Values and Culture Matter

Process without the right culture will fail

Values and Culture Matter

Headlining at Trustee Exchange,  Peter Moore the only UK banking employee to speak out publicly about irregularities he witnessed from inside of a bank,  stressed that the crisis at HBOS was caused because there was a completely inadequate separation of powers and balance of powers between the executive and all those accountable for overseeing their actions.  He warned that an organisation can have the best processes in the world, but if there is unethical behaviour and an indisposition to challenge, they will fail.

Key governance lessons learned are the need for:

  • A sound culture,
  • The capability of control functions (audit, compliance, internal audit)
  • Corroboration in oversight work
  • Up to  date company laws

Good governance is about sound compliance and structures, clear and consistent policies, processes and procedures and a healthy culture supported by appropriate behaviours.  Often governance reviews look at fiduciary matters, at systems and do not seem  to acknowledge that culture, values and behaviours underpin strong governance.

Without appropriate behaviour or conduct, governance will fail irrespective of structures that are fit for purpose or clear processes.


“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world ” Unknown

Culture of Conflict – Part 2

Tesse Akpeki Culture of ConflictBridging those really sticky situations

Listening can be more tiring than talking. Yet it is listening and listening well that builds stronger and healthier relationships.

Even positive and constructive relationships can be riddled by tension and conflict.   Sometimes these can be interpersonal, but they may be indicative of systemic, structural or cultural difficulties.

Nine Steps you can take to tackle conflict

  1. Identify the dynamics of problems before engaging in taking action. This involves uncovering the underlying problems. These are often different from how the situation may present itself or the symptoms you see.   What are the root causes of the difficulty?   Where do the pressure points lie ? Why are people arguing?
  2. Focus on the past in a healthy way. How can the past change your perception of current events? What changes as a result of understanding the context of what went before?
  3. Journey towards restoration and healing . As tempting as it may be, don’t put a bandage on an infected wound. It will only worsen it.   Deal with the wound. What steps can you and others take to repair the broken places? Are people involved willing and committed to work through the wounded past?  I have found that there can be no healing without a measure of acknowledgement and forgiveness.
  4. Find ways of having those difficult conversations. How can everyone feel heard and even better understood?  Practical tools like appreciative enquiry or compassionate communication can get to the root of needs that are not being met and surface what individuals involved would like to occur instead.
  5. Offer a respectful response. Even if you think you are in the right, it pays to plead your case in a respectful way and respond to situations that effect you respectfully. Go for win-win solutions.
  6. Increase your effectiveness as an influencer and change maker. Employ appropriate approaches to resolving messy and sticky solutions.   You will become the go to leader for influence and impact. The prescription may be a good dose of common sense, calmness, empathy , compassion, insight and wisdom.
  7. Get the right support. Involve the right people and as much as possible arm yourself with the resources you need to be effective and efficient in your quest.
  8. Take time out where needed . A cooling off period can put things in perspective.
  9. Lastly never engage in an argument when you are hungry or tired. It rarely goes well. Eat first and rest. Get to a calmer place for yourself that offers a balanced view. Operating from that space and place can be more effective and lead to a more amicable outcome.

Useful resource Robert Waldinger: What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study in happiness (TED talk)

Illuminating saying

“You cannot turn the wind, so turn your sail”. Swahili Proberb

Culture of Conflict

innovative governance agenda improvements Conflict CulturePart 1

How much energy is lost squabbling or mired by tension? We may not be aware but conflict and evolving events can create their own culture. Disputes can become personal, dissent can be acted out in public and energy may be dissipated by situations spiralling out of control. In my work I have seen conflicts cripple an entire board, executive team and even separate volunteers. The bottom line? Conflict can be costly relationally and financially. Living constantly in conflict situations can unhealthy, whereas being in healthy relationships can be productive. This does not mean that relationships will always be smooth. What it does mean is that people who are secure in relationships can express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction knowing that they are in secure environments and things can be worked through.

Dealing with Tensions

Tension can emerge in a range of ways.   For instance there may be disagreements about strategy or about the board’s role in raising funds for the organisations.   Different factions can form with a range of people holding a variety of perspectives. Email trails and patterns of communication can be toxic and there may be great difficulty in moving forward as the situation becomes more deadlocked.

When tensions or difficulties show up, it is easy to do nothing in the hope that it will resolve itself. This is probably the worse thing to do as an eruption may occur at any point, particularly when you least expect it. The answer? Resolve things as early as possible. Learn how to engage in conflict and difficult situation with more ease and awareness. Skilfully separate out the issues. Recognise that what may occur as personal may not be. There may be systematic or structural difficulties that cause frustration or anger.   Remember the iceberg? The presenting problem is usually not the underlying cause. The symptoms usually mask something much deeper.

In Part II of Culture of Conflict we will explore practical steps and solutions that we can take when we are wadding through trickle.

Is there Wi-Fi?

How to engage your trustees with social mediaA recent Walt Disney survey indicates that one of the top necessities in life is access to the Internet. In today’s world the digital agenda is growing in importance and impact. We make use of Uber for travelling and conferencing, we watch TV on our smart phones, monitor our health with our smart phones, increase our reach and impact with social media. The most frequently asked question is ‘Is there Wi-Fi?’. New technologies can be a distraction or a help.

An Onboard Wired to Govern 2016 survey showed that nonprofit leaders use new technologies to build relationships, share knowledge, enhance communication and network. Charities are tentative in using technologies to support governance, strengthen board performance, organise or host meetings.

