Some might think it is easy for ministry boards to provide authentic leadership to their organizations. Consider: we all work for the same owner — God, we all share the same ultimate purpose — building God’s Kingdom here on earth for all eternity, and we all operate under the same set of values — the Bible. Seemingly, once one ministry board determines how to lead effectively, other ministries could simply adopt those practices and be on their way. But life doesn’t work that way.
For example, one ministry that called me for advice had a very informal leadership style resulting in financial losses, significant credit card debt, and resignations by its best directors. Their board meetings were informally run, meaning last minute agendas, no pre-board meeting materials for directors to review in advance, and little follow through on prior month’s decisions. There was no board leadership, just periodic board activity. No accountability, no strategy. Eventually, its largest supporter refused additional donations. The board didn’t realize its weak leadership had trickled down and infected the ministry itself.
This story simply illustrates what we all know. In the real world, even with the best of intentions and dedication, issues tend to be fuzzy and complex as we devotedly carryout our respective organizations’ missions. Then you throw in conflicting individual personalities to get in the way.
To combat this, leaders should address four specific areas to insure their board’s leadership remains authentic and effective. They are: consistency, communication, execution, and accountability.
Today, I’ll discuss consistency: How to capture it; how to sustain it. Next time, I’ll cover communication and execution.
Keys to Consistency:
- Develop a Board Policy Manual – Ministry boards lead with consistency when they rely upon their self-developed rules of the road, usually compiled and maintained in a Board Policy Manual (BPM). More detailed than by-laws, a BPM is a living reference tool providing guidance to the board by compiling key procedural documents the board created previously and includes new ones adopted along the way. Typical documents include by-laws, strategic plan, policy statements, board job descriptions, protocols for identifying, recruiting, and training directors, guidelines for executive parameters, etc. This manual also offers guidance and historical perspective during difficult situations. The BPM is a valuable tool for consistent leadership, decision-making, and enforcement.
- Promote Consistency through Board Make-Up – Another key to leading with consistency is having directors with a consistent mix of desired strategic skills serving on the board. This insures the board always has properly equipped directors available to provide consistent expertise about the ministry’s work and its business operations.
- Follow your Strategic Plan – A consistent board has a plan, and sticks to it. A formalized strategy enhances ministry discussions and makes decision-making and consistency (and communication) much easier.
- Action Exercises –
- Review and update your strategic plan. If it is up-to-date, confirm that your board is actually following it. One valuable resource to develop a plan is Joe Calhoon’s excellent book- The One Hour Plan for Growth. This book will get you get you working quickly and effectively on your strategic plan.
- Update your Board Policy Manual if you have one. If not, set a goal to create one over the next 6-months by asking 2-3 directors to take on this task. Often, this is just a matter of pulling together existing documents and then adding others as new policies and protocols are developed.