Archives For balance

Surrounded by Revolutionary War battlefields, I joined a dozen faith-based nonprofit leaders from across the country for a unique learning experience. Using the methodology of “peer member processing,” our two days together would focus on helping each other go to war on the most significant challenges we faced.

In preparation for the experience, we were asked to come with our response to one simple question: What is the most significant obstacle you are currently facing?

In small groups, we would confront these obstacles, with the goal of helping each leader discover a positive resolution, or at least identify a few of the next steps to take.

Driving to the event, I wondered how many would choose to talk about the seemingly impossible task of “balancing” work and family. Or how many would focus on the challenges of fundraising. Maybe strategy would come up. Or operating in a rapidly shifting culture.

But the issue that felt most urgent was my relationship with my board. We were in a season in which we were facing key decisions and operational dilemmas.

Compounding these challenges was my sense that I was receiving conflicting counsel from several board members. How was I supposed to follow the directions of my “bosses,” when one board member’s advice sometimes contradicted another’s?

Given my deep respect for each board member, and knowing each had the organization’s interests in mind, I was confused. There was no question that our intentions were all in the right place, but our practices were leading to conflict and confusion.

Arriving at the retreat center, the group of nonprofit leaders began sharing their obstacles, and a pattern quickly began to emerge: One after another, leaders shared that their greatest difficulty related to some aspect of their relationship with their board. Turns out, my challenges were not unique.

It quickly became clear that we were each describing variations on the same theme: the board–CEO relationship is exceptionally challenging. It’s a proverbial minefield, with the potential to sabotage an organization: creating dissention, thwarting progress, undermining impact, and knocking it off mission. And it’s not just organizational leaders who acutely feel the challenge associated with this relationship. Board members often grapple with similar issues. Seldom is their relationship with the CEO easy to manage.

Healthy organizations require a healthy board-CEO relationship. Channeled in the right way, their engagement can result in fresh perspectives and new growth rather than perilous pitfalls. For an organization’s health and vitality, there is no more important, or more complex, relationship to navigate.

Over the past year, David Weekley and I have been working on a simple book to help leaders develop a vibrant board-CEO relationship. Today, we are launching this book with the hope that it might equip leaders to have an even greater impact. We focus on seven practices found in the healthiest board-CEO relationships:

  1. Mission, Not Ego
  2. Clarity, Not Confusion
  3. Consistent Communication, Not Mystery
  4. Accountability, Not Platitudes
  5. Healthy Conflict, Not Kumbaya
  6. Prepared, Not Panicked
  7. Involved, Not Detached

Ultimately, for the board-CEO relationship to truly flourish, these practices need be be built on a foundation of service. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Honor one another above yourselves.”[i]


B amp CEO CoverF

Today, we launch The Board and the CEO. To learn more about how to successfully navigate the board-CEO relationship, please visit:

Seven Practices to Protect Your Organization’s Most Important Relationship

By Peter Greer and David Weekley

Available Now!


[i] Rom 12:10 NIV

 A few years ago my wife Laurel said one of the most frightening sentences I have ever heard: “I feel like you are choosing HOPE over me.”

She said it in love, but I was blindsided by the comment.  I love my wife.  I love my kids.  But after looking at my schedule, I realized my family was getting leftovers.

I’m not the only one who is passionate about their job or ministry.  But when you love your job, it’s easy to overlook your most precious relationships.  Since this turning point conversation, I have placed guardrails in my life that have revolutionized the way I balance my family and work. These guardrails include:

  1. Ask your spouse how they’re doing.  I would monitor key performance indicators on the health and welfare of our programs at HOPE, yet I rarely asked my wife how she was doing.  Periodically now I do “impact assessments” – ten simple questions that help me know how I can be supporting her better and if our relationship is heading in the right direction.
  2. Limit travel.  We all have many good opportunities and I felt like I had to say “yes” to all of them.   Recently I have limited my travel to fifteen nights per quarter.  By saying “no” to good opportunities, I get the chance to tuck my children into bed and to say “yes” to the best ones.
  3. Tuck the blackberry in a drawer.  One day I was helping my two-year-old son get breakfast while reading a work email on my blackberry. “No phone, no phone,” he said to me.  This was a gut check for me.  Now, I literally put my blackberry in the kitchen drawer until my kids go to bed so I know my focus is on my family. 
  4. Don’t add… multiply.  I used to think about work-life balance in terms of addition: If I was successful at work, I got one point.  If I was successful at home, I received another.   But if I scored a “one” at work, and a “zero” at home, at least I had one point.   But it’s not addition.  It’s multiplication.  If I score a “zero” at home, but a “one” at work, it’s still a “zero” overall.
  5. Remove (or delegate).  Before “the conversation” I had an inflated view of my importance. I felt I had to do it all, but this attitude spread me too thinly and I was too frazzled to do anything well.  Since speaking with my wife, I have decreased many responsibilities, such as the number of staff reporting to me, and delegated everything except the core responsibilities of my role.  It’s liberating: I’m now able to focus on the areas I excel and have more balance than ever before.

The bottom line is it’s not worth it to run a great ministry when your family is neglected.  In fact, it doesn’t honor God.  I am so grateful that my wife had the love—and courage—to confront me about where my priorities lie.

*A few days ago I had the chance to write about The NINES conference.  Tune in to The NINES conference tomorrow, Tuesday, September 27, and hear more of my thoughts (around 4:30 p.m. EST) as well as perspectives from pastors, authors and speakers on key leadership issues.