November 18, 2017
 
Seven Deadly Phrases Boards Should Avoid

By Jerold Panas

Jerold Panas
With some organizations, if you want to kill an idea, get the board to discuss it. They don’t know what they want – and won’t be happy until they get it.

I've been a consultant to philanthropy for 40 years. In that time, I’ve attended hundreds and hundreds of board meetings – perhaps a thousand (surely a sufficient number to earn me a place in heaven on the right hand of the saints and martyrs!).

Time and time again, I’ve heard the same seven deadly statements that can kill an idea.

Deadly Statement No. 1: "We’ve never done it that way before."

A board that protects its time-vested interests and its precious heritage blocks the route to change. It is strangled by the status quo.

Take a chance. Seize the opportunity. Some decisions require audacious action. It is impossible to be both consistently bold and infallible.

Deadly Statement No. 2: “It can’t be done."

In these times of explosive change and extraordinary complexity, to say impossible always puts you on the losing side. An organization harboring the attitude, “it can’t be done,” has signed-off on a self-fulfilling promise of failure.

If you believe it can be done, it can. This must be the hymn you sing.

Deadly Statement No. 3: "It’ll cost too much."

Not having funds is a temporary problem...surrounded by creative solutions. To say you have insufficient funds for objectives of consequence bespeaks lowly aspirations.

You hold in trust the mission of your organization and the responsibility for its funding. That is a commitment to be faithfully sustained with unrelenting resolve and intrepid dedication.

Resources must not determine decisions. Your decisions determine resources.

Deadly Statement No. 4: "We’ve been doing all right without it."

It was Will Rogers who said: “Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”

Those satisfied with today’s progress and pace will eventually fall behind. They're in serious trouble and already more difficult to move than a church graveyard.

Deadly Statement No. 5: "We’ve tried it that way, and it didn’t work."

As a trustee, always consider “what might be” rather than “what is” or what happened in the past. Even the thorniest problem can be an inspiring opportunity when pursued with a belief in the possible. Or as Clement Stone, the father of positive thinking, colorfully put it: “You’ve got a problem. Great!”

Deadly Statement No. 6: "We’re not ready now."

If not now, when?

TNT must be your creed – Today Not Tomorrow. Move forward and make your decision with a symphony of hard work, persistence, and unwavering commitment.

Deadly Statement No. 7: "Let’s put it off for now and discuss it later."

Indecision is contagious. It casts an unhealthy pall over each member of the board.

Ross Perot contends that too often an organization says: “ready, aim, aim, aim, aim.” Perot recommends instead the concept: “Ready, fire, aim.”

The theory is valid. Most often, it is far better to take action even though all the factors may be unknown, than to take no action at all.

Jerold Panas is the author of The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, from which this article was excerpted, published by Emerson and Church.

July 2014

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