|How to Make Your Board Dramatically More Effective, Starting Today: A Board Member's Guide to Asking the Right Questions, by Gayle L. Gifford (Emerson & Church, 2010, 114 pp., $24.95).
There is never a bad time for a board to focus on fundamentals. Regardless of experience or expertise, when a board reconsiders its foundational questions and assesses its practices, the results can be startling: improved performance, more creative thinking, and renewed energy.
This is the sense one has when reading Gayle L. Gifford’s How to Make Your Board Dramatically More Effective, Starting Today. The title implies a rather big promise for such a small book—one in a series of “one-hour” books from Emerson and Church that the publisher says are the “gold standard” resources for non-profit boards. But the book does deliver on its ambitious claim.
This fast-paced book can really be read in an hour or less. It contains 34 questions, each in a single chapter, grouped into three categories: “Making our Community Better,” “Becoming Good Stewards,” and “Building a Great Board.” The questions themselves are more practical and compelling than such generic labels imply. For example, chapter 27, “Do We Avoid Rubber-Stamping and Decision-Reworking?,” invites the kind of self-examination even seasoned board members will welcome as an opportunity to take a fresh look at how the board functions. Chapter 6, “Do We Think and Act Strategically?,” encourages boards to consider creative ways to break “logjams” rather than simply to accept and live with well-rehearsed limitations.
The contribution this book makes is not so much that it offers startling new answers on its own. Rather, the thoughtful questions it raises stimulate readers’ own thinking, encouraging them to raise similar questions with their own boards.
That’s why I’ve ordered 30 copies.