Posts Tagged ‘William Mott’

Get in the game and out of committee work

If you’re like me, you love a good story. And if you’re not a business book reader, you may have found your match in our new feature: William Mott’s The Board Game: A Story of Hope and Inspiration for CEOs and Governing Boards uses fictional characters to teach us about board leadership through great storytelling. The Board Game applies real life experiences to help you recognize red flags and employ useful tools when engaging the board, chair and CEO.

In each chapter, the story progresses candidly with its main character, David Andrews, who takes his first position as the head of a school, trying to muddle his way through relationships with the board. As readers we are privy to his all-too-realistic and sometimes painful challenges many of us will also face when attempting to align the board, chair and CEO. Mott uses the plot to provide us with teachable moments and guiding principles while attempting to prevent us from actually enduring some of the struggles ourselves.

Author Bill Mott concentrates on the single most important component of successful nonprofit organizations: the relationship between the CEO, the board chair and the governing board. He acknowledges, “To be successful, this demands a high level of trust, leadership, collaborative thinking and extensive cooperation.”

In my interview with Bill, I asked him about the common challenge we all share with boards that get mired in committee work at the expense of more visionary efforts. Here is what he had to say:


Have you observed CEOs who’ve successfully helped boards rise above committee work and delve into the organization’s vision and direction? If so, what did they do?

William Mott:

I have as a consultant observed and worked with many boards that do a wonderful job of understanding and embracing their role. The CEO has the leadership skills to guide the board toward an environment of teamwork and recognition that by working together, the opportunities to live out the organization’s mission and vision are improved. One of the components of the book I think has the potential to genuinely impact behavior is the chapter entitled “The Governance Promise.” It includes six statements that strategically reveal what is most important in building the strongest possible relationship between the CEO and governing board. Committing to these principles will make all the difference. The other contributing factor is education and training. Through retreats, orientation sessions, workshops and other professional development opportunities, boards can significantly enhance their governance skills and embrace what it means to be highly productive, contributing trustees.

Purchase the summary and full interview, subscribe to our library of summaries or read more about boards and CEOs in the related content below.

CausePlanet members: Register for our live author interview with Bill Mott on Wed, March 27 at 11 a.m. CST.

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See also:

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Nonprofit Leadership Team: Building the Board-Executive Director Partnership

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Executive sessions: Five reasons they are bad for your organization

This was originally published on William Mott’s website.

An army of lions commanded by a deer will never be an army of lions. –Napoleon

An executive session example

During a recent conversation with a nonprofit business manager, he shared with me the disturbing and unfortunate news that the board of trustees of the organization had decided to start holding executive sessions. Such sessions are usually held after the conclusion of business from the regular board meeting. Excluded from the session are staff and ex-officio members of the board, including the CEO or the Head of School for an independent school.

This issue of executive sessions is one I raise in my book The Board Game. I am philosophically very opposed to these sessions. During my career I have been a nonprofit CEO as well as a board member for several different organizations. So I recognize the perspective of both. Executive sessions are destructive and will inevitably lead to an atmosphere of distrust. They are a distraction and may lead to the departure of the CEO.

The first question I had for my friend was, why? Why would the board decide to do this? Especially given that the CEO was very effective and the board had never held executive sessions before. He indicated a new board chair had just begun his duties and wanted to include executive sessions. I then asked, was the new chair sharing information discussed during the sessions with the CEO? The answer was no, no information was being shared. I would not wish to be that CEO.

The five reasons

As I reflected on this new situation I thought it would be timely to revisit why executive sessions are not healthy for the organization. Here are the top five reasons why I believe executive sessions are bad:

1. Executive sessions create a climate of mistrust between the CEO and the governing board. One of the most important characteristics that must be present for organizational effectiveness is for the board chair and the CEO to trust one another, to respect the role that each must play. Executive sessions do not produce trust or respect.

2. Executive sessions demonstrate that a true partnership is absent from the relationship. Working together means just that. The CEO and board chair have different responsibilities but they must work together to achieve mission and vision for the organization.

3. Executive sessions may suggest the board has something to hide. If it does not have something to hide, why hold these sessions? What is it the board can’t share with the CEO? Other than issues of compensation, there is no reason to keep anything from the CEO.

4. Executive sessions demonstrate a lack of understanding o fthe board’s role. All too often, executive sessions are forums to spread gossip and discuss staff or other matters in unproductive and inappropriate ways.

5. Executive sessions often include discussions about issues with which the board has limited or no information. Meeting in the absence of the CEO, the board may lack the information needed to effectively discuss the matter.

There will be those who believe differently. They will argue executive sessions are harmless and thinking otherwise is simply being paranoid. Is it possible that something constructive can result from these sessions? Yes, but why exclude the CEO when this individual can add to any conversation the board is having. Nonprofit organizations and their boards should strive for more, to be better than this. They should be seeking to be the best possible.

Leadership is recognized in people of courage–individuals who inspire, motivate and encourage. These are the kind of board members who will not make the mistake of equating executive sessions with doing the real work of the organization. That’s the kind of organization I want to support.

See also:

The Board Game: A Story of Hope and Inspiration for CEOs and Governing Boards

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

The Nonprofit Leadership Team: Building the Board-Executive Director Partnership

Leave a reply

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