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Things Don’t Just Happen

One of the greatest challenges of parenthood is teaching your children self-responsibility as it pertains to the relationship between what they do and what they get. Children have a canny ability to “not know” how things happened, especially if the result is undesirable. All of my children have demonstrated this ability at one time or another.

There was the time Douglas “lost” his brothers USC sweatshirt. Even though he borrowed it without asking his brother and loaned it to a friend (w/o his brothers permission) and then forgot go back to the friend to get it. He didn’t know how it happened – I do.

Things don’t just happen.

There was the time Dex went to a church conference in California. I couldn’t afford the full expense of the trip, but Dex ended up in California anyway. How??? He called family & friends and asked for their support – they believed in him & his enthusiasm and they supported him. Some people said they didn’t know how it happened – I do.

Things don’t just happen.

The Leadership Lesson my children taught me was:

Every effect is preceded by a cause.
Every consequence is preceded by a choice.
Every result is preceded by an action.
Every output is preceded by an input.


We have the power to make things happen, whether we know how they happen or not.

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Why Am I on this Board?

I’ve heard this question more than once during my career. It’s the equivelant of waking up next to your spouse and asking, “Why did we get married?” Needless to say, not the morning greeting any of us want.

Well to prevent you from waking up during a Board meeting in the future and asking, “Why am I on this Board?”, we’ve discovered 4 simple questions to ask before you commit to the Board.

1. Why do you want me? Your seeking their motivation for seeking you. Discover your unique quality or characteristic that attracted them to you in the first place.
2. What role do you want me to play? This is similar to a position on the football field – the quarterback and wide receiver are on the same team, but they have two very distinct roles. Confusion is reduced when you know what role you’re playing before the game starts. For our purposes today, we’re going to say all board members assume the role of governing and within the role of governing there are some common positions, including Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary (NOTE: All Board members assume a governing role, but ALL Board members are not fit to be the Chair, Treasurer, or Secretary – guess I’ll write about that one another time.) Now back to the business at hand, some other roles we’ve seen board members asked to play include:


Governance Expert


Image/Face of the Board

Special Liaison

Community Connector

Critical Thinker/Questioner
3. What are my responsibilities**? We consider these the duties associated with being a board member in general, and the duties associated with any specific role you will play. Using our football example – the quarterback and wide receiver are both responsible for memorizing the plays, however; the quarterback is responsible for calling the play and making a good decision on where to throw the ball, the wide receiver is responsible for running his route and catching the ball if it comes to them. The key is they both rely on the other to fulfill their responsibilities. This applies to the Board – members rely on each other to fulfill their individual and collective responsibilities because if one board member “drops the ball” the play is over for the entire team.
4. What expectations do you have of me? This is the result of the Board member fulfilling their responsibilities. The expectation may be a certain amount of money raised, a certain number of colleagues introduced to the organization, attendance at events, etc…. The expectation is the desired result. One reason many people struggle with board service is there aren’t clear expectations, up-front, regarding what the Board and organization expects from each member. So here’s my last football analogy – the quarterback is expected to be able to throw the ball, the wide receiver is expected to be able to catch the ball, the lineman is expected to be able to protect the quarterback, and so on, and so on. They can’t just have the title of the role, they must meet the expectation associated with it. Just like sports, many fail at board service because they wanted the role, but couldn’t handle the responsibilities and expectations that come along with it.

Remember, a quarterback that can’t throw won’t keep his job for long. A receiver that can’t catch won’t keep his job for long and lineman that can’t block won’t keep his job for long. Why??? Because they’re not meeting the expectations of the responsibilities associated with their role. Ask yourself, Am I able to meet the expectations of the responsibilities associated with my role on this Board? If not, then why am I on this Board???

**For a list of sector accepted responsibilities see BoardSource’s 10 Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards.

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