We’re all familiar with the different gears of an automobile. It can be a helpful metaphor when assessing the current state of a board of directors.

Where is your board?

See if you recognize them in the following descriptions.

P – Park

Stopped, going nowhere. Board members are disengaged, unprepared, non-participating, vote with the crowd, and have nothing of value to add. They may be serving for the wrong reasons like just checking a box for their LinkedIn profile or rubbing shoulders with “important” people.

R – Reverse

Even worse, they are openly working against the mission of the organization. There is hostility towards the CEO and staff, internal division among members, and dissention.

N – Neutral

Idling, engaged and active but not making progress. This might be the right gear for now depending on the situation. Are you in a period of transition? Are you moving from R to D? Then it’s OK to idle for now. But if you’re moving from D to R, that’s not OK.

L – Low

Headed in the right direction but moving slowly, cautiously. Again, it may be appropriate for your current state. Or it may indicate a board that is too timid and not willing to change or grow.

D – Drive

You are making good progress toward mission goals. There is a healthy board culture with a diversity of opinion but once a decision is made the board is speaking with one voice. The board is focused on strategic issues instead of micro-managing the CEO, staff or programs.

O – Overdrive

The Board is out-running the CEO and the organization. They have stopped governing and started managing. Usually this is not a good gear but it could be appropriate in times of crisis or if CEO is ineffective.


What gear is your board in now? Is it right one for the current situation? If it’s the wrong gear, is that due to the issues you face, the membership of the board or its leadership?


What gear does your board need to shift into next? What’s holding them back? What actions steps are needed? Again, is it the issues, the membership or the leadership?


Next time [week] we’ll look at a couple of assessment tools to help you determine your current gear!


At Ministry Ventures we have board assessment tools available through our coaching programs. We also have several coaches who can consult with you personally on board issues. And they are experienced in leading board training and retreats if your board needs a tune-up.

Until next week,

Arnold Kimmons

Coach – Upstate South Carolina

MV Director of Operations and Finance


For more faith-based nonprofit resources visit  www.MinistryVentures.org.