Mt Desert from Scoodic Peninsula - symbolic of moving forward with clarity and confidence

Moving Forward with Clarity and Confidence

As our world evolves to cope with the pandemic and we begin moving forward into a changed future, now is the time to take stock of ourselves and the environment in which operate.  What has changed for the long term? What practices do we want to keep and what will we go back to? This is true for us personally and professionally and should also be a consideration for those of us serving on boards. Some organizations have had the luxury of being able slow down and “wait it out”, only making the critical decisions required to keep the lights on while the pandemic raged outside.  Others have been pushed into overdrive and had to make gut wrenching decisions on cutting back and holding on, all while trying to meet their mission and serve a population who needs their services now more than ever.

As we move forward, this is a great time for organizations to assess board practices and performance and move into the “new normal” with clarity and confidence. As BoardSource Certified Governance Consultants since 2014, we have seen first hand how completing a BoardSource Board Self Assessment (BSA) can help our clients identify their strengths and weaknesses and hold themselves—both individually and collectively—to a higher standard of performance.  The assessment tool focuses on four critical governance roles:

  1. setting strategic direction,
  2. ensuring adequate resources,
  3. providing meaningful oversight, and
  4. board structure and operations

Within these, the assessment explores Board members’ understanding and perceptions of its strength across ten areas of responsibility.  Each section contains both closed and open-ended questions, offering robust information and a detailed final report. Individual answers remain anonymous and confidential, offering the opportunity to speak openly and candidly about all aspects of board operations.  The report also benchmarks your board’s responses against other nonprofit organizations that have answered the same questions, which may be helpful as you consider your board’s performance relative to peer organizations.

When you book a Board Self Assessment with Board Veritas, you can count on our expert governance team to lead you through the process and make sure that you not only get the robust full report, but can understand and apply the results.  Our expert governance facilitators/consultants will analyze the detailed report for themes, concerns and action items.  Your board will receive an executive summary and be led through the results and proposed actions at an in person or virtual retreat. For more information on how the Board Veritas team can lead you through the assessment process and beyond, please email us.

Signe C. Bell, Director of Nonprofit Programs, University of Delaware Center for Community Research & Service; Senior Consultant, Governance & Policy, Board Veritas

Lisa Anne Thompson Taylor, CEO, Board Veritas

Board Innovation 3rd Party Provider

How To Future-Proof Your Board

Organizations who didn’t “future-proof” their boards were caught off-guard last year, especially those that neglected to make a digital transition across different business lines once the global disaster unfolded.  There is no better example of this than today’s pandemic crisis that forced nonprofits to work overtime and correct digital deficiencies to survive.

Preparing for a crisis is just one reason an organization must embody an innovative ethos: to run more efficiently, attract investors and new partnerships and boost the brand overall, to name a few.  But why does it always seem like the lowest priority?

“Organizations can be overburdened with agendas that address a litany of current issues so it can seem lofty to invest time and money in issues or projects that ‘haven’t happened yet’,” said Lisa Anne Thompson Taylor, CEO of Board Veritas, a board governance and training firm based in Washington, DC.

Here are 5 ways you can “future-proof” your board:

It Starts with An Evaluation

Without an outside perspective, your board will stay focused inward and follow a steady path towards… obsolescence.  First, ask your board to take a quick Board Veritas survey on what they define as “innovative” and how they can see it being applied to the nonprofit model.

“…directors often lack the courage to objectively evaluate their make-up and determine if they have the right skills and perspectives around the table. Many Boards are focusing too much on “the rear view mirror” and not enough on the road ahead.” The HR Director

Board Veritas advisors can help.

Find Way to Encourange Leaders To Think Innovatively

At each board meeting, invite a current or past board member to propose a concept that might be considered too progressive.  Encourage the team to brainstorm on how it could actually work now. Look for recent articles in the news (Fast Company)

Look Outside the Board for Inspiration

As board members to bring sources from articles and other resources to discuss or invite a speaker to present to your board who you believe has helped make a difference in your industry.  

Implement a Future-directed Recruitment Process

Board and executive recruitment is the standard for building an innovative board and that alone can make or break it. The right mix of people is absolutely essential for any organization to move forward and will determine the board’s trajectory speed.  You might consider a Chief Innovation Officer or new executives that have a proven record of implementing innovation.

“Innovation leads to a board culture of inquiry, engagement and continuous learning that will be critical for organizations surviving, adapting and thriving in a post pandemic world,” says Signe Bell, a Board Veritas advisor. “Our systems have been disrupted at every level and we must bring our absolute best to the boardroom to reimagine and achieve mission success.”

Dial Up Board Diversity

NACD suggests a deliberative approach to recruitment is the best way to “ensure (boards) have the relevant demographic and experiential diversity they need—in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, industry, geography, and other areas. Done right, such a process provides access to desirable candidates with needed skills and experience who may not yet be highly visible in their careers or, consequently, on the board’s radar.

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Diversity Equity and Inclusion Training

The Energy and Drive of an Owner

DEI Board Diversity Equity and Inclusion
Chris Morris, Senior Governance Consultant

The “think like an owner” mindset is all about leadership and accountability.

Simply stated, it means to make decisions as if the organization were your own. Whether you are an employee or board member, thinking like an owner means being self-motivated to grow the company and invest and spend its money as if it were your own. It means really understanding how the business functions-what the mission is and its business model. The owner typically has the highest commitment to the business, as well as unique insight that provides the ability to make the best decisions for the business and themselves. This insight is acquired from experiencing the benefits or consequences of their actions on a daily basis.

