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.

Latest Governance Survey shines the Spotlight on Board Practices.

Governing with IntentAfter 18 months of sweat and late nights, I am pleased to say that Governing with Intent: An enquiry into trustee board effectiveness is now on the shelf.   The following observations have interested me:

1.     Boards that are effective tend to have effective Chairs who are able to facilitate difficult situations, resolve conflict and demonstrate leadership when the going gets tough.  This goes far beyond the tradition role of chairing meetings.

2.     Chief Executives play a vital role in strengthening the effectiveness of the board.   They tend to lead governance renewal efforts, but our survey tells us they would rather the board was at the helm of board development.

3.     Boards are more likely to evaluate the performance of the Chief Executive rather than reflect on their own performance.  Our recommendation for improving Governance is that Board effectiveness and Chair effectiveness processes should step on and role model reflective practices for the rest of the organisation.

4.     Boards tend to micro manage rather than macro govern.  In today’s environment this has to change.  Effective governance is about looking outwards as much as looking inward.  The introspective gaze will not enable an organisation to maintain sustainability in this competitive and ever changing new normal.

5.     Membership organisations need more governance resourcing.  Usually board members come through a democratic process.  To increase accountability board members need to be carrying out the right roles and the right time in the right organisation.

6.     Effective organisations are paying attention to repairing and healing their relationships when things go wrong.  We heard that trust and confidence is an absolute must for healthy governance.  Conflict resolution is being seen as a vital tool in the governance toolkit.


To download your copy visit: http://www.on-board.org/governing-with-intent/

Decision Making can Be See-Through

Over the last few years I have been exploring diverse ways of building high performance boards. On a practical level this has involved observing approaches that help board members to be more aware of their various roles, responsibilities and duties and applying this understanding to how they perform their roles on the ground. As part of the project I shadowed a few boards in the United States and saw how they recorded their decisions in real time and projected the decisions on the big screen for all to see. I was really struck by this as a lesson in transparency in decision making.

In December last year I came across another board in England that had the same practice and became even more curious about what was behind this practice. I was impressed by the manner in which decisions were arrived at and recorded and found out that this is a familiar practice in Quaker meetings, described as the Quaker Business Method. Following discussion, minutes are written, agreed by everyone within the meeting and remain the unchanged formal record. No ‘matters arising’ occur in future meetings in relation to decisions made.

This practice is referred to in more detail in an accessible publication produced by Quaker Social Action, following a year long enquiry into what the ‘Q’ Bit mean. Quaker Social Action has produced a highly readable booklet called “ The ‘Q’ Bit – At the Heart of a Quaker-led Organisation “. There is a link to the document on the QSA website. Chapter 4 explains the Quaker Business Method, its aims and how it works.


This is an invaluable tool in a kit of any organisation or group wishing to expand its transparency practice. I still marvel at its simplicity and effectiveness!