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ENGAGING, INCLUSIVE AND FUN LEADERSHIP
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ADDING VALUE BY MEETING EFFECTIVELY
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RESOURCES FOR LIVE LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT ISSUES

Sharing What you Think can Really Impact on How you Do Business

sharing-what-you-thinkGovernance is not just about regulation, policies and procedures: it has a human face too. Board agendas are often cramped, meaning that more personal, sometimes difficult and uncomfortable matters do not get discussed. Sometimes there is a sense of uneasy compromise. But creating an environment where trustees can discuss matters of real personal concern can add significantly to the effectiveness of an organisation.

Last year, a successful service-delivering charity appointed a new chair. The first thing she did was to initiate a board assessment, which recognised that the board needed to clarify its goals in relation to new key performance indicators for the organisation. The next few months uncovered some uncomfortable undercurrents within the board, with some members feeling there was an inner circle that made all the decisions. The chair encouraged the trustees to voice their concerns, particularly about the challenges thrown up by the rapid growth of the charity since taking on more public service contracts.

A few trustees would not play, and left. But the majority gradually became more engaged. They were given specific responsibilities as part of the plan to meet the new strategic agenda, and time was allocated to developing fresh ideas. Trustees and senior management began having the difficult conversations that two years before would have been unthinkable, and this candour led to better decision-making and an end to the previous blame culture and power struggles.

The board now has the confidence to focus on what really matters, to say what it means, to encourage different points of view and to work as a team.

“This has really changed the way we do business and the way we treat each other,” says the chair. “More importantly, it has enhanced our effectiveness as a board to lead this organisation.”

Surely there is a lesson in this for every charity.

The board and the chief executive – the perfect match.

Are the board and the chief executive the perfect match?

Yes! AccordiThe board and the chief executive – the perfect match.ng to Governing with Intent (An inquiry into trustee board effectiveness Onboard/BWB 2015).

  • 74% of board members believe the chief executive’s performance is enhanced by the role of the chair compared to 87% of chief executives who believe the chief executives  performance is enhanced by the role of the chair.
  • 65% of board members thought the chief executive supported the board to govern effectively compared to 35% of board members who did think the chief executive supported the board to govern effectively.
  • 81% of board members thought there is candour in the relationship between the chief executive and the board, compared to 19% of the board did not think there was candour.

These statistics speak to the importance of the role of the Chair in maintaining board effectively and demonstrating leadership.   The Chair has to be adequately equipped to perform this role.

Worryingly that the Association of Chairs (AoC) has published a survey that shows that Chairs are not receiving the support they need to perform their role as efficiently and effectively as needed.   According to AoC:

 

  • 34% of Chairs had an induction (the most basic form of support).
  • 37% accessed training (two thirds were funded by their organisations and a third paid for themselves)
  • 16% had any mentoring or coaching.
  • Fewer than 50% had assessed any kind of development support in the last 12 months.
  • Many Chairs restricted themselves to any free sources of support.
This pessimistic picture has to change if there is to be high performing governance. Chairs must be able to access the support they need and their organisations have got to invest in their performance. It is only with fully equipped Chairs that Chief Executives can be matched with the perfect partners to support effective leadership.

In the Hot Seat: Tips about what makes a Great Chair

3CUOYQBC03In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to work with wonderful Chairs. These Chairs are amazing leaders.  They have a secure sense of self and are very collaborative in their style.   They ask the board members and Chief Executive their views, they listen well and they are extremely good at letting people know what has been decided, the actions that need to be taken, by whom and by when.

Governing with Intent, Onboard’s recent  inquiry  into trustee board effectiveness,  board members  who said the Chair  was effective said s/he

(i)              creates a safe climate when issues can be openly discussed (board members rated this 74%.  Chief Executives rated this 72%)

(ii)            effectively manages board meetings

(iii)           plays a facilitative role in acknowledging the contributions of members of the board is a critical factor in strengthening the board. (board members rated this 74%.  Chief Execs rated this  72%)

(iv)           plays a strong role in boosting the confidence of board members and strengthening morale (board members rated this 65%.  Chief executives rated this 67%)

(v)             effectively handles disagreements, playing an important role in facilitating the resolution of tricky issues

(vi)           effectively utilises chairs action

(vii)          are good listeners and exercised wisdom in achieving balance.

(viii)        Candour exists between the board and the chief executive and this is enhanced by the role the Chair plays (37%  rating was given by board members and 87% was given by Chief Executives).

Chief Executives agree with these ingredients for effective chairing.  They add one more – “At the moment we have an excellent chair who is focused and brings no hidden agenda” (Chief Executive).

Finding a shared understanding in building the Chair and Chief Executive

A Golden Journey: Finding a Shared Understanding in Building the Chair & Chief Executive – 10 Questions to Ask

Chair and Chief Executive improvementsThe Chief Executive may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions:

1.  How satisfied are you that the Chair understands her responsibility for leading the board effectively?

2.  How satisfied are you that the Chair actively leads the evolution of the board in relation to its composition, competencies, relationships to meet current and future challenges.

