Best of BoardSource Leadership Forum Day One

Tim King from Urban Prep in Chicago was the morning keynote.  Tim is a remarkable speaker (to get a glimpse into his passionate delivery see his 2012 Commencement Address).  A couple themes from his talk:

  • “We believe” 
    • You either do or you do not believe.  There is no halfway.
    • What would it take to stop believing?
  •  Altering World view
    • If you want people to have another path forward, you need to provide another world view
  • Change
    • Change does not happen by just thinking bigger and and dreaming.  We must act.
    • If you want people to change their dance, you must change the music- African Proverb
    • Ritual plays an important role in change.  At Urban Prep the freshman class receives their  school blazer on the first day of school
    • Our work is not for us, it is for others, those that follow.  We are planting trees from which we will never experience shade.

Janelle Brittain and Joe Wilkins presented from their collective experience helping organizations take bold risks.  Themes from their presentation included:

  • Assess the boards appetite for risk.  Map out each individual’s comfort level for change.
  • What is the Ripple Effect of your organization’s decision.  Consider the ripples beyond just the local and immediate community
  • How to make the case for decision that involves bold risk:
    • Focused Opening
    • Why?  What is the opportunity/impact?
    • Alignment with strategic goals
    • Paint a picture of completion
    • Options for moving forward.  What is the smallest step an organization can take with the greatest impact?  What is mandatory?
    • Testimonials- who else has traveled this path?
    • What are the downsides?
    • What is the impact if no decision is made?
    • Create a sense of urgency.
  • Convert Skeptics
    • Appreciate them first and respect their ideas
    • Identify and clarify the concerns

Finally, Cathy Trower, author of The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership focused on the role of board accountability.

  • Take time in the sensemaking stage.  Do not rush to decide.  Framing an issue is as important for what it focuses on as it is for what it leaves out.
  • Board’s must make sense out of the data they are provided.  They cannot just except it and move forward without inquiry.
  • Encourage robust discourse and consider not voting on a decision until an opposing view has been expressed.
  • Create a culture of inquiry.  Consider framing issues with a best case, most likely case, and worst case mindset.
  • What if the board assessed the CEO partially on the quality of the critical questions that they brought to the board?
  • Effective leadership is avoiding making authoritative and absolute right answers

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