I notice a dynamic within a non-profit group I coach that is disturbingly common for many non-profit boards of directors:
They govern small.
Small governing appears in many forms: No one is held accountable. People are let off the hook. Decisions are made from fear and guilt. Bad behavior is enabled and rewarded. People make nice. People lack creativity and have no vision. They micromanage one another. They blame everyone and everything for their challenges and failures. They make excuses. They eventually disappear or they stick around long after their expiration date.
Small is exhausting!
Too often the board deflects blame for their challenged organization by voicing some version of “the staff is inexperienced (unskilled/young/lazy/unfocused…)” and “if we only had more money, we could…” It is true a skillful staff and well resourced programs make a big difference to an organization’s success. And so does a skillful and engaged board!
Big leadership, big governing, big dreaming, big initiatives, big impact comes from introspection and skillfulness. Big governing is about asking questions that consider what could be, what’s next, what if.
1. What could be for an organization if the full board was fully engaged?
2. What could be for an organization if the board members showed up on time to meetings and completed tasks they committed to in between board meetings?
3. What could be for an organization if the board modeled for the outside world their love of the organization by giving money and raising money with unbridled enthusiasm and skill?
4. What would a thoughtful and strategic partnership between board leaders and staff look like?
5. What does board self-evaluation look like? How does a board really know when it is successful or not?
6. What if board members were motivated to govern their organizations as if their very lives depended upon it? We know clients utilize services as if their lives depend upon it.
7. What could be for an organization if the board of directors was able to dream of the organization being bigger than any current program, leader, budget, founder, or staff?
Take a quiet moment to dream for your organization (or partnership or relationship).
How big will you dream? Now take that dream and multiply it by ten (or twenty or one hundred)… now that’s a big dream! What do you notice? What’s possible from this big place?