Feeling confident about your role as a board member and your ability to make a difference may depend upon how board members function as a team. The board of directors is the group of people entrusted with and accountable for the leadership and governance of an organization. In the best of circumstances, board members work as an effective governance team to the betterment of the organization. In the worst of circumstances, a board has one or two personalities that rule board business.
An important principle in Policy Governance® as related to the board’s own job is “board holism.” “The authority of the board is held and used as a body. The board speaks with one voice in that instructions are expressed by the board as a whole. Individual board members have no authority to instruct staff.”1
This is the principle that places policy over personality. Boards who follow this principle are confident in decision making because prior to the board making a decision, the full board has an opportunity to weigh in. “There have been times when I disagreed with a particular motion. I have spoken my mind and felt heard by the board. Once the vote was taken, I knew there was no need for further voicing my minority perspective in a ‘parking lot debate’ because I was committed to being part of the Board’s One Voice. Policy Governance is remarkably freeing!” (Intermountain Board Member Cathy Barker)
Board holism guides all the work the board does, including committee work. “Our board has very active and productive committees that do the pre-work of our board. They bring their recommendations to the next board meeting, then all decisions are reached by the entire board. This ensures that we always speak with one voice, allowing us to accomplish our work in a timely manner, be future focused, and not be impeded by the necessary research that has already been done by the committees.” (Intermountain Board Member Pam Schapper)
How is your Board doing? Does your Board give instructions only with “one voice”? Boost your Board’s confidence in the ownership of its decisions by vigorous discussion of many perspectives, followed by a clear decision expressed in “one voice.”
1 Policy Governance Source Document. Produced by International Policy Governance Association in consultation with John and Miriam Carver (2005-2007-2011)