A typo in a newspaper headline earlier this year caught my eye. The photo was of several wild boars, and the headline read “Alberta admits defeat in attempt to wipe out wild BOARD with bounty.” [emphasis added] The article goes on to explain how wild boars have damaged crops and riverbanks, cut fences allowing domestic animals to escape and torn up wilderness areas while rooting for food. They’ve even been known to chase cattle away from their feed. The province has tried to thin their ranks with a bounty program, but it is no longer effective. They apparently need to be captured in a whole group at once to prevent them from becoming wise to hunters’ tactics.
The errant headline made my mind turn to “wild boards” I’ve experienced and heard about from other consultants. Often the problem may be one or two “wild board members” who engage in behaviour that harms the entire board. These board members are stopped from their destructive behaviour only if the board, as a group, has the will to take its job seriously enough to engage in self-discipline.
Does your board have any “wild boars” (oops, wild board members)? Is your board permitting behaviours such as these that detract from board effectiveness?
- Showing up for meetings late or unprepared, or missing meetings entirely?
- Being distracted by electronic messages and calls? (See my May 23 blog on Microzombies)
- Skipping board educational sessions?
- Monopolizing board discussions?
These may appear to be relatively minor problems, but they do damage the board’s effectiveness. Of course, there are even more serious problems, such as conflict of interest, breaking confidentiality, and meddling in operational matters the board has delegated to the CEO.
All of these destructive behaviours must be addressed by the board as a group. First, have clear written policies which make the board’s expectations of its individual members clear. These are usually found in a board’s Code of Conduct. Then, enforce the policies.
Ignored policies are useless. Take the necessary time to regularly assess whether you are living up to the commitments made in your policies. If the board permits individual members to ignore policy, the entire board bears the accountability for the decreased effectiveness of the board, at best, or a potential scandal, at worst. Your owners deserve to know that you take the job of governing on their behalf seriously. Use the power of the group to defeat any “wild boar” behaviour that creeps into your board.