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Board Development

Listed below are the 20 questions Geneva Johnson referred to in her remarks at the conference on Board Governance

Is the board asking the right leadership questions?

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine.  Picture a group of wolves are in a circle howling like crazy at the full moon.  One wolf is not howling.  He turns to the next to him and asks "Do you think we are having an impact?" 

What a leadership question that is. 

Do you think we are having impact? 

Someone once said an educated person knows how to answer a question, but a truly educated person knows what question to ask. 

The following twenty questions can begin to raise the right leadership questions to assess the board's governance leadership responsibility.

1. If you could change one thing about your board, what would it be?

2. What have we learned about leadership transition; critical success factors of a strategic plan or a capital campaign?

3. What is the most important problem the board tackled in the last year? What was the most important lesson we learned?

4. As a board member what added value do I bring to the board? What's in it or me? Do I leave my ego at the door and consider what's best for the organization?

5. Is there a MOOSE on the table?

6. Why does the organization staff and board remain homogeneous despite an explicit and pervasive commitment to diversity?

7. Do we think of transition in terms of how we manage the needed changes and additions to the board? What is the right composition of the board to get the work done? Do board members represent the organization or are they on the board to represent a particular interest or interest group?

8. How could the board help the CEO to be more effective?

9. What specific indicators would tell you that your organization has moved from "good" to excellent" and how will it get to "excellence" strategically and financially?

10. Are we recycling old ideas?

11. Has our chair provided adequate opportunities for full and frank discussions of key issues and questions raised? Are board discussions being adversely affected by the chair's leadership style or content?

12. Has the board considered Jim Collin's "Hedgehog Concept?" Which is: Is there a deep passion for the work of the organization? Are we the best in the world in what we do?

13. Do we marshall our fiscal and human resources to achieve our core mission?

14. How much liquidity does our organization need? Is there 100% annual giving by the board in addition to a capital campaign?

15. Does the board review its agendas to be certain that the right amount of time and that enough time is devoted to the board's concerns about what really matters?

16. Do we spend most of our time on today's problems instead of how we manage the future?

17. Do we frequently review the famous five Drucker questions? What is our mission: Who is our customer? What does the customer value? What are our results? What is our plan?

18. What might I have done to improve the last meeting?

19. How much money do we need to remain viable and to keep us on a sound competitive advantage?

20. Are we certain there is adequate depth in the top management team? Do we tell the CEO what we expect, or what bothers us? "Remember silence gives consent."

Excerpts from speech by Geneva Bolton Johnson at Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee Annual Conference The Accountability Imperative for Nonprofits, October 25, 2006.

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The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee
2819 West Highland Boulevard
Milwaukee, WI 53208-3217
Phone: (414) 344-3933
Fax: (414) 344-7071
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If you have questions, comments or suggestions email staff at info@nonprofitcentermilwaukee.org