Archives For honor

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

5 More Words to Banish

March 31, 2015 — 1 Comment

A few months ago, I wrote about how HOPE was changing its mission statement to replace the language we use to describe “the poor,” a phrase that stuck in my throat whenever I tried to use it.

Since adapting the mission statement, I’ve been thinking about other words and phrases that might unintentionally dishonor friends. Our language matters—and I’ve found that there are a few more words that I’d like to delete from my vocabulary.

words to banish









Here are some words that I’m working to banish:

  1. “Third World” (as well as “First World” and “Second World”)
    Coined in 1952, these phrases were created within the context of the Cold War, when countries were characterized by the degree of their alignment with communism. (See this piece from NPR for more on the history of these phrases, as well as a great explanation of their shortcomings!)Based on the original intent alone, these categories are no longer relevant.Beyond that, though, these labels reek of perceived superiority and often accompany a patronizing approach to global issues.
  1. “Those people”
    When a sentence begins by referring to others as “those people,” my guess is that the rest is going to be derogatory. “If only those people would . . . ” or “Why don’t those people just . . .?” We do a great disservice to ourselves and others when we elevate ourselves and categorize the neighbors we’re called to love merely as “those people.”
  1. “I’m starving!”
    Children (and adults) in North America have been claiming starvation for years—especially around dinnertime. Yet most of the time, when we say, “I’m starving,” we are far from it.Several years ago, in Haiti, I met several mothers who were making bread with dirt and a pinch of flour, so that they had something to feed their children. After meeting people who truly were nearing starvation, I promised I would never callously use the word “starving” again.
  1. “Helpless” or “Hopeless”
    For far too long, we’ve underestimated the power of people, especially those living in poverty. When we refer to a person as helpless, we reinforce some notion that they are incapable of putting forth effort and that they need someone else to intercede. Individuals have far more capacity than we might originally realize. (See What’s in your hands? or Watching Seeds Grow for evidence.)

    Similarly, when we refer to a “hopeless situation,” we forget that we serve a God of hope—that 4th-quarter comebacks are possible on the field and in life.

  1. “It’s not fair.”
    Most often used regarding some great injustice—like your sister getting a larger ice cream cone or your friend getting a promotion—these words tempt us to forget the exorbitant privilege we enjoy. If you use the phrase, at least use it in the context of, “It’s not fair how many privileges I’ve been given simply because of where I was born.”

What else am I missing? Which words do you feel unintentionally miscommunicate and should be replaced?