Small is Beautiful
I was delighted to be a judge of the Charity Governance Awards 2016. I was even more pleased when I was told that I would be judging the small charities category for improving impact for charities that had no staff or a maximum of three staff.
This award is for organisations that can demonstrate how the board has contributed towards the increase of the charity’s impact in relation to its cause and mission. We were looking for examples of increasing impact, not just fundraising or increasing impact.
The winning charity was Robert Thompson Charities. The board led on a programme of modernisation that has improved the accessibility of the facilities for the charity’s community. The trustees were able to demonstrate the positive impact of these changes on the charity’s service users and also by awarding an external accreditation. The trustees’ commitment to consult and collect evidence from the community to inform the continued development of the charity was commendable.
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.
After 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/
ARMISTICE DAY ADDS A WONDERFUL DIMENSION THROUGH TOWER OF LONDON REMEMBERS
“So moving”, “inspirational”, “truly awesome”, “too touching to miss” are words used to describe the artwork ”Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red” composed of over 888,246 handmade poppies which has been visited by over 5 million people. Each poppy represents the death of a British and Commonwealth solder during World War One. It is also meant to symbolise that human beings are transient . As I looked at the wonderful artwork I heard a woman say
‘You’ve got to be there to see it and experience it. The television does not quite capture emotional elements of this experience.’