discuss church matters.

It’s also important to encourage or even structure regular interactions between individual board members and staff.

Relationships provide the context in which trust can flourish.

2. Over-communicate

Is Your Team Turning You into a Better Person?

  • 25 October 2016
  • Daniel Beutler

Demonstration plotsHave you ever thought about how the team or board that you are serving on is influencing the person you are becoming? Wouldn’t it be an amazing compliment if someone made the connection between a given person and a board that you previously served on because of who that person had become and how they went about their life and ministry? 

In Acts 4:13 we read the following words, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Peter had just finished responding to the question, “By what power or what name did you do this?” related to the healing of the man who had been lame from birth. The text doesn’t specify whether they took note because of Jesus’s boldness and knowledge beyond His training or because like Jesus, Peter and John were a threat to their peace and seen as dangerous people. Taken positively, I see this as a confirmation that being in the company of Jesus had favourably impacted the lives of Peter and John so that others saw unmistakable evidence of it in their lives. 

By God's grace, we also have the opportunity and responsibility to lead and serve in such a way that we create environments for transformation in the lives of the people who we serve with. The activities and decisions that teams and boards make together is important, but the kind of environment and relationships they develop isn’t just a means to greater effectiveness. Who and how they are together matters. Sadly, there are too many examples of church or ministry boards that have the reputation of being powerful and effective, but their relationships and the environment they create doesn’t empower anyone toward God’s desires and purposes. However, your board or team has the potential to demonstrate the kind of community that reflects God’s nature and character. 

5 Ways to Motivate More Effective Board Meetings

  • 6 October 2016
  • Keith Reed

board roomThe “life” of a non-profit board exists in its official meetings. The time that a board has to experience this “life” is extremely limited (perhaps 30-40 hours each year), which means that board leaders have to plan meetings that enable the board to derive the most value during these scheduled interactions. Ineffective meetings—those that hinder a board’s ability to advance the agency’s mission by making good decisions—generate board dysfunction and affect the health of the agency. So investing wisdom in developing quality meetings and board experiences pays immense dividends.

Experienced, non-profit board leaders rely upon five key principles to ensure that their board meetings are productive and healthy:

1. Leverage the link between meetings and mission

Understand the essential relationship between effective board meetings and achieving the key outcomes necessary to advance the mission. When board leaders and the CEO fail to perceive the inter-relationship between well-planned board interactions and the ability of the agency to fulfill its vision, then insufficient attention will be given to nurturing the “life” of the board. The inevitable result will be poor planning, mediocre leadership, and risky decisions. 

2. Develop an annual agenda 

Board leaders serve the board and its members. This can only happen if board leaders understand the role and responsibility of the board, have a clear perception of the work that the board has to accomplish annually, and know how to pace the work of the board to fulfill its responsibilities effectively and efficiently. Developing an annual agenda will accomplish these purposes in the following ways: 

  • It will ensure that time-sensitive decisions are scheduled appropriately
  • It will require the board to have the necessary information in hand to make such decisions
  • It will empower the board to handle unanticipated issues without upsetting its rhythm

3. Nourish the culture