There are three aspects to thinking like an owner:

  1. Consistently asking “what does the company need”, taking responsibility to make it happen and encouraging others to do so
  2. Holding self and others accountable for meeting commitments
  3. Having an end-to-end understanding of the business

How can employees know what the company needs and take responsibility to make it happen? Employees must know the goals of the organization, its strategy and how their role contributes to its execution.  Employees must also know what behaviors the owner values and the guiding principles used to make decisions. These are represented in the core values of an organization.

Thinking like an owner means having an end-to-end understanding of the business.

Thinking like an owner also means taking responsibility for the outcomes of yourself and others. It means taking the initiative, having a sense of urgency, doing the right thing and never quitting until the desired results are achieved. It’s easy to spot people with this mindset. They have an energy, drive and focus that are unmistakable. They also don’t quit until the job is done and the long-term objective is achieved. They see the big picture and constantly search for opportunities and identify threats to the organization.

Finally, thinking like an owner means having an end-to-end understanding of the business. This means knowing what all the departments of a business do, and what all of the drivers of performance are. It means understanding the downstream inputs and upstream outputs related to your role and who else depends on your work. It means knowing that other people depend on you and you on them, so it’s best to understand what they do and how they do it.

If you are an owner, leader or board member of an organization, the best way to encourage this behavior among your employees is to make sure that your core values are not only articulated but also lived. It is to give them an increasing level of responsibility and push decision-making as far down in the organization as possible. This will allow others to develop the unique insights and experiences that will allow them to make the same decisions an owner would make.

Ultimately, the goal is to have all employees make the same decisions and have the same commitment to the organization that the owner does. Once this alignment occurs, great things can happen. Board coaching is a great first-step in starting the process.


About Chris Morris


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Founder-Led Guidelines from Board Veritas

The Founder-led Future: When the CEO Steps Down

Q. Why is it so important to ensure a smooth transition when a Founder exits?
A. It instills confidence with the membership or customer base  – which affects a company’s culture and bottom line.


On the heels of the Amazon announcement that its CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos was stepping down, it left other company creators intrigued. How will the process of untangling the influence of a Founder, in a Founder-led organization, work?  Is it more or less difficult with companies of a different scale? If you’ve effectively managed “Founder’s Syndrome” during the leader’s tenure, can the issue still arise during succession?

Founder’s Syndrome (also founderitis) is the difficulty faced by organizations where one or more founders maintain disproportionate power and influence following the effective initial establishment of the organization, leading to a wide range of problems.
Founder’s Syndrome” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, January 2021

Any leadership transition works best when the change is anticipated and addressed in the company’s succession plan.

Since every organization is different, there is no tried and true manual that can successfully prepare you for a Founder exit or transition, since things like relational dynamics, scale and other dependencies can factor in.  However there are some guidelines that can help Boards prioritize their agenda. Here are three things that organizations must do to move on successfully after a Founder steps down:

  1. Honor the legacy of the founder’s journey and show that the incoming leader has the Founder’s full support
  2. Put the organization’s needs first while honoring the founder’s legacy from a peripheral standpoint
  3. Communicate consistently with staff and stakeholders regarding updates throughout the transition
  4. Revisit the organization’s Mission and Vision with the strategic direction of the new leader
  5. Return to the business plan: be clear about the new direction and anticipated shifts with the new leadership
  6. Identify how the reporting structure and operational lines of business may change
  7. Visualize the culture and communicate regularly and effectively with staff to promote a shared vision

Founder-led organizations can benefit from Board Veritas’ free webinar on Fine Tuning Your Mission and Vision statement, on February 24, 2021.

For more information on hiring a Board Veritas Advisor or details about our service offerings and training, please contact us at

The Board Matrix: Scary Concept or Long Overdue Diversity Tool?

The quest for strong, diversified representation on corporate boards recently reached a tipping point after Nasdaq’s announcement that it aims to require Nasdaq-listed companies to reveal their board composition (using a board matrix showing race and gender statistics as a condition of listing).   

Companies listed on the exchange reads the proposal, must have “at least two diverse directors, including one who self-identifies as a woman and one who self-identifies as either an underrepresented minority or LGBTQ.”

“We’ve slid backwards with respect to equity on boards, and there are overwhelmingly more white people than any others,”
Lisa Anne Thompson Taylor, CEO of Board Veritas

Shortly after the announcement a new star was born: The Board Matrix.  Not because it was new, but because it received national recognition to a degree that was unprecedented.  Anyone serving on a board seemed to take notice.

Will nonprofit organizations soon follow what could turn out to be a new corporate must-have?

Although critics deemed Nasdaq’s proposal a “stunt,” implying that its CEO, Adena Friedman, is using the diversity consulting firm Equilar for more than just merely as a strategic partner, it still highlights a conversation about board transformation.

“We’ve slid backwards with respect to equity on boards, and there are overwhelmingly more white people than any others,” says Lisa Thompson Taylor, Board Veritas CEO, a board governance and coaching company based in Washington, DC.  Thompson adds: “there is little racial equity within NGOs with the exception of international organizations where we’ve seen strong representation due to the need for local representation in countries where they’re active.”

Board Veritas anticipates proposals front the incoming Biden administration on diversity, gender, equity and worker constituent representation. “We expect the Biden Administration to harness the talent of under-represented communities in the context of executive and board leadership,” says Thompson.

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