Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

February 12, 2019

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Joseph Inskeep

At The Heart of Change

The world becomes a little better place to live when any governing board ascends to principled, strategic leadership. Such a board undoubtedly will have fostered a culture that values learning as much as leading. The learning curve is not without discomfort, of course; it usually involves dissonance and always values insight more than comfort.  Principled, strategic boards go beyond comfort to pursue real change. 

What moves a board to embrace change? The personal responsibility of individual board members is certainly a critical factor. Yet there are many responsible people sitting on underperforming boards. At its heart, perhaps change is driven by a felt sense of urgency. We feel in our bones that our team is stuck in unproductive activities, that the precious time of members has been squandered, that the board’s efforts haven’t moved its organization forward, that something different needs to happen. A sense of urgency comes not only because something isn’t going well. It also comes because we care that it goes better. 

We mustn’t shy away from the insights of self-evaluation, dissonant though they may be. Boards that practice self-evaluation are already on more solid ground. Here are three potential questions boards might consider:

  1. Has our board defined with specificity the outputs for which it is responsible?
  2. Is it focusing its precious time and attention on these areas?
  3. Are members bringing energy, discipline, and mutual support to our tasks?  

A Policy Governance board will have laid out its governing principles in each of these areas. Its agreed principles will be embedded in board policy, and having well-developed policy is one of the great advantages of a Policy Governance board. 

Because of it, self-evaluation is relatively straightforward: the board simply compares its actions against its agreed principles. 

If the need for change seems increasingly urgent for your board, the Governance Coach is ready to support you with education, policy development, and tools that facilitate principled governance. We also provide tools and training to support self-evaluation and continual learning. 

Short of all that, a board can always ask this important question: What is the single most important thing we could do now to improve our contributions as a board?

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