3.  How satisfied are you that you have a good working relationship with board as a whole?

4.  As Chief Executive what can you do to work with the Chair to enhance the governance of the organisation?

5.  Does the board effectively liaise with you in your role as Chief Executive and with the Directors on matters relating to strategy, governance and executive performance?

Chair and Chief Executive  going-wellThe Chair may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions:

6.  Does the board undertake regular reviews of the Chief Executive’s performance and development?

7.  As Chair if you undertake the review of the Chief Executive’s performance,   do you report the outcome of the performance review to the board?   How supportive in the board in bringing out the best in the Chief executive?

8.  How satisfied are you that you ensure that the board adopts a relevant and appropriate agenda for consideration at Board meetings that engenders the engagement of the Chief Executive, the Executive Team and board members?

9.  How satisfied are you that you effectively manage discussion of agenda items allowing sufficient time for complex issues and for robust dialogue.   Do you encourage active participation and engagement in meetings by all board members?

10.  As facilitator, how satisfied are you that you ensure there is a shared sense of the decisions that have been made?  Do you clarify and confirm decisions made and actions to be taken at the end of discussions?

Assess and evaluate to see if answers to these questions take this crucial relationship forward.

Six Golden Guidelines for Effective Governance

Tesse AkpekiI love the line in Pirates of the Caribbean where one of the actors alluded to policies that needed to be adhered to by the Pirates. The other Pirate retorted, ‘they are not so much policies; they are more like guidelines’. With this in mind, I usually find it helpful to reflect on rules of the road that can build and sustain effective governance. Six of these listed have been of immense worth as I walk the journey with boards.

Rule1: Address Board/Staff relationships
Lack of clarity about what is governance and management can plague even the best of boards. Effective governance emerges by board members, the Chief Executive and the Senior Executive Board members agree the nature of the contact between trustees and senior staff. This level of clarity helps them to recognise appropriate boundaries and how they can work better together. More boards are introducing confidential sessions attended by board members only. These sessions are useful where the board members need to discuss their performance and matters that keep them awake at night with a view to working better as a strategic team. Continue reading

Lost in Translation: Finding a Shared Understanding, Commitment and Passion for Excellence

This is a critical element for a Chair and Chief Executive

Ten questions you can ask as you put the spotlight on this crucial relationship.

In the absence of an effective Chair/Chief Executive partnership, the meeting of minds proves difficult if not impossible. Knowing that their partnership is a cornerstone of organisational success, many Chair/Chief Executives are actively engaged in seeking better ways to work together.

Speaking to an experienced Chief Executive throws light on this. She says ‘I cannot stress enough the importance of a good working relationship with the Chair. I would have found it difficult to lead the organisation without the constant support and encouragement of a series of dedicated individuals who worked with me in the Chair role. They shared my passion for the mission, gave me the benefit of their expertise, worked with me to improve the organisation and above all helped me to build a solid connection with the trustee board. I couldn’t have done my job – or I couldn’t have done it half as well – without them’.

She is indeed lucky and wise. Lucky to have had the experience of being supported by good Chairs. Wise to recognise and acknowledge the invaluable support a Chair can bring. In my experience the connection between the Chief Executive and Chair is an important part of what makes voluntary and community sector organisations strong, resilient and effective. When the board and the Chair challenge the Chief Executive constructively and in a supportive manner, it can force him to engage with governance in a way that enriches his work and makes him a more responsible executive. The dialogue becomes the point of contact between the how, the what and the why of the organisation. The effect of the work together is synergy, a combination that is far stronger than the component parts.

Monitoring and evaluating the governance practices and relationships can be resourceful as both partners with support of the board and the Senior Management Team (if there is one in play) begin or continue the process of building a Chief Executive/Chair /board relationship that really serves the organisation.

It may be helpful if the Chief Executive can reflect on the following questions

1. How satisfied are you that the Chair understands her responsibility for leading the board effectively?

2. How satisfied are you that the Chair actively leads the evolution of the board in relation to its composition, competencies, relationships to meet current and future challenges.

3. How satisfied are you that you have a good working relationship with board as a whole?

4. As Chief Executive what can you do to work with the Chair to enhance the governance of the organisation?

5. Does the board effectively liaise with you in your role as Chief Executive and with the Directors on matters relating to strategy, governance and executive performance?

The Chair may find it helpful to reflect on the following questions:

6. Does the board undertake regular reviews of the Chief Executive’s performance and development?

7. As Chair if you undertake the review of the Chief Executive’s performance, do you report the outcome of the performance review to the board? How supportive is the board in bringing out the best in the Chief Executive?

8. How satisfied are you that you ensure that the board adopts a relevant and appropriate agenda for consideration at Board meetings that engenders the engagement of the Chief Executive, the Executive Team and board members?

9. How satisfied are you that you effectively manage discussion of agenda items allowing sufficient time for complex issues and for robust dialogue. Do you encourage active participation and engagement in meetings by all board members?

10. Finally, as facilitator, how satisfied are you that you ensure there is a shared sense of the decisions that have been made? Do you clarify and confirm decisions made and actions to be taken at the end of discussions?

Building a strong and vibrant relationship between the Chair and the Chief Executive is a continuous journey and takes a high level of commitment and investment, but like any journey that is worth making, it is more than worth its value in gold.