Better Together by John Fulwider - no longer lonely at the topLast week, executive coach John Fulwider gave a class for The Nonprofit Academy called Better Together. Based on his book with the same title, he was teaching how to build strong relationships between board chairs and nonprofit CEO’s. In the class, he said the phrase, “It’s lonely at the top” applies to both the executive director and the board chair. Both are organizationally in positions of leadership that allow them no “peer group.”

Many of my executive coaching clients tell me that it is lonely at the top. Both board chairs and executive directors tell me they feel an almost stifling need to have all the answers. And both often feel the deep fear that they’ll fail and let everybody down.

So with such common pressure, what would be more natural than a strong board chair-CEO relationship?

The courage to get personal

Most of us do not have that kind of relationship at the senior level. So John offered a series of question that can prompt a deeper relationship. Questions that move beyond the tactical minutia that bores high-achieving, growth-oriented people. He offered questions around the business model, around sustainability, and around personal goals.

Yes, personal goals.

I found the concept of asking about personal goals to be incredibly freeing. Too often, we focus on the role and forget the woman or man we’re talking to. But each of us have hopes and dreams and fears that inform our actions as leaders.

2 powerful questions to move past being lonely

In the class, John suggests three types of questions for the board chair to ask the executive director or the executive director to ask the board chair. He labels of the categories “personal” and lists only two questions:

  1. What do you want to accomplish in the next year that we work together?


  2. How can I help?

Will you have the courage to ask those at your next meeting? The results could lead not being so lonely and to greater job enjoyment for both of you.

You can watch the entire Better Together class by joining The Nonprofit Academy at:


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