Next Level Board Leadership: What does it take?

I was recently contacted by a local organization to explore supporting them with an executive transition. The leader had given the board more than 9 months notice of retirement and the board was ready to get going on the hiring process.

As I chatted with the board leaders, it became clear there were other challenges that the board was avoiding because they wanted to focus on something that was less contentious and forward-looking.   

I have a few standard questions that I ask to gauge the health of the organization, the health of the board and the relationship between the board chair and executive director.

      1. How large is the board? Are there term limits?
      2. How would you describe the relationship between the board chair and executive director? How often do they meet?
      3. What have the revenue/expense trends been over the last 3 years?
      4. How large of a reserve does the organization have?
      5. When was the last strategic planning process?

The answers to these questions determine how healthy an organization is and I strongly believe this: Your organization is only as healthy as your board and that STARTS with the relationship between your Board Chair and Executive Director. Joan Garry has written many great blog posts related to board health and this post on board chair-executive director relationship came to mind as I sat through this meeting. The answers to the above questions were the following:

1. How large is the board? Are there term limits?

We have a handful of board members but we are recruiting more. We don’t have term limits. WARNING: Without a robust process for board recruitment and transition, the organization is at risk of a governance crisis with the board shrinking and stalling out.

2. How would you describe the relationship between the board chair and executive director? How often do they meet?

Well, we really respect the executive director, they do a great job. The board chair doesn’t have regular meetings with the executive director. If they need the chair, they call her. WARNING: As I stated above, the most important relationship in a nonprofit is that of the chief executive and board chair. They share leadership of the organization. If there isn’t regular communication, the organization is at risk of going adrift.

3. What have the revenue/expense trends been over the last 3 years?

Well, we have a very large reserve so the board has approved a deficit budget the last few years but we have told the executive director they really need to develop a balanced budget for the next year. WARNING: There are times when it is strategic to approve a deficit budget. In this situation, there was no strategic investment being funded, it was just an unwillingness of the executive director to cut expenses, or increase revenue to compensate for programs that were not fully funded. This was coupled with an unwillingness of the board to fulfill their fiduciary obligation of being stewards of the organization assets and require a balanced budget.  As we all know from our own personal financial stewardship… this strategy doesn’t end well.

4. What have the revenue/expense trends been over the last 3 years?

Related to the answer to the previous question,…we still have a pretty decent reserve but if we continue our deficit budgets as we have, we won’t have any reserves in three years. WARNING: I think the concern about this is pretty clear.

5. When was the last strategic planning process?
Hmmm, let’s see.. I can’t recall the last time we did strategy development. We have an operational plan every year that explains the calendar of activities for all the programs. WARNING: The board is on auto-pilot.  One of the primary functions of a nonprofit board is to establish the organizational identity (mission, vision, purpose) and the strategic direction in response to the community needs it is supporting.

After this very enlightening conversation, I suggested the board might consider focusing on a few other things before conducting a search for a new executive director. They were not interested in focusing on anything but hiring a new executive director.  I wished them well in the transition.

If you are interested in how to build a high impact board, please consider attending the upcoming training on Next Level Board Leadership on October 25, 2023.

For more information on nonprofit governance, check out one of these blog posts:

What Sombrero are You Wearing?

Every great nonprofit begins with a great board

What’s Governance Got to Do With It?

The Enneagram: Nine Points of View and Core Motivation

The Enneagram framework refers to nine points of view, also known as Types, or styles that reference a different perspective of the way people think, feel and act in relation to the world, others and themselves. It reveals more than a personality profile, as it goes into the often unconscious core motivations that lie deep within our personality, and helps us to understand why we are the way we are. While each of us have all nine motivations within us, one of these nine is more dominant and serves as the main driver for how we show up in the world.

Typing, Not Stereotyping

For the Enneagram to have value, it is essential that you identify your core Type/style. This is the starting point to explore and open up the possibility for change and transformation. There is a danger in using a “type-based” system in that it can be easy to stereotype people. Stereotyping implies that one fact about someone leads to making assumptions about many other characteristics. Stereotyping limits our openness and perspective. A person cannot be oversimplified and reduced to their type alone. The Enneagram should be used to inspire compassion for self and others. Deepening our understanding of the perspectives, motivations and behaviors of other Types/styles improves our curiosity, empathy and communication and reduces the likelihood to judge and dismiss other people’s approaches, points of view and styles.

Motivations, not behavior

One of the key differentiators of the Enneagram framework is that it explores deep-seated core motivations, not only the outwardly observable behaviors. Using the iceberg model, behaviors are visible and above the waterline, but they are driven by the deep, unconscious motivations.

