We received some feedback at the end of a recent Board Review that our approach and report was “thorough and candid but not sharp”. This enabled the Board in question to engage with the emerging themes and move forward to become even more effective.
Peter Senge, the leading organisational theory expert, talks about “learning organisations”. Some organisations he argues “get better at doing some pretty stupid things”. And so, dare we say it, it is with some Boards.
In any Board review there are important matters of governance. A review will reveal areas where the Board is strong and other places where there is need for more attention. Senge talks about the importance of “building capacity in organisations”. Businesses need to move away from old paradigm leadership because it is not the most sustainable way to work amidst “profound cross currents and disruption”.
This is where the “candid but not sharp” approach adds value. To build capacity in a Board, there is a requirement to look at the dynamics between individuals, how the collective works together and how it stays in touch with the world outside the boardroom. Is there a shared vision and real clarity about roles? Is there an appetite to build relationships so that the Board can reflect and challenge its own and each other’s assumptions? Is there a level of trust that people feel they can name issues in the open rather than having secret conversations? Are people aware of their limitations and what support is there to help them build their personal capacity? Does the Board think about what the future requires of it as individuals and collectively and is it having candid conversations about this? How does it stay relevant to the world outside? Is the Board setting the right tone for the rest of the organisation?
It is perhaps this latter set of questions where there is typically little transparent conversation within the Board. Where Boards are prepared to do this work, not only can they be described as effective, but as “collectively leading with ease towards a sustainable future”.
For more information, please contact Judith Nicol, Director of Leadership Services.