We can become fixated to our iPhone or Android for fear of missing out. Organisations need a successful digital approach as part of their core. With the flow of data and information organisations are better able to monitor impact, connect with their clients, hear their voices and respond to their needs. The result? They are better able to tailor their approach and add value.

Questions to Reflect On

Do you have a digital strategy?
How is it working?
What do you need to strengthen?
What are your social media habits?
What patterns are you uncovering?

There is so much more to be explored and utilised to enhance success. What an exciting journey ahead!

Leadership & Diversity – 3 Innovative & Creative Tips on How to Achieve This

tesse akpeki Achieving the diversity that is innovative and creativeThe new Barbie is being remoulded to reflect a broader view of beauty.  The new dolls represent a line that is reflective of the world girls see around them – the variety of looks, body types, skin tones and styles that allows girls to find a doll that speaks to them. Lego, attacked for lack of diversity unveiled a figure in a wheelchair at the London toy fair.

I was so glad that I stayed up to watch the Super Bowl and the half time entertainment. The variety and the sheer splash of talent and colours were very beautiful and touching.

Leadership both at board , staff and volunteer level should reflect the range and variety of talent, experiences and perspectives. Cross- gender teams have been found to be effective, efficient and good at making the best decisions.

My 3 top tips are:

  1. Diverse teams should be talented – tokenistic appointments simply won’t do.
  2. Talent should be channelled for the well being of our boards, our leadership and volunteer teams. There is no need attracting the talent and not using it!
  3. Attracting diversity requires doing things differently and going where we probably have not gone before. For some it may represent a new frontier.  Our teams will be built by simply starting out – taking the first step and learning as we go along. Read  more

How to Engage Your Trustees with Social Media

How to engage your trustees with social media Charity trustee boards don’t always see social media as an essential communications tool. More worryingly, social media is not high on the boardroom agenda. According to the latest FT-ICSA Boardroom Bellwether survey, 34% of boards have not discussed a social media policy (July 2015) and 26% describe it as unimportant.

Consequently, charity boards are lagging behind their social media and communications managers in their attitude to digital technology and are not placing new technology at the forefront of their thinking.

How should boards engage in digital communications?

It is important to keep the board informed of new comms channels that are being used and the benefits and risks that come with them. Here are five key things you can suggest to help your board understand digital communications better.

1. Use as a source of feedback for the organisation

Boards should explore the possibilities of the digital agenda and its development for the organisation. Social media can be used for feedback from users and beneficiaries. Reports of feedback should be given to the board as this is an important tool to monitor performance, inform strategic planning and increase the quality and impact of services.

Social media is also a place where trustees can gauge how their organisation is being perceived and have evidence of the ‘external and internal’ images.

2. Introduce a board portal

To increase engagement with digital tools and to improve efficient governance, trustees should consider using a board portal. The portal would integrate email, online calendars and document management software. The Onboard Wired to Govern poll showed LinkedIn groups being set up for board members to communicate between board meetings.

3. Understand how to manage risk

Trustees should explore with communications teams what they can do to manage risk. It’s important that they protect their data, staff and service users from cyber issues such as malware, phishing scams, email attacks, hackers and trolls.

They also need to ensure that financial controls provide sufficient security for online giving, and due diligence procedures are carried out before third parties are hired to manage online donations. Mobile phone and tablets used by charity staff are increasingly at risk from criminal attack.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend weakens the security of data. Charity staff and trustees may consider moving to a Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) regime that consciously limits the number of devices that have access to data systems. Investing in anti-theft software is highly recommended.

4. Provide support to young trustees

Boards need to be able to attract young trustees and support them in the appropriate use of a multi-media approach. Younger trustees or advisory boards will have a different approach to social media and should be supported by both the social media managers and board.

5. Introduce clear procedures

Boards must monitor the different platforms the organisation uses. Whether using Twitter, LinkedIn, Google chatrooms, Facebook or any of the many platforms out there, boards need to ensure there are sufficient procedures, processes and policies in place to guide their use. Charity communications teams and social media managers should ensure trustees receive adequate training to be able to do this effectively.

Thinking, Doing & Behaving…Your Ingredients for Board Success

Thinking, Doing  & Behaving…Your Ingredients

Tesse Akpeki Boards Success1.Set Mission-Based Goals  for board meetings
2.Make sure board time is put to good use. Utilise new technologies where appropriate
3.Ensure your intellectual & social capital is tapped
4.Periodically assess “How are we doing?” ask “What are we doing?” & “Why”?
5.Optimising  opportunities (quicker OR better decisions)
6.How often are our brilliant ideas put into play?

The Apprentice – Our Leading Light

Tesse Apeki Apprentice and Leadership

Lord Sugar trumps the need to be strong and competitive.

I confess sometimes I watch mindless reality TV programmes such as the Apprentice.  When I read that two apprentices rivals traded insults after cat fights, were at each other’s throats, had a ‘screaming’ row during filming and continued to trade insults on social media, I asked whether programmes such as these display leadership in a good light.  Lord Sugar trumps the need to be strong and competitive.

Management theory tells us the effective leader is vulnerable and authentic.  The polarities are clear.  What kind of leadership is needed to be considered successful?  Whatever answer we arrive at I think trading insults and behaving in a way that we cannot self manage our emotions or responses is definitely not the way to role model leadership that makes a difference.

I am reminded of the words of Max De Pree – ” In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are “.

If we tend to fly off the handle it may be worth working out how to squash our reactions by knowing what triggers them.  Now that is some homework! Let’s hear from you.

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).