Individuals from different Types/styles may display similar surface behaviors while having very different core motivations. For example, two people may both demonstrate the behavior of being unstructured and late to meetings. However, with further exploration, one person might demonstrate this behavior because of the core motivation of an Enneagram Two style, saying yes to too many things, becoming overloaded because they are driven by the desire to be liked and needed. While the other person might demonstrate this same behavior because of the core motivation of an Enneagram Seven style, driven by the desire to keep things interesting and not experience the pain of a boring meeting.

 

 

If you have ever wondered WHY someone does what they do, the Enneagram offers a pathway for exploring the core motivations of each Type/style. These insights can strengthen your understanding of tensions and possibilities that exist in relationships, teams, and organizations.

Check out my blog series below on the Enneagram, or get in touch for coaching on how to begin the journey of moving toward your full potential.

Blog Series

Creating a Championship Team with the Enneagram

The Enneagram: Nine Points of View and Core Motivation

The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways

 

Celebrating Women of Distinction: Honoring Leaders Creating Change

Over the last 48 years, the YWCA Madison has celebrated women who are creating new possibilities in the community through the Women of Distinction Leadership Awards. Since its inception, YWCA Madison has honored 251 women dedicated to the Y’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people.

This year, as a selection committee member, I had the privilege of witnessing the inspiring work of six outstanding individuals who are actively shaping a more just and equitable society. This year’s honorees, Jasmine Banks, Dr. Christina Outlay, Lisa Peyton-Caire, Nancy Saiz, Rosa Thompson, and Alex Lindenmeyer, have each contributed significantly to their respective fields and communities. Their stories shed light on the progress we are making toward a more inclusive and compassionate society.

I am thrilled that Alex Lindenmeyer was honored because I have been familiar with Alex since she participated in the Amigos de las Americas program. As a young person, Alex traveled to Latin America to engage in community development work. Alex continues to demonstrate her commitment to thinking globally and acting locally. 

Let us celebrate these extraordinary women and join them in their mission to create a better world for all.

The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways

About 6 years ago, I began my training and certification in a coaching framework called Conversational Intelligence®, exploring the neuroscience of conversation and its impact on trust and transformation. Through this training, I learned a bit about the ever evolving science of brain development. When I started the training, there were five areas of the brain. When I completed the certification about 3 years later, another brain area had been identified, the gut brain.

As I began my recent coaching certification in the iEQ9 Integrative Enneagram tool, I was intrigued to see that neuroscience has offered evidence to validate the key elements of the Enneagram framework. Early Enneagram theorists argued for the existence of three centers of intelligence (head, heart, gut). Now, neuroscience has proven that we have multiple centers in our brain that influence how our personality develops and how the brain responds to change and pressure.

By understanding the brain, we can interpret behavior more accurately and therefore build better strategies to help shift how we behave. This deeper understanding allows coaches to better support clients on their journey of change. For example, an Enneagram Types’ worldview and defense mechanisms are neurological patterns that are formed through developmental experiences in childhood that create a comfort zone. These patterns direct our “focus of attention” to specific aspects of our world and life. This wiring underpins our personality, forming a set of deep beliefs, motivations and filters intended to keep us safe.

Growing New Neural Pathways

Image Credit: Integrative9.com

We also know that the brain is capable of incredible adaptation and change, called neuroplasticity, the ability to rewire, adapt and respond differently within a given situation. This ability to transform allows the brain to grow new neural pathways, which can break through old patterns and defenses to unlock personal development.  

In coaching, we support clients to make changes (otherwise, they wouldn’t hire a coach)! Often at first, the brain will bring forward a set of defenses and triggers to avoid changing. If a client is more aware of the triggers and defense patterns, understanding the deeply programmed neurological responses, they are more able to pause, take back control from unconscious reaction to move forward with intentional action.

Through exploring the Enneagram, clients become more aware of their pathways, assumptions and how they may be limiting themselves.They can step back from the knee-jerk reactions, addressing their shadow areas to move toward a greater integration of their full self. 

The Enneagram illuminates strategies for clients to stretch and release themselves by exploring “Wings and Lines”  to shift to a new level of awareness, grow new neural pathways and establish a more integrated range of behavioral responses. 

Check out my blog series below on the Enneagram, or get in touch for coaching on how to begin the journey of moving toward your full potential.

Blog Series

Creating a Championship Team with the Enneagram

The Enneagram: Nine Points of View and Core Motivation

The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways

The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

Recently I completed my certification as an Integrative Enneagram Accredited Practitioner, joining a community of more than 4,000 global coaches and organizational development professionals committed to supporting individuals in understanding their deepest levels of intrinsic motivation, conflicts, and self-limiting beliefs. Beyond individual coaching, it adds value to team development, organizational culture and our collective journey toward global transformation.

Although I just became certified in the iEQ9 tool, I have been familiar with the Enneagram for more than 30 years. 

