I've just finished The Imperfect Board Member by Jim Brown and published by Josey Bass. Mr. Brown is not someone I'm particularly familiar with although he seems to have a following in Canada and perhaps more descriptive, he speaks of having learned much from John Carver (for better or worse).
Back to the book. This 200 plus page book is VERY easy to read. Its easy reading nature comes both from the simplicity of the writing style and from the story-telling nature of the text. The story: a business CEO joins a nonprofit board where there is a clash in expectations, experience and style. Learning how to cope with these clashes and differences is the theme of the story and some pretty good ideas are adequately conveyed by the subject of the story who takes notes of what he learns in his Black Berry. And yes, for each learning event there's a picture of a blackberry and the learning. Kinda cute and reasonably effective.
As to the lessons from his book, the big jobs of the board are to direct and protect and they get this done by connecting, expecting, correcting and concerning the org's CEO, selecting and inspecting. This stuff makes reasonable sense and is described through the dialog with a "mentor" who kinda plays the hero in the story. We'll get back to the hero in a minute.
Meanwhile I must admit to being more open to a dialog approach to teaching lessons than a text-book approach so for the most part, this approach worked - a little prescriptive vs. descriptive (my bias) but maybe that's ok. Eugene Fram did something very effective and pretty similar although he used correspondence between two friends in his quite famous Policy vs. paper clips (Families International, Inc., Milwaukee, WI). Policy vs. paper clips is a good handbook on helping nonprofit boards differentiate between wearing an operational hat vs. a policy hat.
I had two "issues" with the book. First and almost irritating, Mr. Brown chose a minister to play the hero, the mentor, the sage, the all experienced wisest person in the book. And when I say sage and all-wise, Mr. Brown's Reverend Trevor was this and more. For my money and perhaps tolerance, I just could not explain how Trevor got all his experience and wisdom. And I must add, there's way more evidence of ministers being very bad at governance and management so Reverend Trevor might be even more special (or implausible to my mind). To top it off, he was a great facilitator too. Whew!
Second, I must admit to having either gotten lost or bored in the final three chapters of the book (final 20 pages of narrative). These chapters focused on some kind of diamond analogy and I am sure this is useful to someone but it left me cold.
Bottom line, this is a pretty helpful book -- an entertaining read offering some sound lessons in governance. This could be particularly helpful to a board governance committee that has to think about building a board culturally as well as to consider the nature of the relationship between the CEO and the Board.