Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

January 8, 2019


Jannice Moore

Does Willpower Lead to Success?

It’s that time of year again. Your board has resolved that THIS year, things will be different.  You will do a better job of – fill in the blank. You’ve begun using Policy Governance®, but are struggling with how to maintain a connection with owners. Or your CEO isn’t all that keen on writing monitoring reports that contain real evidence. Or one of your board members didn’t really want to use Policy Governance, and is passively resisting.  Perhaps no matter how hard you try, discussion at the board meeting always manages to bog down in operational details because everyone is interested in them.

But THIS year, you’ll have enough collective willpower to get through whatever obstacles there are.


Wrong!  Willpower Doesn’t Work, as Benjamin Hardy points out in his book by that title.

He asserts that you need to get beyond the need for willpower.  If achieving a change requires willpower, it’s because you don’t really know what you want.  Last year at this time, I wrote about the importance of knowing your “why.”  Why is your organization here?  What purpose does it serve? What difference is it supposed to make in the world?

If you have that figured out, you’re on the right track.

The next step is to determine if your investment in the desired result is sufficient. Otherwise you are constantly dealing with internal conflict that sabotages your ability to succeed. “We really want to provide future-oriented leadership for our organization, but internal operational details are so interesting, and then we run out of time” is akin to “I really want to lose weight, but I just enjoy ice cream so much.” How serious are you about achieving your desired result? Serious enough to make it public? To set a timeline? To set up several forms of feedback for accountability?  (One such form is having a governance coach who provides regular feedback.) Set the stakes high enough that you now have no choice but to act consistently with achieving those results.

Finally, you can use your environment to help you.  Create conditions that make your success inevitable.  Just as removing the ice cream from your freezer makes it impossible for you to eat ice cream (at least if you are at home), and therefore requires no willpower, adding or removing things from your board environment can help support your success.  That’s why here at The Governance Coach™ we have designed a number of “tools” to support boards in implementing Policy Governance.  If you have a tool with a set of specific questions to ask when assessing monitoring reports, it helps you to assess them rigorously.  If you have a board code of conduct and regularly monitor your own compliance with it, the board member who doesn’t follow it is brought up short. If you have a “meeting monitor” charged with stopping board discussion when it migrates into operations unrelated to governance work, it stops the digression.

Know your why. Be fully invested.  Set up feedback mechanisms. Create an environment to support you.

Then you won’t need willpower.  You have set up conditions for your success.




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