What is the Enneagram?

A map for understanding human behavior. The Enneagram is a powerful, scientifically validated tool with ancient roots. It speaks to the age-old questions of “Who am I?” “What motivates me?” “How can I move from the unconscious, automatic behaviors, thoughts and feelings to leading a life that is more purposeful, effective and fulfilling?”

The Enneagram is a universal framework that offers insights into the heart of human nature, supporting anyone who wants to increase self-awareness and personal effectiveness.

The word Enneagram comes from the Greek Ennea, which means ‘nine’ and Gram which means ‘drawn’. It is represented in the geometric figure of a nine-pointed star inscribed in a circle that provides a framework for a personality type system of twenty-seven distinct character “archetypes”, different ways of thinking, feeling and acting in relation to others.

In ancient Greece, philosophical teachings recognized that the key to knowledge of the natural world and human possibilities within it, began with the studying of our individual “selves” as well as our physical environment. Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, is structured in terms of the nine different lands Odysseus visits (Books 9-13) during his quest to get home after the Trojan war. The characteristics of the nine lands and the characters that populate them, parallel the issues and traits of the nine main personalities of the Enneagram. There are other examples of the nine types in Sufism, Judaism and Medieval Christianity.

The Modern Rediscovery of the Ancient Wisdom

The modern rediscovery of the Enneagram came through the work of three individuals: G.I. Grudjieff, Oscar Ichazo and Claudo Naranjo. Each of them presented Enneagram-related ideas to small groups of students in the context of psychological and spiritual development.

Grudjieff, born in Armenia, taught that personality consists of different ways we buffer ourselves against the reality of our lives, helping us maintain a kind of illusion about what we can actually “do” in the world. Through active “work on self” and intentional “self-remembering”, he said we can evolve beyond the unconscious mechanical state of our personality to become fully awake. This process he called, “The Fourth Way”.

Ichazo, born in Bolivia, is known as the modern day “Father of the Enneagram”. He connected the Enneagram symbol to personality types. His teachings provided a framework through which individuals could gain insight into the limiting beliefs caused by ego fixations and thereby work toward self-realization.

Naranjo, a Chilean-born, American-trained psychiatrist, learned the Enneagram model from Ichazo when he traveled to Chile. He synthesized the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ichazo with applied modern psychological terms, bringing it to a wider audience. Naranjo communicates the Enneagram as an overarching theory integrating Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practices.

Where We Are and Where We Want To Be

The Enneagram represents a model of wholeness: each of the points on the Enneagram not only describes individual personalities but also characterizes certain archetypal elements that are universal. By embarking on the individual journey toward wholeness, we move toward greater connectivity with the rest of the living universe. The problems the world is facing today on the social and environmental level require a higher level of consciousness to solve. What got us here won’t get us there.This framework allows us to see and understand the patterns that have us stuck and identifies a pathway forward to a greater sense of unity and connection to the natural world.

If you are drawn to start this journey, contact me for a complimentary assessment and debrief session. I have two available. The world needs all of us to move toward our best selves. 

Blog Series

Creating a Championship Team with the Enneagram

The Enneagram: Nine Points of View and Core Motivation

The Enneagram: Connecting Ancient Wisdom to Global Transformation

The Enneagram and Neuroscience: Growing New Neural Pathways

The Fruits of Mini-Sabbaticals

Since 2015, I have been taking intentional breaks away from work to experience the 4 Rs (rest, reflection, rejuvenation, resetting).  As I prepared this year, I was chatting with someone and they said, “Oh you are taking a vacation?” I said, no, this isn’t what I consider a vacation.”

When I take a vacation, I maximize the experience of that particular location, getting out and doing something every day, on the go.

The concept of my mini-sabbatical is “slow down” time. It is deep thinking time, design time and release time.

When I began these trips in 2015, it was to put myself in a different place to tap into my creativity and innovation to work on the design of a new program, Vista Leadership Academy. That process continued annually as the program evolved to the Vista Leadership Institute in 2019. Creating the “white space” to allow my brain to slow down and tap into the emerging vision and translating that to an offering to leaders was deeply meaningful.

This year, I used one of the tools that we used in the Vista Leadership Institute, Otto Scharmer’s Theory U process of letting go to presencing to letting come.  “Who is the Self? What is my Work?”

With that exploration, I decided to “let go” of the Vista Leadership Institute. Over the 8 year journey of this program, close to 100 people have been engaged and impacted. It fostered transformation in leaders across the Americas, including myself. Now, I am sensing a new idea, it started to percolate as I prepared for this year’s mini-sabbatical. I have begun the cycle of the U again, it is emerging and you will likely see it presencing in 2023.

I encourage you to pause, create the space for what is presencing, the emerging future, your best future Self.