Becoming a High Performance Board
- Posted by Rose Mercier
- On August 22, 2017
- Board Development, Governance Improvement
At one time in my life, I was very involved in coaching education. An important competency for coaches was building high performing teams. It was important not only in team sports but also individual sports where a coach might be leading teams of coaches and support staff or leading a provincial or national team in a Games competition.
Team building follows a predictable pattern and paying attention to those stages of development will make it more likely that a team is able to perform at an optimum level.
It occurs to me that Policy Governance® provides a board that implements this system many tools that allows it to become a high performance board.
A team needs to have clear purpose, goals and values. Policy Governance enables a board to understand its position in the organization and its role in governance. It asks a board to translate its values about how it will work together into Governance Process policies. It also asks a board to set clear direction for the organization by defining the benefits that the organization is to produce, for whom and at what worth.
Once a team is clear about why it exists, it needs to clarify roles and responsibilities. One of the distinguishing features of Policy Governance is the clarity it brings to the role of the board, ensuring that it is able to fulfill its responsibilities and not interfere with the role and responsibilities of its CEO. Governance Process policies document how the board will carry out its roles and responsibilities so that there is consistency in how the board carries out its work.
High performing teams also need to develop processes for communication, planning, conflict resolution, and evaluation, among others. A board using Policy Governance pre-determines and records the processes it will use to link with owners, develop its policies, monitor and evaluate its own performance, manage conflicts of interest, and so on. Importantly, a board using Policy Governance documents how it will delegate authority to the CEO and require accountability for that delegated authority. Further a board sets up a schedule to review its policies so they remain current and relevant.
One of the last stages in developing a high performance team is determining how it will relate to others outside the team. Policy Governance provides an avenue for a board to ensure that it attends to this. A board can use its Governance Process policies to document how it will relate to external stakeholders, members, funders, regulators, international bodies, political decision makers, or any others that might be part of the context in which the organization exists. Policy Governance first asks the board to decide which relationships it delegates to the CEO and which it keeps as part of its own direct role. For any relationships that the board decides are part of its job, it will document how that work will be done.
The important first stage in any high performance team is relationship building among members. Legendary Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski who was named to coach the U.S. Olympic men’s gold medal winning basketball team wrote about how he approached this task in The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team (Hachette Book Group, 2009). He viewed as his first coaching task, not teaching selected players how to play basketball – after all they were all highly skilled professionals – but rather helping them learn about each other as people. “Take time to form relationships” was a primary rule. When the going gets tough, it is the time spent building relationships that creates resilience within high preforming teams.
Policy Governance does not specifically address the importance of personal relationships among board members. However, there is nothing that prevents a board from valuing and deciding it will spend time together outside of meetings solely for the purpose of appreciating each other as individuals. In fact, a board that wants to become a high-performing team would do well to create those opportunities. A board might even document this value in its policies and schedule time in its annual calendar plan to do just that.
Policy Governance provides a board that aspires to be a high performance team the way to make that a reality.