Monday, October 21, 2019

Five practices of healthy church boards

It is an interesting thing that church boards are quick to evaluate what is happening in the ministry of the church but slow to evaluate themselves. This lack of self evaluation is ironic given the expectation of a healthy staff while they do not apply the same expectations to themselves. I am speaking of how the board deals with one another and the issues they face.

Some of the dysfunctions of church board internal dynamics include:

  • An inability to deal with known issues in the church because raising the issues would cause controversy.
  • In the interests of "harmony" board members are unable to candidly evaluate their senior leader or other issues in the church.
  • Board members have distinct skill sets but are often unwilling or unable to tell a board member that they are "out of their lane" of effectiveness. 
  • A lack of periodic discussions as to the overall effectiveness of the board and the contribution that each board member is or is not making.
  • Ineffective conflict resolution and unresolved tensions.
  • Board members who take disagreement personally and allow their ego to become bruised.
  • An unwillingness to submit to the will of the board as a whole.
  • A lack of candid, truthful but loving dialogue with one another.
  • Passivity toward ministry issues.
  • An inability to speak the last 10%.
  • Not fully resolving issues because of an avoidance of conflict.
If you have served on a church board for any length of time you undoubtedly could contribute to this list. All of these dysfunctions are avoidable if boards would adopt the following practices.

One: Set aside a board meeting annually or twice a year to specifically ask how the board itself is doing. This might include ways to measure health from board development materials. One set of questions you may find helpful are these 15 questions. White- board areas where the board is doing well. And, where the board has challenges and can become better. For those areas that you need improvement, list concrete steps that will help you improve.

Two: Do not gloss over relational difficulties on the board. Usually where these exist, no-one wants to take the risk of speaking about it. It is often the elephant in the room: We know it exists but don't talk about it. That is a mistake because if a church board cannot biblically resolve conflict one cannot expect the congregation to do so. The health of the board does spill over into the congregation as a whole.

Three: Understand that ego is the enemy to healthy boards. Ego pushes us to want to get our way, to put down others or their ideas, to be slow to resolve conflict (I am right after all) and often those with ego issues work the back room with politics to achieve their goals. Jesus blesses humility but hates pride. Many relational issues are related to pride. 

Four: The better the board, the better their work. Ongoing continuing education in how a healthy board functions is just as important as it is for the staff of the church. Often boards don't do their ongoing learning but the best boards do so on a regular basis.

Five: Learn to evaluate issues in the church honestly. One of the barriers to honest evaluation is that board members don't want to speak ill of anyone. There is a difference, however between speaking ill of a person and honestly evaluating their performance. When we are not honest about what is truly happening, boards do a disservice to the church that they are responsible for leading. Allowing issues to exist without honest discussion contributes to elephants in the room and elephants always hurt a board and a church.

Healthy boards do not just happen. They are crafted through hard work and honest dialogue. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Five powerful accelerators of organizational growth and effectiveness

Organizational leaders work extraordinarily hard in most cases to see the mission of their organization flourish: long hours; endless meetings; strategic initiatives and all those things we have been taught to do.

But. In all of our activity we often forget those basic building blocks of organizational growth and effectiveness that are the most powerful accelerators! In fact, no amount of energy and activity can make up for these keys to organizational growth.

One: Know what your priorities are. Clarity is the number one accelerator of organizational effectiveness because a diffusion of energy also diffuses results while focused energy brings focused results. Clarity in a general sense is not enough. The more clear you are on what you are about the more results you are likely to see.

Two: Insist that your staff, leaders and departments are in alignment with, supportive of and focused on the clarity of the organization. How does their work contribute in a specific way to the missional agenda of the organization? Not in a general sense but in a very specific sense. 

Clarity without alignment means nothing yet many leaders do not insist that the parts of the organization are contributing in a real way to the missional direction as defined by its clarity. Acceleration happens when all the arrows of the organization are pointed in the same direction.

Three: Innovate regularly. Innovation - finding new and better or more relevant ways of doing what we do is a key accelerator. One can judge the health of most organizations by the amount of innovation that it sees. 

Innovation is an indication of the level of creative thinking that is going on as well as the level of empowerment that leaders give their staff. High control organizations tend to see far less innovation than those who empower staff. A culture of innovation will lead you to finding the game changers that change everything. Lack of innovation will do the opposite. 

Four: Build a healthy culture. People in healthy cultures flourish while those in sub standard cultures languish. Aggressive leaders who push their staff for results miss the point. If the culture is healthy, there is clarity, alignment and empowerment you don't need to push staff - which is usually counterproductive. Healthy workplaces are in themselves powerful accelerators because they create the environment out of which innovation occurs. 

Five: Get the right people into the right seats. Having the wrong people or people in the wrong jobs is an anchor to any organization. The end result is like an anchor dragging on the sea bed while you are trying to get wind in your sails. The wrong people in the wrong seats are a barrier to acceleration so solving this issue is imperative if you want to move forward. The higher the level of responsibility the more important this is.

It is the neglect of these five disciplines that keeps many organizations from accelerating their growth and effectiveness. These are the basics of acceleration. Starting with the basics will get you to where you want to go far faster. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Self awareness in life and leadership

Self awareness is the ability to understand how our actions, words, and attitudes impact those around us. This is true in our marriage, relationships, leadership roles and with the colleagues we work with. This is one of the most important elements of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) because where there is low self awareness, relational issues usually ensue while a high level of self awareness usually leads to a higher level of relational health.

How often in a marriage relationship one of the parties says or does something that causes irritation to the other without them being aware of how their behaviors impacted the other. A marriage relationship is a journey toward greater self awareness so that they minimize relational issues between spouses. 

For leaders, self awareness is a significant factor in their leadership success. I have on occasion worked with leaders who have a very low level of self-awareness. The result is high turnover of staff, a high level of frustration over the unpredictable actions of the senior leader and the loss of the best staff. Why? Because a lack of self awareness prevented the leader from understanding how their actions or words impact those around them. Don't be one of these leaders!

One of the marks of leaders with low self awareness is that they move through life at a fast pace, making decisions on the fly, changing their mind quickly and all the while thinking they are pretty good leaders. After all they do stuff - a lot of stuff. The problem is that because they don't pay attention to how their action impacts others it creates chaos around them.  

Here are some suggestions for raising you level of self awareness.

First, slow down and think carefully about the unintended consequences of your decisions, who they impact and who needs to be consulted. Talking with those affected by your decisions will raise you level of self awareness because you will hear from your relevant staff. 

Second, listen more than your talk. Those with low self awareness at less likely to be listeners and more likely to be talkers. The only route to understanding and avoiding unnecessary issues is to learn to listen carefully to those around you. The less we listen the more likely it is that we will create issues.

Third, ask a lot of questions. Want to know what the unintended consequences are or what people are actually thinking? You need to ask questions - lots of them and then listen and dialogue. My observation is that those with low levels of self-awareness don't ask many questions. They just act - to their own detriment.

Four, invite those around you whom you trust to give you feedback on your words, attitudes and actions. This will not happen without an invitation and an openness to hearing what they have to say without defensiveness. 

Five, create an open atmosphere on your team where all can speak their minds honestly. I call this robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack. Anything else is fair game.

The question is often asked as to whether an individual with low self awareness can grow in this area of their EQ. I believe they can, to a certain degree. But I also believe that whether or not they grow in this area, they can manage their issue by practicing the above actions. These practices will help mitigate against creating issues for people around you.